US Open 2014 Men’s Qualifying Draw Preview
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast
Chris sent me his US Open Mens Qualifying preview this morning but I haven’t been able to post it until now, Here at last is his excellent in depth analysis of the qualifying tournament in Flushing Meadows.
2014 US Open Men’s Qualifying Draw Preview
It’s that time of the year again: 128 players will battle it out for 16 spots in the main draw of the final Grand Slam of 2014, the US Open.
Top 16 qualifying seeds (32 total)
1: Malek Jaziri
2: Go Soeda
3: Filip Krajinovic
4: Facundo Bagnis
5: Horacio Zeballos
6: Joao Souza
7: Andreas Beck
8: Ricardas Berankis
9: Peter Gojowczyk
10: Peter Polansky
11: Tatsuma Ito
12: Yuichi Sugita
13: Norbert Gombos
14: Michael Russell
15: James Ward
16: Jimmy Wang
First round match-ups to watch:
(1) Malek Jaziri vs. Chase Buchanan
With his current ranking of #89 Jaziri would’ve comfortably made the main draw, but at the time of the cut-off date he was still ranked #114. A third round at the 500 event in Washington and a second round at the 1000 event in Toronto considerably elevated his ranking in the past weeks. Buchanan is one of the toughest first round opponents he could have drawn. Not only did he qualify for his first ATP event last week, he immediately did it in style considering it was the 1000 event in Cincinnati, where he beat Michael Llodra and Tim Smyczek before falling to Joao Sousa in a dramatic first round match: 7-5 6-7(3) 6-7(5).
(30) Yuki Bhambri vs. Laurynas Grigelis
22 year old Bhambri seemed to be on the right path at the start of this year, but injury has set him back considerably. He reached the quarterfinal of Chennai and won a Challenger, once again in Chennai, a month later, which saw him enter the top 150. From there on he was out for five months with injury and just returned recently, playing two events and reaching the finals of a Futures tournament in the States. Not a great preparation, but it will be interesting to see where he is at. Grigelis is a good opponent to start off with, considering he is on a five match losing streak and lost to world number 453 Richard Gabb in his most recent tournament.
(16) Jimmy Wang vs. Daniel Evans
Wang has had some success on the main tour this year, qualifying for the Australian Open and Miami, together with a third round at Wimbledon and a quarterfinal in Bogota. Last week he retired in the third set of his first round qualifying match at Cincinnati, so it remains to be seen if he has recovered from that. Evans impressed at the beginning of this year, most notably with his semi-final run in Zagreb, but has been disappointing ever since. He lost 6-4 6-2 to Wang earlier this year in Miami, but also beat him in three sets at the Challenger of Aptos last year, so perhaps he can take advantage of Wang’s questionable physical state.
(19) Thiemo de Bakker vs. Borna Coric
De Bakker has been lucky in his last two tournaments, drawing the world #265 and #344 in first round matches of ATP events, but there is no such luck for him here with Coric. Even though the 17 year old has no outdoor hardcourt results of name, he impressed during his quarterfinal run at Umag last month. And in the beginning of this year he ousted Jerzy Janowicz in five sets at the Davis Cup on indoor hardcourt, so he definitely will be taking some confidence from that result to this match.
Top seed Malek Jaziri is the top favorite to go through here, with a small outsiders chance for Chase Buchanan, meaning the winner of that section will most probably come out of their first round match. In the second section second seed Go Soeda plays Oscar Hernandez in the first round. Hernandez, who has quite the cult following, has been on a very shady path this year. He retired years ago, but abuses his protected ranking to get into Grand Slam qualification draws while playing no other tournaments, simply racking in the first round prize money. We can only hope the ITF will undertake action and prevent situations like this in the future.
The third section is a very interesting one with a lot of potential for surprises. Third seed Filip Krajinovic is projected to play Daniel Cox, Marco Cecchinato and Ante Pavic for a place in the main draw, beating all of them is far from a certainty. Even 37 year old veteran Marc Gicquel shouldn’t be counted out here, who plays Jesse Huta Galung in the first round. Huta Galung retired from a Challenger event last week, so it is to be seen if he is able to play at a decent level.
Fourth seed Facundo Bagnis is a real clay courter and I can’t see him advancing. He only played two hardcourt events last year, resulting in losses against a player outside of the top 1000 and one loss against Jesse Witten, who plays part-time and is ranked outside of the top 700. Two players in this section are likely to battle it out in the second round for a main draw spot, as their third round opponent will be of a lower caliber: James Duckworth and #24 seed Somdev Devvarman.
To qualify from this quarter: (1) Jaziri, (2) Soeda, (3) Krajinovic and Duckworth.
Steen Kirby’s picks to qualify: Ruben Bemelmans, Soeda, Krajinovic, and Duckworth
The most dangerous player in the first section isn’t one of the seeds, its young Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, who has been in good form as of late. He reached a semi-final and a quarterfinal in his last two Challenger events and two weeks ago he took world number 21 Kevin Anderson to three sets at the 1000 event in Toronto. He is projected to play #5 seed Horacio Zeballos in the second round, who should never be counted out, but I would give Kokkinakis the slight edge over him at the moment. This section also holds Alexander Zverev, who impressed enormously with his semi-final run at Hamburg, but has lost six sets in a row since. I would not count him out against #25 seed Marsel Ilhan, but Kokkinakis or Zeballos will be too much at this moment.
