2015 US Open Men’s Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Highlights of the first week of the 2015 US Open included former champion Lleyton Hewitt’s final match at the venue, a very fitting five set battle that saw him fall to his countryman Bernard Tomic after giving it his all, and the final match on the fan favorite Grandstand court on Saturday, which saw a home American, Donald Young, winning a classic five setter from two sets to love down with the crowd backing him. Now as we head into week 2 here is a preview of what is yet to come in the final Grand Slam of 2015.
Round of 16 matches
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. (23)Roberto Bautista Agut
Novak Djokovic remains the tournament favorite and he has yet to drop a set through three matches. The world #1 posted dominating performances against Joao Souza, Andreas Haider-Maurer, and Andreas Seppi, not losing more than 5 games in any set, and is almost certain to send RBA packing in his round of 16 match. The Spaniard scored a win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert in straights before being pushed to five sets against Pablo Carreno Busta, and four sets against David Goffin in a match that ended by retirement. RBA was a break down in the 5th against PCB, and was two sets to love down against Goffin before the Belgian succumbed to fatigue more than anything else, and was lucky to get this far. Lacking the weaponry to do battle with Djokovic, and likely exhausted, I expected this match to be over quickly, if it doesn’t end by retirement, as Novak should march on in straight sets.
(18)Feliciano Lopez vs. (32)Fabio Fognini
Both entertaining and flashy veterans are coming off of top 10 wins, Lopez put a struggling Milos Raonic out of his misery with a straight set victory, having won the last five sets against the Canadian, while Fognini pulled off the shock of the tournament thus far over former champion Rafael Nadal. Nadal was up two sets to love and cruising with a break in the third, but his serve fell apart, and Fognini’s shotmaking came alive to win him the 3rd and 4th sets, and after a 5th set war, in which neither player could hold serve, Fognini finally broke down Nadal’s trademark defense and broke and held for the win of his career, and his third win over Rafa this year.
Fognini hadn’t won a hard court match coming into this tournament all season, but engaged and motivated, he beat both Steve Johnson and Pablo Cuevas in prior rounds, and has the baseline shotmaking ability and aggression to be the dark horse of the tournament. Lopez beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in straights before sending Mardy Fish off into retirement, with a difficult five set victory, in the same span. Fognini should have momentum on his side but his struggles to serve well against Nadal should give Lopez, a good server, an edge on this surface and in this match. The Spaniard should find more success than Nadal did presuming he gets enough first serves in and can eke out some tiebreaks in a match that likely goes four or five sets.
Benoit Paire vs. (19)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
If it weren’t for Fognini’s win and Donald Young’s surprising run, Paire would be the story of the tournament. The Frenchman has had a summer spark and his passion and motivation continues to shine bright at the US Open. He’s always had the talent, and he finally showed he can put things together with a comprehensive five set victory over defending finalist Kei Nishikori, and also a routine straight set win over veteran Tommy Robredo in the third round, with a four set victory over Marsel Ilhan sandwiched in between.
Benwa, with his world class backhand, has never beaten Tsonga who hasn’t dropped a set against the retiring Jarkko Nieminen (who along with Fish and Hewitt played his last US Open this year), Marcel Granollers, and Sergiy Stakhovsky. That doesn’t mean that he won’t this time though, though his ability to hold up physically should come into question at this stage. Both are underachieving talents, Paire more so, but an aggressive Tsonga likely ends his run. If Paire keeps this up however he could end up top 20 by next season.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. (27)Jeremy Chardy
Two big hitters will battle as the defending champion Cilic continues his quest to repeat, and Chardy posted yet another strong slam result as his results in slams have far overachieved compared to his ranking. One of four Frenchman left in the tournament, Chardy knocked off David Ferrer in the third round, dropping just 1 set, and also beat both Ryan Shane (in 4 sets), and Martin Klizan (in straights), to get this far. Ferrer struggled in his return from an elbow injury.
Cilic was lucky Mikhail Kukushkin, who pushed him to five sets, ran out of gas in the 5th but his wins over Guido Pella and Evgeny Donskoy in the first two rounds were far better performances. Chardy has a big game that could trouble Cilic, but Cilic serves just as well and moves better, which should give him a matchup edge presuming he recovers from his five setter.
(5)Stan Wawrinka vs. Donald Young
Wawrinka is a heavy favorite in this match and for good reason, as the Swiss #2 has yet to drop a set after facing Albert Ramos, Hyeon Chung, and Ruben Bemelmans. His backhand is working and his return game has made up for any slip ups on serve thus far.
