2016 US Open Men’s Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time for the last big tournament of the 2016 season, the US Open in New York. Will Novak Djokovic claim his third Grand Slam title of the season? or will the likes of Olympic Gold medalist and Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray, or former Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro, Stan Wawrinka, and Marin Cilic swoop in and capture the title? Perhaps a new name such as Kei Nishikori will emerge and join the Grand Slam party. The next two weeks will reveal all, and here is a preview and prediction for the tournament, that now has a roof.
New York, NY, USA
August 29-September 11, 2016
Prize Money: $21,862,744
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (2)
3: Stan Wawrinka (3)
4: Rafael Nadal (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Kei Nishikori (7)
7: Marin Cilic (9)
8: Dominic Thiem (10)
Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych are the two names from the ATP top 10 that are missing the US Open, otherwise the rest of the ATP top 20 is participating.
First round matchups to watch:
(26)Jack Sock vs. Taylor Fritz
Sock needed five sets against Fritz at the AO this year, and the young American has improved his game since then. However, Sock is higher ranked, and he’s had a decent summer, though he’s not played remarkable tennis at any event. This should be a cracker of a contest, Fritz has struggled more this year though, and I’m not sure he can win this match in a best of five format.
(10)Gael Monfils vs. Gilles Muller
Muller has a hard court win over Monfils, and the overall h2h is 1-1. The Frenchman pulled out of Cincy, but prior to that he’s been playing amazing tennis, and most notably took the title in Washington. If Monfils is healthy, and he continues to serve his best, he should beat Muller, who reached an ATP final this summer, but simply isn’t up to Monfils level on a consistent basis. The veteran will serve and volley in a way that could frustrate the defensive Monfils though.
(8)Dominic Thiem vs. John Millman
Thiem beat Millman in Cincy, where he reached the quarters. The hard charging Austrian has experienced a notable decline this summer though, as his brutal schedule caught up with him. That said, his numerous match wins in the spring and early in the year have earned him a top 8 seed, and he would benefit from playing well in New York. Millman has been in great form and comes off the semis in Winston-Salem, I could see him taking at least a set in this match.
(11)David Ferrer vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Dolgo has won three times against Ferrer, while Ferrer has eight wins of his own against the shotmaker. The Ukrainian won the most recent meeting on hard courts though, and Ferrer has been in terrible form for months. He hasn’t won consecutive matches at a tournament since Roland Garros, and is clearly in a pronounced decline, likely due to his age catching up with him. Dolgo is an erratic player in his own right, but he’s lost five straight matches, and thus Ferrer will probably survive this one.
(3)Stan Wawrinka vs. Fernando Verdasco
Verdasco leads the h2h against Wawrinka 3-2, and he comes off the quarters in Winston-Salem. The veteran Spaniard isn’t near the player he was, and he’s been struggling with his serve, but he also reached the quarters in Atlanta, and with his big forehand he could pose problems for Wawrinka. The new Swiss #1 reached the semis in Toronto and with his powerful backhand, he’s going to contend for the title, at least as a dark horse. I look for him to get out of this match and move into the second week from there.
(12)David Goffin vs. Jared Donaldson
Donaldson has been having a great run at qualifying for tour events, and he’s clearly on the rise as a young American to watch. Goffin hasn’t had a summer that matches his high ranking, but he’s still a talented battler who is the favorite in this match. Donaldson has the ability to score an upset, but the Belgian has more experience and likely prevails in this setting.
(16)Feliciano Lopez vs. Borna Coric
The Los Cabos finalist and Gstaad champion Lopez has been playing some of his best tennis from an otherwise forgettable season. The veteran lefty serve and volleyer will matchup with Coric, a steady baseliner, and a young gun with a high talent ceiling, and not a lot to lose in this match Coric reached the quarters in Cincy but retired, and he’s shown patches of great form, but not the consistency needed to earn a seeded spot in slams. Despite Coric’s talent, I’m going with Lopez to win in four or five sets.
(30)Gilles Simon vs. Radek Stepanek
Stepanek matches up well with the defensive pusher Simon. The Frenchman has lost three straight, and he’s been in forgettable form for most of this season. The veteran Czech came through qualifying, and he also qualified in Toronto and reached the third round. Simon is a seed in danger of getting knocked off, and I’m going with Stepanek in a match that would have been in a later round just a few years ago.
The defending US Open Champion Novak Djokovic is seeking his third title in New York, as he’ll open with Jerzy Janowicz, a formerly dangerous player who has disappeared this season into irrelevance. Djokovic won Toronto, and despite crashing out at Wimbledon and the Olympic games, he’s still the favorite to win this tournament. He’s well rested and should dispatch Janowicz, and Jiri Vesely, a player he lost to in Monte Carlo this year, to setup a third round meeting with possibly the #28 seed Martin Klizan. Vesely opens with Grand Slam debutant Saketh Myneni, a qualifier from the challenger ranks. Klizan will play Mikhail Youzhny, an experienced veteran, but Youzhny may not be healthy as he withdrew from Winston-Salem. Rising American Bjorn Fratangelo should follow, Fratangelo opens with a struggling Guido Pella. and has a great shot against Klizan or Youzhny in the next round, I have him pulling a surprise and making round 3 before falling to Novak.