The second section offers an excellent opportunity for Philipp Petzschner to bring some positivity to his comeback, as he is projected to play #26 seed Gerald Melzer in the second round, who is a clear clay court player. #6 seed Joao Souza will most likely be his final hurdle. Souza’s hardcourt potential is a big mystery, he has only played one event on the surface this year, a Challenger, but he immediately won it. So all in all you still have to favor him over Petzschner, who has only played a few events this year in which he failed to make an impression.
In the third section, #7 seed Andreas Beck is likely to make it to the final qualifying round, as he is playing Mathias Bourque in the first round Flavio Cipolla or Sanam Singh in the second. His final round opponent is a bit harder to predict, as #28 seed Rajeev Ram plays Martin Fischer in the first round and most probably Rhyne Williams in the second, both against whom he could lose.
#8 seed Ricardas Berankis should be favored to get through his section. He plays promising American Mackenzie McDonald in the first round, but he isn’t experienced enough yet to trouble him. #27 seed Alexander Kudryavtsev shouldn’t be a problem either, as Berankis breezes through his favorable draw.
To qualify from this quarter: Kokkinakis, (6) Souza, (7) Beck and (8) Berankis.
Steen Kirby’s Picks: Kokkinakis, Di Wu, Rajeev Ram, and Berankis
#9 seed Peter Gojowczyk tops the first section here, as he will play Matt Reid in the first round. This section will probably be decided between the seeds, as the #17 Aljaz Bedene doesn’t have to worry about his opponents in the first two rounds, Yann Marti and Nikoloz Basilashvili/Egor Gerasimov. I actually think Bedene will upset Gojowczyk, as I find him the better hardcourt player.
#10 seed Peter Polansky plays American Tennys Sandgren in the first round, whom he should be able to overcome. The bottom half of this section is a bit more interesting, as unseeded Alex Kuznetsov and Taro Daniel play each other in the first round and are both capable of upsetting #18 seed Farrukh Dustov. However, I think Dustov will overcome this threat and even beats Polansky in the final qualifying round. They already played each other this year, on clay however, with Dustov winning in straight sets.
The third section surely is one of the weakest if not the weakest. #11 seed Tatsuma Ito hasn’t been in his best form and is struggling with an injury, while #22 seed Michal Przysiezny is in the middle of an even worse slump and can’t seem to get himself back on track, even at Challenger level. Who else can get through here? Well, I have absolutely no idea. This section is so dire that nobody in it has posted a good result for a while, so I’m afraid I’m going to predict the guy with a 1-18 record on the ATP tour this year to get through, Przysiezny.
The fourth section is a bit more interesting, with #12 seed Yuichi Sugita in danger against Tim Puetz, the man who impressed at Wimbledon by coming through the qualification draw to reach the second round, where he lost to Fabio Fognini in four sets. Nevertheless I think that #20 seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert is the best player in this section and will qualify, even though he has a tricky first round opponent in Matteo Viola.
To qualify from this quarter: (17) Bedene, (18) Dustov, (22) Przysiezny and (20) Herbert.
Steen Kirby’s picks: Marius Copil, Peter Polansky, Przysiezny, and Herbert
#13 seed Norbert Gombos plays Austin Krajicek and Ze Zhang/Mate Delic in the first two rounds of the first section and should be the clear favorite here, as the physical condition of #30 seed Yuki Bhambri is still very much in doubt and I can’t see any of the unseeded players threatening Gombos.
In the second round of the second section there will most likely be a very interesting encounter between #14 seed Michael ‘’Iron Mike’’ Russell and comeback kid Steve Darcis, who are probably going to decide who goes through to the main draw. Darcis’s main draw appearances this year have only been on clay, so it is yet to be seen how his body and game will hold up on hardcourt, giving Russell the slight edge.
#15 seed James Ward is up against Aldin Setkic in the first round and is projected to play Guido Pella or Vincent Millot in the second round. #31 seed Marton Fucsovics is up against Ilija Bozoljac, who is rather unpredictable and might qualify for the main draw or lose 6-2 6-2 to Fucsovics, neither of which would surprise me. However, I think Fucsovics will make a big step here and qualifies for the main draw after beating Ward.
As discussed in the first round match-ups to watch #16 seed Jimmy Wang is up against Daniel Evans in the first round, which may end up in a surprise given the question marks surrounding Wang’s fitness. In the bottom half of this section 16 year old American Stefan Kozlov will try to qualify, for which he has to go through Mitchell Frank and one of the blockbuster match-up between 17 year old Borna Coric and #19 seed Thiemo de Bakker. It’s really hard to predict the winner of this section as neither Wang, Evans, Coric or De Bakker going through would surprise me.
To qualify from this quarter: (13) Gombos, (14) Russell, (31) Fucsovics and Coric.
Steen Kirby’s picks: James McGee, Russell, James Ward and Coric