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.
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.
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.
Quarters: 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.
Semis: 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.
The final Grand Slam of the season has a ton of points on the line, and our experts make their picks as to who will emerge as champion in the world class field.
Steen Kirby’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Dolgopolov vs. Cilic, Wawrinka vs. Murray, Berdych vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Cilic, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Murray Champion: Djokovic
Niall Clarke’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Monfils vs. Cilic, Wawrinka vs. Murray, Gasquet vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Monfils, Wawrinka vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka Champion: Djokovic
Joe Craven’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Raonic, Nishikori vs. Ferrer, Simon vs. Murray, Gasquet vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Nishikori, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Murray Champion: Djokovic
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Djokovic vs. Pospisil, Andujar vs. Seppi, Bautista Agut vs. Janowicz, Sousa vs. Goffin, Raonic vs. Verdasco, Fish vs. Basilashvili, Johnson vs. Cuevas, Ymer vs. Nadal, Nishikori vs. Stepanek, Dolgopolov vs. Robredo, Tsonga vs. Granollers, Stakhovsky vs. Monfils, Cilic vs. Donskoy, Kukushkin vs. Dimitrov, Chardy vs. Klizan, Krajinovic vs. Ferrer, Wawrinka vs. Chung, Muller vs. Sock, Tiafoe vs. Ram, Gulbis vs. Simon, Rublev vs. Giraldo, Istomin vs. Thiem, Bellucci vs. Nishioka, Mannarino vs. Murray, Berdych vs. Kudla, Querrey vs. Garcia-Lopez, Tomic vs. Hewitt, Brown vs. Gasquet, Isner vs. Smith, Lorenzi vs. Karlovic, Zverev vs. Donaldson, Baghdatis vs. Federer
Round 3: matches: Djokovic vs. Seppi, Bautista Agut vs. Goffin, Raonic vs. Basilashvili, Johnson vs. Nadal, Nishikori vs. Dolgopolov, Tsonga vs. Monfils, Cilic vs. Dimitrov, Chardy vs. Ferrer, Wawrinka vs. Sock, Tiafoe vs. Simon, Rublev vs. Thiem, Nishioka vs. Muray, Berdych vs. Garcia-Lopez, Tomic vs. Gasquet, Isner vs. Karlovic, Zverev vs. Federer
Round of 16 matches: Djokovic vs. Goffin, Raonic vs. Nadal, Nishikori vs. Monfils, Cilic vs. Ferrer, Wawrinka vs. Simon, Thiem vs. Murray, Berdych vs. Gasquet, Isner vs. Federer
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Nishikori vs. Cilic, Wawrinka vs. Murray, Berdych vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Cilic, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Murray Champion: Djokovic
Jeff McMillan’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Nishikori vs. Chardy, Wawrinka vs. Murray, Tomic vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Nishikori, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Federer Champion: Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is the pick for champion by all of our experts, with opinions mixed on the fates of Andy Murray, and Roger Federer among others.
2015 US Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final slam of the season is also the final ATP level stop in the United States for 2015. All of the top names are competing for glory under the New York lights,and here is a preview of what should be two high quality of hard court tennis.
New York City, NY, USA
August 31-September 13, 2015
Prize Money: $33,017,800
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Kei Nishikori (4)
5: Stan Wawrinka (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (6)
7: David Ferrer (7)
8: Rafael Nadal (8)
The entire ATP top 50 will take part in the US Open this season with the lone exception of Juan Monaco as this is the strongest tournament field you can get.
Seppi, an established veteran all-courter, started the season on hard courts on fire, but has cooled off since and finished his US Open series tournaments with a record of 1-2. He could be on upset alert against the talented young gun qualifier Paul who is 40-17 below the main tour level this season at just 18. Though he lacks an ATP or Grand Slam main draw win, and is making his professional slam debut, he was solid in qualifying and has a tenacious and well-rounded game that will give him a punchers chance in this one. The crowd should be on his side, and though I see Seppi winning this, Paul could arrive into the headlines sooner than expected and score his first marquee win.