John Isner lost his spot as the #1 ranked American, but he’s still position to reach the second week if he can defeat young gun Frances Tiafoe, the winner of Jordan Thompson/Steve Darcis, and most likely the #13 seed Richard Gasquet. Gasquet has been struggling since he injured himself at Wimbledon, but he should still defeat Kyle Edmund and Lukas Lacko or Ernesto Escobedo. Isner should defeat the serve and volleyer Darcis, and then I have him serving past Gasquet, given the Frenchman’s poor recent form. Isner is a consistent and reliable pick out of this section.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Marin Cilic should also make their way into the second week. Tsonga should slip past Guido Andreozzi and either James Duckworth or Robin Haase before facing Kevin Anderson in round 3. The normally dangerous Anderson isnt likely to do damage this tournament as he’s just 12-15 on the season. He opens with Atlanta semifinalist Yoshihito Nishioka, who is likely to get overpowered by the South African’s serve, with Vasek Pospisil or lucky loser Jozef Kovalik to follow. Neither player is in good form, so Tsonga over Anderson is my pick in round 3. Jo Willy is 23-12 on the season.
The former US Open champion Cilic won a shock victory in Cincy for his first ever Masters title, and enters this tournament in razor sharp form. The Croatian #1 should ease past Rogerio Dutra Silva, and Gastao Elias or a struggling Sergiy Stakhovsky to setup a third round meeting against Sock or Fritz. The Sock/Fritz winner faces Pierre-Hugues Herbert or qualifier Mischa Zverev. Cilic should power his way past Sock to reach the second week.
Rafa Nadal returned for the Rio Olympics from a wrist injury, and he played well, reaching the bronze medal match. The two time US Open champion gets his won quarter of the draw, and will open against Denis Istomin, with Andreas Seppi or Stephane Robert to follow, and Andrey Kuznetsov likely up in round 3. I have Rafa winning his first two matches, while Kuznetsov should beat Thomaz Bellucci and either Julien Benneteau or Albert Ramos to reach round 3. The young Russian has had a year of tremendous improvement. Despite some cobwebs still in his game, Nadal, if healthy, should ease into the second week with this weak draw.
Winston-Salem finalist Roberto Bautista Agut, or young gun Lucas Pouille will battle for the right to reach the second week in the section below Rafa. Pouille opens with the pedestrian Mikhail Kukushkin, with Guilherme Clezar or Marco Chiudinelli to follow. RBA faces countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who has been struggling as of late, with Brian Baker or Federico Delbonis to follow. With Pouille struggling, RBA should reach week 2 after beating GGL and Baker. Both Kukushkin and Delbonis are in terrible form here as well.
Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic should face off yet again this summer in a week 2 battle, presuming Monfils gets past Muller, wild card Mackenzie McDonald or first time slam qualifier Jan Satral, and one of Pablo Cuevas/Dudi Sela/Marton Fuscovics/Nicolas Almagro. Cuevas isn’t a great hard court player, but he should beat a struggling Sela, and Fuscovics or Almagro before falling to Monfils. I have Fuscovics upsetting Almagro and continuing his good from the challenger tour. Nico has been struggling for quite some time.
Raonic opens with shotmaker Dustin Brown, Adrian Mannarino or Ryan Harrison will follow, with Benoit Paire or Marcos Baghdatis set for round 3. Paire was kicked off the French Olympic team, and has been leaving chaos in his wake recently. His first round opponent Dusan Lajovic was a semifinalist in Cabo and his results have been trending upwards. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Serb upset Paire. I have Baghdatis beating Facundo Bagnis, and then Paire, before falling to Raonic. Mannarino has been flat recently, while Harrison has been in good form, and he could pull off a key round 1 win. Raonic should dominate this section.
Stan Wawrinka is in the most intriguing section of the draw, he opens with Verdasco, with Denis Kudla or qualifier Alessandro Giannessi to follow. Presuming he plays up to his abilities and reaches round 3, he should get a tough match against young gun Alexander Zverev. Zverev opens with Daniel Brands, with Daniel Evans or Olympian Rajeev Ram to follow. The Washington semifinalist Zverev should trouble Wawrinka, but he’s not playing well enough right now to win that matchup.
Nick Kyrgios opens with Aljaz Bedene, with the red hot Florian Mayer likely to follow. Mayer opens with Horacio Zeballos, and he’s won two challengers in a row, a ten match win streak. The Atlanta champ Kyrgios should still be fresher than Funky Flo though, and I also have him defeating countryman Bernard Tomic in round 3. The Cincy quarterfinalist Tomic faces a struggling Damir Dzumhur with Ivan Dodig or Illya Marchenko to follow. Marchenko or Dodig will break miserable losing streaks with their round 1 win.
