US Open fourth round preview: Elise Mertens vs Sofia Kenin
Kenin has beaten Mertens in both their previous matches (Image: Matthew Stockman)

World number four and second seed Sofia Kenin faces another tough test as she looks to win a second Grand Slam title of 2020, with 16th seed and last year’s quarterfinalist Elise Mertens awaiting the American in the last 16 for the American at the US Open.

Mertens has been a consistent slam performer over the past couple of seasons, reaching the last eight at Flushing Meadows. The Belgian has already reached the final in Prague and semifinal at the Western & Southern Open since the restart of the sport and won her first three matches this tournament without dropping a set. The world number 18 is rounding into form very nicely and will be tough to beat.

The five-month break rather halted Kenin’s surge up the rankings. The American number one had backed up a first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open with a second title in Lyon, and she looked rusty in an opening round loss at the Western & Southern Open. However, much like her opponent today, the American has not lost a set with three impressive performances, most notably over in-form 27th seed Ons Jabeur in the third round

Mertens has impressed in New York (Image: Al Bello)
Mertens has impressed in New York (Image: Al Bello)

The form that Mertens and Kenin have displayed suggests that this could be a tight contest, and that is backed up by the fact that both their previous meetings have gone to three sets. The American has prevailed on both occasions, winning on grass in Mallorca last summer and then in a third set tiebreak in Wuhan on hard courts later in the season. Those two victories mean Kenin is the favorite here.

Both have a similarly aggressive style and will try to dictate play at every opportunity. Kenin is arguably the better mover of the two and will likely look to try and frustrate the Belgian in lengthier rallies, though will have to work hard to do this with the strength that Mertens has been showing off both wings since the restart. The American has looked particularly potent on return this tournament and will be hoping for opportunities on the 16th seed’s second serve.

Mertens is perhaps the more powerful of the two and it is clear that she will be tough to beat with the form she is showing, with the new fast courts at Flushing Meadows seemingly perfect for her game. The Belgian will look to attack Kenin’s serve, which can be inconsistent, and may also look to vary up her tactics by using drop shots and also approaching the net; she is an incredible doubles player and may look to use these skills to gain the upper hand in this match.

Kenin will look for a strong serving performance (Image: Matthew Stockman)
Kenin will look for a strong serving performance (Image: Matthew Stockman)

However, the Belgian’s forehand can be troublesome under pressure and will be a target for Kenin. The American will look to do this but can be prone to errors when attacking vigorously, and must be careful when doing so. Kenin will also look to bring her cross-court backhand into play as much as possible.

This will be a hard-hitting contest and could go either way. Kenin has won both previous meetings and her ranking shows she has been the better player in the past 12 or 18 months, though Mertens is such a consistent slam performer and has been playing incredibly well in recent weeks. It will likely be tight though, having edged their previous encounters, Kenin should prevail.

Prediction: Sofia Kenin in three sets