(23)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert
The top 30 RBA has met the Frenchman Herbert just once in his career, but the big server with a crisp volley game pushed him to three sets in that match, and could well give him a headache once more in the opening round of the US Open. RBA has had a pedestrian season overall and went just 2-2 on summer hard courts, while Herbert comes off his first ever ATP final in Winston-Salem. Herbert has always had singles talent, but has lacked consistency and has performed better in doubles. PHH is a streaky player and RBA still likely wins this, but keep an eye on a potential upset if Herbert’s good form continues in Flushing.
(8)Rafael Nadal vs. Borna Coric
Rafael Nadal has never lost in the first round of the US Open in his career, and he’s a two time champion, however that streak could be snapped this year at the hands of talented and confident young gun Borna Coric. Coric beat an injured Nadal in Basel at the end of last season for one of the biggest wins of his career, so he should already have belief, and his complete all-court game will allow him to pressure Rafa and keep things close most likely. Nadal has had one of his poorest seasons in recent memory, and has not had a good time of it on hard courts this year as he went just 3-2 in the US Open series. Nadal is not the same player that he once was, but he’s still a beast in the fitness and mental toughness departments, and with that in mind he is still likely to survive the Coric challenge. We could be looking at five sets, but in best of five Nadal tends to rise the occasion as we saw in the Australian Open early in the year.
(4)Kei Nisikori vs. Benoit Paire
Nishikori was a finalist last year at the US Open, and has a 2-0 h2h over the streaky Paire, so on paper he shouldn’t have too much trouble. With that said Paire with his elite backhand has enough of a game to threaten top 10 players if he’s focused and shows passion, and Nishikori may still be dealing with a toe injury sustained this summer. The Washington champion also reached the semis in Montreal, but came down with an injury in that match, and hasn’t played since, so it’s hard to tell how Nishikori’s form and condition will be. Paire is finally getting himself back to an ATP level and has had a good season overall, however he once more demonstrated inconsistency in Winston-Salem, and a healthy Nishikori should be able to direct enough balls to his forehand side to doom his chances.
Another match with some upset potential, the two veterans have split h2h meetings on hard courts, and Berrer, fueled by the desire to compete in his final season, has had the best year of his career, while Robredo has struggled to a 5-5 record on hard courts this year. Berrer with his throwback serve and volley game was excellent in qualifying and also reached the semifinals in Bogota this summer while Robredo went 3-2 on summer hard courts. The Spaniard has an excellent record at the US Open, but I feel his level has dropped this season with age perhaps finally catching up to him, and I see Berrer, who beat Rafael Nadal at the start of the year in Doha, scoring another memorable win over a Spaniard and reaching round 2 to add more memories to an already thrilling final season.
(22)Viktor Troicki vs. (WC)Frances Tiafoe
Wild card Frances Tiafoe, making his US Open main draw debut at 17, couldn’t have asked for a better round 1 draw given his status as the seeded Serbian Troicki has lost six straight singles matches, and hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon. Troicki has had a fine season overall, but he’s in a tailspin at the moment, perhaps hurt, or simply lacking confidence, and though he has more experience than Tiafoe, the young American is a powerful talent with enough of a game to score his first Grand Slam main draw win in this one. He got experience playing the French Open this summer and just won his first main draw ATP match in Winston-Salem, so I see the teenager keeping the good vibes and momentum flowing and making headlines with a seeded upset.
This matchup will have a lot of viewers due to the star status of both of these players. Murray’s quest for a second US Open title begins against the controversial Kyrgios, who has gotten in more trouble for his behavior and his mouth, than headlines he’s made for his actual tennis this summer. NK has had a solid season but his immaturity has shown through at times. He lives for a big stage and tends to rise up in slams, though his form hasn’t been great recently. With that said Murray has beaten him twice this year in slams and is 3-0 in the overall h2h. The Scot is extremely solid from the baseline and is able to force Kyrgios errors. Murray is simply more focused and serious with his tennis right now. I really don’t see Murray slipping up here, and the Montreal champion may not even drop a set in this highly anticipated match.
