Though this second day match in Arthur Ashe Stadium features the sixth seed against the No. 41 player in the world, it looks like a potential upset – or at least a very long day at the office for Berdych. A Top 10 player for the last five years, Berdych comes into this year’s US Open in a bit of a tailspin. The solid hard-court player, one of the game’s cleanest ball strikers and a 2012 semifinalist in Flushing Meadows, lost in the second round at Cincinnati and the round of 16 in both Toronto and Washington, D.C. A one-time finalist at Wimbledon, Berdych exited in the third round this year at the All England Club.
Hewitt, at age 33, is still one of the fiercest competitors in the game, and he seems to relish giving higher-ranked and younger players fits. Although his best days are surely behind him, the two-time Grand Slam champion (2001 US Open, 2002 Wimbledon) recently won on the grass at Newport and extended Milos Raonic, the world No. 6, to two tiebreaks earlier this summer in D.C.
Both players hit relatively flat and are at home on fast hard courts. Berdych is the more offensive player, capable of finishing points early off both wings and winning free points. The Australian is a classic counterpuncher, feeding off his opponent’s pace. If Hewitt can extend rallies and claim a set or two, he will pump up the crowd – sure to be full of boisterous Aussies – and get under the skin of Berdych. The Czech’s confidence is shaky, and Hewitt will look to pounce. The question is whether the veteran, who has never beaten Berdych, can make this one of those classic grinding five-setters he has excelled at throughout his overachieving career.