Dominic Thiem will face Malek Jaziri or Ricardas Berankis in round 2, with either Sam Querrey or Winston-Salem champion Pablo Carreno Busta likely in round 3. Berankis has lost six straight matches, and while Jaziri can play well, I still see Thiem advancing. Querrey opens with veteran Janko Tipsarevic who showed form and won a challenger a few weeks ago. Querrey hasn’t been playing well but a fatigued Carreno Busta likely falls to him in round 2, after beating Illya Ivashka, a new name in Grand Slam main draws. Thiem over Querrey is a sensible pick.
The biggest name in this section is the Olympic silver medalist Juan Martin Del Potro, who of course has a US Open title in his past and could well get another if he plays like he did in Rio. The Argentine power hitter faces countryman Diego Schwartzman in round 1, with top American Steve Johnson or Evgeny Donskoy set to follow. Johnson shouldn’t be counted out, but he got some bad luck in having to face JMDP in round 2, and Del Potro should win that match, then beat Ferrer or Dolgopolov (or Fabio Fognini/Teymuraz Gabashvili, both of whom are struggling) to reach the second week. Del Potro has kicked the rust off his game, and he’s a formidable opponent right now.
The Wimbledon Champ and Olympic Gold Medalist Andy Murray opens with power hitter Lukas Rosol, with Marcel Granollers or Juan Monaco to follow, and the Simon/Stepanek winner likely up in round 3. Simon or Stepanek will face a dirtballer in round 2, either Carlos Berlocq or Paolo Lorenzi.
The section above Murray is full of players who need to live up to their potential. Lopez and Coric are here and will face Joao Sousa or Victor Estrella in round 2. Grigor Dimitrov faces Inigo Cervantes, with Jeremy Chardy or Michael Mmoh to follow. Dimitrov made the semis in Cincy and the quarters in Toronto. He will ease past Cervantes and Chardy, a very lucky, and easy draw, and then I have him defeating Lopez, after Lopez beats Coric and Sousa. This is a great chance for Dimitrov to reach the second week and boost his ranking back up.
Goffin or Donaldson will face Winston-Salem semifinalist Viktor Troicki, or Radu Albot in round 2. Goffin over Troicki is my pick in round 2, and then I have Goffin defeating Ivo Karlovic, after Karlovic beats Rendy Lu, and the winner of Donald Young/J.L. Struff. Karlovic was the winner of Cabo and has had a great summer, however Goffin is more consistent, and I see him earning a narrow win.
Kei Nishikori should dispatch Benjamin Becker and Karen Khachanov or Thomas Fabbiano, and his section will continue to be easy from there as Philipp Kohlschreiber is carrying an injury, and Nicolas Mahut and Paul-Henri Mathieu are average veterans at this point. Also here is qualifier Christian Harrison, who has made an amazing comeback from medical problems to reach this draw, but isn’t expected to do much against PHM. Nishikori over Mahut is my pick in this weak section that Nishikori should feast on.
Dark horses (one for each section of the draw): John Isner, Gael Monfils, Juan Martin Del Potro, Viktor Troicki
Isner has to get past Djokovic, but he should at least make it that far, I have Monfils over Raonic to make the quarters, and he could upset Nadal as well to reach the semis. Del Potro is my pick for the semis, and Troicki would need to defeat Goffin and Karlovic to reach the second week, which would be an upset result.
Round of 16:
Djokovic d. Isner (8-2 h2h)
Cilic d. Tsonga (5-3)
Nadal d. Bautista Agut (1-0)
Monfils d. Raonic (3-2)
Del Potro d. Thiem (1-0)
Wawrinka d. Kyrgios (2-2)
Nishikori d. Goffin (3-0)
Murray d. Dimitrov (6-3)
All of the round of 16 matches should stay true to their h2hs. Cilic is fitter than Tsonga, Monfils beat Raonic in Toronto, Wawrinka is probably more consistent than Kyrgios, and Murray tends to outplay Dimitrov with a similar style.
Djokovic d. Cilic (14-0)
Nadal d. Monfils (12-2)
Del Potro d. Wawrinka (4-2)
Murray d. Nishikori (7-1)
Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray should cruise in these big matches. Del Potro over Wawrinka is my trendy pick given Wawrinka has been flat lately.
Djokovic d. Nadal (26-23)
Murray d. Del Potro (6-2)
Djokovic on a hard court should be superior to Rafa, Murray just beat Del Potro in a Rio battle and should return well enough to reach the final.
Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic over Murray is still the responsible pick, until Murray proves he can beat Djokovic in a best of five this year. Novak is the world #1 for a reason, and that’s why he’s my pick for champion.