(12)Richard Gasquet vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Gasquet just routined Kokkinakis in Cincy, but don’t sleep on the young Aussie in a best of five big time situation. Gasquet reached the quarterfinals in Cincy and has had both good and bad spurts of play this season, all throughout remaining one of the most aesthetically pleasing and graceful players to watch on tour. Kokkinakis has a bigger game and went 4-3 this summer, like Gasquet showing good and bad patches of play. This match will come down to which version of these players shows up, and a more consistent and experienced Gasquet should find a way to win over a dangerous round 1 opponent.
(29)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Alexander Zverev
A battle of Germans, the veteran Kohlschreiber scored a win over Zverev on clay this year, and over the years has demonstrated himself to be a solid hard court player. However, Zverev is a rising young talent who is building up his hard court game, and while he is on the rise, Kohlschreiber is seemingly on the decline this season. Peppo had just one warm up match on hard courts this summer, a match he lost, while the qualifier Zverev is overall 8-2 on hard courts this summer with a top 20 win over Kevin Anderson en route to the Washington quarterfinals. On paper Kohlschreiber is a favorite, but I have Zverev notching an upset against his countryman and making some waves.
World #1 Novak Djokovic has just one US Open title and was stunned in the semifinals last season, but that doesn’t stop him from being the favorite for the title this year. The Serbian superstar has about as good of a draw as he could hope for in the first week, as he will no doubt dominate journeyman dirtballer Joao Souza in round 1, and likely brush aside big server Vasek Pospisil in round 2, presuming Vasek takes care of business against dirtballer Andreas Haider-Maurer in his round 1 match. Djokovic is 3-0 against Pospisil and has never lost a set to him, so even though Vasek has built his game back up, he’s unlikely to pose a threat.
In the third round Djokovic should be able to continue his streak of sets won over either Seppi/Paul or Teymuraz Gabashvili/Pablo Andujar. Gabashvili, a journeyman with weapons, shocked Andy Murray for the win of his career in Washington, and his good form should put him past Andujar, and likely Seppi, but lighting shouldn’t strike twice against Novak who likely reaches week 2 entirely unscathed as long as his elbow issue has sorted itself out. Djokovic reached both Masters finals this summer, and is looking to make it 3/4 slams won this year after claiming the Australian and Wimbledon titles.
14 seed David Goffin has an excellent chance at reaching week 2, the undersized ball striker has put together a solid top 20 season and went 4-2 on hard courts this summer. He’ll have a potentially challenging round 1 match against Simone Bolelli, a big hitter than himself, but his superior form and consistency should see him through to face either Ricardas Berankis or Joao Sousa, both of whom are baseline ball strikers like Goffin. Berankis and Sousa have both shown inconsistency this summer, while the undersized Berankis, a quarterfinalist in Atlanta and Washington, should have more upside, and reach round 2 before falling to Goffin in a battle of two of the smallest players on tour.
In round 3 Goffin, or another player if an upset occurs, should face either the RBA/PHH winner, or Jerzy Janowicz, presuming the big serving Pole can live up to his abilities and see off surprise Winston-Salem quarterfinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, who usually much prefers clay. Janowicz beat RBA this year in Miami, and his 3-3 record this summer should be good enough to see him through to the third round. Janowicz-Goffin is a style contrast, but Goffin is the better player a this point in their careers and has a pair of h2h wins in his back pocket this season, thus the first section should be Djokovic vs. Goffin to start week 2.
Presuming Nadal gets past Coric he should win his next two matches, likely to be against qualifier Elias Ymer, another young gun, and American Steve Johnson with relative ease. Ymer opens with dirtballer Diego Schwartzman, but doesn’t have a big enough game yet to challenge Rafa. Johnson opens with Fabio Fognini, who hasn’t won a hard court match this year, and then will face the Pablo Cuevas/Dudi Sela winner. Sela recently won a hard court challenger and likely dispatches the dirtballer Cuevas in a veteran battle, but Johnson, a semifinalist in both Washington and Winston-Salem this summer, is in excellent form and could even take a set or more off of Nadal. If Coric gets through he could reach the second week, though Johnson will have a great chance to do the same.