Donald Young is a feel good story with momentum on his side however, the comeback kid was two sets and a break down to veteran Gilles Simon in the opening round, but rallied to win, maintaining his composure throughout and scoring his first ever win from 2-0 down in a slam. DY then went on to beat Aljaz Bedene in 4 sets, after dropping the first set, and then lighting struck twice when he came back from 2-0 and a break down against Viktor Troicki to eventually prevail in five sets, just like in round 1.
Troicki added another choking loss to his poor five set resume, but for Young it’s been one of the best weeks of his career, and two of the best wins he’s had as a professional. Given his poor form this Summer, the results have come as a huge surprise, and he beat Wawrinka at the US Open in 2011, so you can’t count him out, but Stan probably wins in straights given he’s hot right now. DY will need to be at his best to grab a set, much less three, and is likely exhausted.
(15)Kevin Anderson vs. (3)Andy Murray
Anderson is on an eight match winning streak and Murray was pushed to five sets against talented shotmaker Adrian Mannarino in round 2, but given he bounced back with a dominant straight set victory over Thomaz Bellucci in round 3, and he’s one of the best pure returners in tennis, he’s still a strong favorite. On top of that, Murray has a 5-1 lead in the h2h and dealt with Nick Kyrgios popping serve in the first round, prevailing in 4 sets. Kev has rarely been broken and scored a four set win over Andrey Rublev, followed by straight set wins over Austin Krajicek and Dominic Thiem, this week, but the road should end here for him, perhaps in four, even five close sets that should feature some tiebreaks. Credit to Anderson for another strong slam showing and his renewed form, while Murray remains one of three favorites to win the tournament.
(6)Tomas Berdych vs. (12)Richard Gasquet
Berdych having won the last three meetings, and dropping just one set to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in round 3, after routine straight set wins over Bjorn Fratangelo and Jurgen Melzer makes him the favorite in this match. The big hitting Czech is a good foil for Gasquet’s defensive flair, but Reeshy is once again in good Grand Slam form with a five set win via retirement over Thanasi Kokkinakis, a four set win over Robin Haase, and a straight set win over an exhausted Bernard Tomic. The Tomic match won’t tell you much about Gasquet’s peak form, and he could pull this off, but I’m sticking with Berdych to fight hard enough to find a way past a defensively minded Gasquet.
(13)John Isner vs. (2)Roger Federer
Federer has been vintage and sublime in the first week, at 34 years old the Swiss #1 and still world #2 blitzed Leonardo Mayer, Steve Darcis, and Philipp Kohlschreiber, all established veterans, without so much as breaking a sweat, never surrendering more than four games in a set. The maestro has been tuning up and firing winners, is full of confidence, and has been striking fear into his opponents.
Isner, the American #1, is also playing some of his best Grand Slam tennis, his strong week saw him earn wins over Malek Jaziri, Mikhail Youzhny, and Jiri Vesely without dropping a set and he has won three best of five set matches without even playing a tiebreak. Though his competition hasn’t been a murderers row of opponents, Isner is in dangerous form right now and could send Federer into a tailspin.
I don’t see that happening however, Federer’s aggressive returning and fine tuned game should see him earn a labor day win on Arthur Ashe, even if he drops a set or two. The key for Isner will be making Federer work enough to wear him down and then start battering aces.
Djokovic d. Lopez
Cilic d. Tsonga
Murray d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Berdych
Djokovic is 5-0 against Lopez and I see little reason why he’d face difficulties before the semis, Fognini, who can come up with magical shots, perhaps represents a tougher opponent but the h2h wouldn’t suggest so.
Cilic has won his last three matches against Tsonga, as Cilic’s career fortunes have improved and Tsonga’s have declined. Though Jo appears back in form, Cilic’s big hitting should win him the day in a section missing Nishikori.
Federer dominates Berdych, especially in his current form, and Wawrinka with his great form could well upend Murray, but the US Open is in many ways the best slam for Andy, and the Mannarino jitters aside he should find a way to punch through to the semifinals.
Djokovic d. Cilic
Federer d. Murray
Djokovic has a clear edge to make the final, and I’m switching my original prediction of Murray over Federer due to Federer’s incredible performance through his first three matches. It’ll be hard to maintain his presently level, and surely he’ll face some adversity, but he appears fit and motivated enough to get past Murray as long as he avoids a long grinding match.
Djokovic d. Federer
Through three matches I haven’t seen any reason why a healthy Djokovic shouldn’t be the US Open favorite, look for the world #1 to claim another crown and finish with 3 out of 4 slams this year.