Milos Raonic hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon, and he’s been a rusty out of form disaster this summer (0-2), that said this losses came to big servers who took the upper hand when his return game was exposed, and his serve dropped in quality. His round 1 opponent Tim Smyczek is on a seven match losing streak and a horrible matchup disadvantage, so Raonic should build confidence with a round 1 win and then defeat the Fernando Verdasco/Tommy Haas winner, because both veterans are in poor form. Haas hasn’t been the same player since returning from injury, and Verdasco is struggling but at least of ATP caliber. Raonic is 3-0 on hard courts over Verdasco should reach the third round by virtue of his weak draw.
#18 seed Feliciano Lopez will get a rematch against qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili in his first match, Niko has had a breakthrough season and upset Lopez at Wimbledon this year on the Spaniard’s best surface. With that said, the Cincinnati quarterfinalist and veteran lefty likely finds a way to win and then sends Mardy Fish into retirement in round 2. Fish is playing his final professional matches at the US Open after a summer farewell tour, and the former top 10 American gave Andy Murray a test in Cincinnati after a round 1 win. Even semi-retired his form and talent should be enough to best Marco Cecchinato who is 0-7 in his career in tour level main draw matches. The Italian much prefers clay and Fish should outskill him presuming his body holds up. Lopez with his slice serve should be too much for Mardy if focused however.
Lopez just beat Raonic in Cincinnati, and though it’s hard to predict and likely a close match, I see the veteran doing so once more and bouncing Raonic out earlier than expected. The Canadian #1 simply hasn’t been the same player since foot surgery during the clay court season, and that direct h2h result demonstrates Lopez has an edge right now, their Australian Open meeting this year was also closely contested.
As long as Nishikori is in ok shape and gets past Paire, he should have little trouble against Marsel Ilhan/Radek Stepanek as the veteran Stepanek hasn’t been able to reach a top level since returning from injury. A third round match with the talented but inconsistent Alexandr Dolgopolov could prove trouble however. Dolgo, a semifinalist in Cincy, is a top 20 player when on his game, and will have to deal with Sam Groth and his big serve in the opening round, though he has never lost to Groth (2-0 h2h). I also see him as the favorite over Berrer/Robredo, and I’m going to go out on a limb and pick him over Kei given present physical condition. The reliable and steady Nishikori is 3-0 in the h2h, but I just see Kei disappointing with the pressure on him here. Dolgopolov is one the biggest dark horses in the draw and could catch fire, or bomb out in the opening round. Dolgopolov beat Robredo earlier this year in Miami.
The draw looks open for #19 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to impress. The Frenchman’s first two opponents, the retiring Jarkko Nieminen, and Lukas Lacko/Marcel Granollers are both in poor form, having not played in recent weeks, and the Montreal quarterfinalist should move past Nieminen and Granollers into the third round. There he should meet his fellow highlight reel countryman Gael Monfils. Monfils, who went just 2-2 this summer on hard courts, faces journeyman qualifier Illya Marchenko round 1 and then most likely John Millman, who faces struggling veteran Sergiy Stahovsky in his first match. Millman has been in excellent form on the challenger tour this season and recently, and he’s a quality hard court player, so Monfils could be exposed, but more than likely he conjures up enough talent and focus to reach round 3 before falling to Tsonga, who is in better form on hard courts at the moment.
With Nishikori, Dolgopolov, Monfils, and Tsonga in this section, expect a ton of highlights to come out of it. With that said, Monfils is just 2-5 against Tsonga, though he earned the win in Miami this year.
#7 seed David Ferrer returns to tour from an elbow injury and the 33 year old grinder should see off Radu Albot, who doesn’t have a tour level main draw win this season, though he’s been good at the challenger tour level. Presuming Ferrer is healthy he’s a favorite to reach the fourth round with wins over Filip Krajinovic/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in round 2, and likely Jeremy Chardy in round 3. Montreal semifinalist Chardy faces NCAA champ Ryan Shane in round 1, Shane got the wild card but hasn’t done much in pro tennis to suggest he can beat a veteran like Chardy. Chardy will also be the fave against a streaky Martin Klizan. Klizan opens with funky Florian Mayer, a struggling veteran who prefers clay, in the opening round, and though he could beat Chardy, I don’t see Klizan’s form as being a benefit to him. Ferrer is 7-1 in his career against Chardy.
Defending champion Marin Cilic is unlikely to drop a set in the opening round against dirtballing qualifier Guido Pella, and in round 2 against either French young gun Lucas Pouille or qualifier Evgeny Donskoy. Pouille is a talent but prefers clay and Donskoy will have a chance at an upset, however the Washington semifinalist Cilic should have a big enough game to get to round 3. Grigor Dimitrov is a step up in caliber however, and should await the Croatian #1 at that stage. Dimitrov faces journeyman qualifier Matt Ebden in round 1 followed by a likely match with Winston-Salem quaterfinalist Rendy Lu, presuming Lu beats Mikhail Kukushkin round 1. Dimitrov has had a poor season, and he could even be shocked by Lu, with that said, Cilic seems superior to Dimitrov right now in terms of form, and is likely to be more focused, as it has been a wasted season for Dimitrov, who failed to impress this summer. Cilic also has a 1-0 h2h edge.
Presuming Murray gets past Kyrgios he’s unlikely to drop a set into the fourth round. His second round opponent will be either a struggling Adrian Mannarino or in form journeyman qualifier Konstantin Kravchuk, and then #30 seed Thomaz Bellucci is his odds on third round opponent. Bellucci faces slumping James Ward round 1 and then a qualifier, either Paul-Henri Mathieu, a veteran, or Yoshihito Nishioka, a young gun. It’s possible either Mathieu or the speed demon Nishioka could slip into the third round, but the Winston-Salem quarterfinalist Bellucci is an experienced and steady big hitter. Murray, who rapidly improved in form after a shocking early exit in Washington also has a relatively positive early draw and should excel into week 2.
Winston-Salem champ Kevin Anderson is likely to be tested against confident and talented qualifier Andrey Rublev, another of the teenage young guns dotting the draw, Anderson served up to his best over the past week though and should prove too much for Rublev and likely veteran Santiago Giraldo, presuming Giraldo beats American Austin Krajicek. Neither Giraldo or Krajicek are up to the level needed to best Anderson right now, and the South African has snapped a slump, and should reach the fourth round with a solid showing against Dominic Thiem, the struggling #20 seed. Thiem has been poor this summer, but opens with Daniel Gimeno-Traver, a clay court veteran who shows up on hard courts to cash a check, and I also see him finding his way past Denis Istomin, after Istomin beats a struggling Benjamin Becker. Neither Istomin nor Becker are playing well at the moment and Becker has lost four straight. Form and a 2-0 h2h favors Anderson over Thiem to reach the round of 16.
#5 Stan Wawrinka should meet one of the top Americans, Jack Sock, in the third round. Wawrinka, a Cincinnati quarterfinalist, isn’t in the best of form at the moment but he’s known to find himself at the Grand Slam level and should have little trouble against Albert Ramos in round 1, as Ramos prefers clay. In round 2 I don’t expect young gun Hyeon Chung, or James Duckworth, to be able to deal with Wawrinka’s backhand power and with that in mind it should be Wawrinka over Ramos and Chung without dropping a set. Big serving Atlanta semifinalist Gilles Muller isn’t in the best of form, and though the serve and volleying vet should get past challenger level player Ruben Bemelmans in round 1, I see Sock beating him on home soil after he beats Victor Estrella in round 1. The Washington quarterfinalist Sock has had a breakthrough season, but Wawrinka, presuming he can sort out his form should prove to be too much. Wawrinka has been vulnerable in slams, but I don’t see him losing early, unless Muller starts serving lights out and notches a pair of upsets.
#11 Gilles Simon is in a weak section, opening with a struggling Donald Young who he leads the h2h 5-0 with. Simon is a loser of three straight matches and in poor form, and Young upset Tomas Berdych in Montreal, but he’s lost momentum since and Simon should find a steady path given this is a slam. Many people would look to Ernests Gulbis as a potential dark horse in round 2, but Gulbis has suffered two straight bad losses after pushing Novak Djokovic to three sets in the Montreal quarterfinals, and still hasn’t escaped from his horrible season overall. The Latvian hitter has talent, but could well lose to the in-form Aljaz Bedene in round 1, and I have him losing to Simon in round 2. The h2h is 1-1 and Simon is more trustworthy than Gulbis this season. The winner of Tiafoe/Troicki should reach the third round, as neither Rajeev Ram, a veteran serve and volleyer, nor Ryan Harrison are in good form, and I have Tiafoe beat Troicki, and Harrison, just as he did in Winston-Salem, to reach the third round before falling to Simon.
The five-time US Open champion held off Andy Murray and secured the #2 ranking with a victory in Cincinnati, prepared and in-form Roger Federer should dominate his opponents and cruise into the second week. Leonardo Mayer, his first round opponent, pushed Federer to the brink last fall in Shanghai, falling in three sets, but Mayer is 2-3 this Summer and Federer is in much better form. Marcos Baghdatis, a finalist in Atlanta, also has a h2h win over Federer, but Fed leads the overall h2h 7-1 and both Baghdatis and his round 1 opponent Steve Darcis have recently been injured. Hopefully Federer vs. Baghdatis in round 2 produces some quality tennis. Federer could well face Zverev in round 3, if the youngster beats Kohlschreiber an either Lukas Rosol/Jared Donaldson in round 2. Donaldson has a winnable round 1 match and he’s had success this summer as a young gun American teen, I see Rosol winning in round 1, but an upset isn’t out of the question, and I have Zverev beating Rosol before falling to Federer.
American #1 John Isner had a successful Summer that saw capture the title in Atlanta, reach a final in Washington, and the quarterfinals in Montreal. Now rested, the big server should serve his way past Winston-Salem semifinalist Malek Jaziri,and either J.P. Smith or Mikhail Youzhny. The qualifier Smith is in good form and should reach round 2 but Isner has too much game for either of his first two opponents. In round 3 he’s likely to have a tiebreak fest against Ivo Karlovic. Dr. Ivo should see himself past Federico Delbonis and Jiri Vesely in his first two matches, presuming Vesely dispatches veteran clay courter Paolo Lorenzi. Karlovic leads the h2h 3-2 with Isner but at the US Open I give an in-form Isner the edge.
#6 Tomas Berdych has cooled off from his hot start in the spring but the Cincinnati quarterfinalist should hammer past USTA wild card Bjorn Fratangelo, who has had a solid run in challengers but has yet to translate that to the main tour level and is simply at several levels below top 10 players like Berdych. I also see Berdych powering past Denis Kudla, presuming Kudla beats veteran qualifier Jurgen Melzer in round 1. Kudla has had a career year this season and reached the semifinals in Atlanta, but Berdych should have too much power for him presuming his consistency doesn’t fail. Berdych has little chance against the big four right now, but he’s solid enough to make the second week and beat Kudla at the 2013 US Open.
American Sam Querrey has an excellent shot at reaching the third round and posting a positive result on home soil. He’ll open with veteran serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut and then face the winner of Janko Tipsarevic/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Both veterans have been in poor form this Summer as they try to recover from injuries, and Querrey is the favorite to reach the third round, but fall to Berdych at that stage.
Gasquet/Kokkinakis, likely Gasquet, should get past Dustin Brown/Robin Haase in round 2, neither player is in good form though the highlight worthy Brown has more upside if he catches fire. Gasquet is another player with a favorable draw that should see him into the second week, #24 seed and Bogota champion Bernard Tomic is likely to be his toughest opponent in that path. Tomic opens with undersized baseliner Damir Dzumhur, a 23 year old Bosnian in poor form, and then should move past the retiring Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing his final US Open. Tomic is inconsistent, but superior to either his veteran countryman Hewitt, or Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Hewitt’s round 1 opponent. The 2001 US Open champion will be sorely missed after he plays his final match. Gasquet is 5-1 against Tomic in the h2h and in better form.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Borna Coric, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Gilles Muller, Thanasi Kokkinakis
If the talented Coric can beat Rafa twice in two years, he’ll have a path that that could see him reach the second week, and possibly as far as the quarterfinals. It’s a tough ask for a young player, but Coric is quite confident in himself and has the varied power game that can produce results. He beat Andy Murray this year as well.
I have the streaky Dolgopolov reaching the fourth round, and he could also go as far as the quarters, he’s not seeded but he has the talent to be, and if Nishikori slips up he should take advantage. The Ukrainian speedster is a deceptive shotmaker and demonstrated his peak abilities when he reached the Cincy semis and took a set off of Novak Djokovic. Like Coric, he’s proven the ability to challenge the game’s best.
Muller would need to get past Sock, but the big server has a reliable game an his crisp volleys could frustrate Wawrinka and result in an upset. I don’t see it happening personally but the veteran is known to perform well in Grand Slams.
The bottom section has a relative dearth of dark horses, and Kokkinakis form doesn’t suggest that he’ll get past Gasquet in the first round but he’s not lacking in ability, and if he shocks Gasquet and gets past Tomic he’ll be in the second week.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Djokovic d. Goffin
Goffin gave it his all and nearly upset Djokovic in Cincinnati but failing to do there, I don’t see it happening in best of five sets barring some type of injury. Djokovic is simply a superior ball striker and has far more weapons.
Nadal d. Lopez
Lopez has won his last two meetings against Rafa, including a couple of weeks ago in Cincy, but that match was quite close, and I don’t trust Lopez in the mental department in best of five sets against his fellow Spanish lefty. Lopez could win this but I trust Nadal to find a way to reach the quarters given this is a Grand Slam.
Dolgopolov d. Tsonga
Dolgo is 2-0 on outdoor hard against Tsonga, and with the Frenchman’s recent form in question I see Dolgopolov peaking and reaching the quarterfinals.
Cilic d. Ferrer
Ferrer has a h2h edge but the elbow injury makes me go with Cilic, especially at the US Open. A healthy Ferrer probably beats Cilic, but I’m not sure he’ll be quite up to form right now.
Wawrinka dominated Simon this year on clay, and given Simon’s poor recent form, if Stan pulls his game together he’s a heavy favorite to reach the quarterfinals.
Murray d. Anderson
Murray has a pair of h2h wins over Anderson this year and dominates the h2h overall, given his current form and style of play, one of the best returners in the game should beat one of the best servers.
Berdych d. Gasquet
Berdych has won his last three matches against Gasquet, including two wins this season. Gasquet may well be in better form, but I have to go with the consistent Berdych to reach the quarters.
Federer d. Isner
The world #2 is 3-0 on hard courts against Isner, and though an in-form Isner may challenge Federer and push him to tiebreaks, with the way Federer has played this summer you have to make him the favorite at this stage.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Nadal
Cilic d. Dolgopolov
Murray d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Berdych
Djokovic is simply a better player than Rafa right now, especially on a hard court, and the same goes for Federer as he always dominates Berdych these days, with both of the top seeds appearing favorites for the semifinals.
Murray leads the h2h with Wawrinka by a close 8-6 and Wawrinka has won the last two meetings, including at the 2013 US Open. Wawrinka could well end Murray’s quest at a second US Open, and a first Grand Slam title this season but Andy is in some of the best form of his career and I see him reaching the semis.
Regardless of who he faces in the quarters, Ferrer’s elbow injury should help Cilic defend a large amount of his points from last season, and I see him getting past Dolgopolov, Tsonga, or Monfils.
Semis: Djokovic d. Cilic
Murray d. Federer
Djokovic shouldn’t be stopped in his quest for the final, and he consistently defeats Cilic. Murray has lost his last five meetings against Federer, including two this season and a match in Cincy, but they constantly play close and competitive tennis, and in best of five, a fit and fresh Murray at the US Open should pull off a minor upset in the battle for world #2.
Final: Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic is the worlds best player in hard court tennis at the moment, and though he fell to Murray in a competitive Montreal final, he’s consistently been able to outwork and disarm the UK #1 when they meet at Grand Slams. Djokovic isn’t a lock for the title, but he’s a strong favorite.