Whenever the US Open rolls around, my mind starts to reflect on the season that has been, and I think to myself, ‘wow, is it September already?’ Of course there are still three months of tennis to be played after the Open, but in a way, the season comes to a close after the champions have been crowned in New York.
Let’s not start commemorating just yet, when there’s still looking ahead to do.
Here’s a nice way to get us going. When was the last time Federer started a Slam not seeded first? And how did the Swiss fare? I wonder if Roger remembers this himself.
Federer will headline the field going for his fourth consecutive US Open title and faces two qualifiers to start his campaign. He might get a shot at America’s new hope, John Isner in the third round. Federer should cruise through to the quarters, where we should be in for a rematch of last year’s final, when Fed takes on Roddick. You know what will happen there.
Semifinal pick: Roger Federer
Moving down the draw, the second quarter offers us the pick’em section of the tournament. Our contestants for a semifinal spot are Davydenko, Canas, Haas, Baghdatis and Blake. Is it just me or does Davydenko always seem to be involved in these regions? Andy Murray also features in this section, but we can’t expect anything from the Briton just yet. Blake clearly thrives on the American hard courts, but there’s another guy here who loves the show and the big occassion and I’m liking this certain Cypriot to come through here.
Semifinal pick: Marcos Baghdatis
Exactly one year ago, Lleyton Hewitt destroyed an up-and-coming Novak Djokovic in the third round of the US Open. The Serb has his eyes set on a rematch though, as the Djoker and Hewitt are scheduled to meet in the fourth round of this year’s event. To get there, Djokovic has some tough hurdles to clear first. Mario Ancic is not a first round opponent he’d be happy with, nor is Radek Stepanek in round two.
Djokovic has established himself as the No.3 player and already showed at Wimbledon he is capable of defeating Hewitt. Hard courts suit the Djoker better than grass, so he should come through here. Hewitt has always performed well in New York though, and if Djokovic is a little drained from his openers, he could easily go down. And then there is the possibility of facing Mikhail Youzhny in the quarters, the Russian who has beaten him twice this year already. Still, Djokovic has developed into a very good match player and that should see him get through to the semis.
Semifinal pick: Novak Djokovic
Not only is this the familiar Rafa corner, special attention goes out to Tim Henman in this bottom quarter, who starts his career ending Grand Slam against one of the players he’d least liked to have faced. Dmitry Tursunov, who leads the Tiger 5-1 head-to-head, will likely go down as the man who ended Henman’s Grand Slam career.
Even though Nadal has yet to come alive during the American hard court summer, Rafa faces no real threats until the fourth round, and I don’t see David Ferrer or David Nalbandian upend the No.2 either. Fernando Gonzalez is hardly a lock for the quarters, leaving the way wide open for Nadal to advance to the semis.
Semifinal pick: Rafael Nadal
in Cincinnati, Baghdatis couldn’t beat a Federer who was playing some of his worst tennis of the past three, four years. A semifinal run at a Grand Slam event is a great performance for the Bag Man. It ends here.
In the other semifinal, it’s looking like Djokovic will be out of gas again by the time he gets to face Nadal, who, on his turn, is just starting to warm up. Unless Djokovic finds a way to avoid grinding it out in the earlier rounds, this one is for the running man.
I wouldn’t pick anyone else over Federer in this tournament, not with a best-of-five format, but when Nadal faces the Swiss in the final, I’m going with the Spaniard to win his first US Open title.
Champion: Rafael Nadal
Is this deja vu, or what’s going on here? Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams again feature in the top half of the draw, whilst Anna Chakvetadze and Maria Sharapova are scheduled to meet in a Slam quarterfinal for the third time this season.
Just like Federer, Henin will start her quest for the title in New York against a qualifier, and she too might face an American favorite in the quarters. Andy Roddick is a safer bet to advance to that stage than Serena Williams though, as Serena hasn’t played a match since falling to Henin at Wimbledon. If anyone is capable of pulling off miracle runs at big events it’s Serena, but she might as well fall in the early rounds.
Semifinal pick: Justine Henin
In the Serbian quarter with Jankovic and Ivanovic, we also find Venus Williams. Jankovic has a nice draw into the last eight, where she will face the winner of her younger compatriot versus Venus. Ivanovic could be a future Slam winner, but Ana still has some maturing to do to beat the more experienced players on the big stage. I’m picking Venus in this one, though I believe Jankovic will make the semis.
Semifinal pick: Jelena Jankovic
Svetlana Kuznetsova is coming off a tournament win in New Haven, but the third-seeded Russian was far from playing at her best throughout the week. The draw in NY has been kind to Kuzzie and she remains the favorite to reach the last four. Nadia Petrova looks like her biggest challenger in the quarterfinals, although Michaella Krajicek is a dark horse in Petrova’s section.
Semifinal pick: Svetlana Kuznetsova
Here we have Chakvetadze and Maria’s part of the draw. Both Chaky and Pova are the overwhelming favorites to come through their sections, though Patty Schnyder might give Anna C. a run for her money in the fourth round. Even though Sharapova has beaten her compatriot on all three occasions the two squared off in 2007, I believe Chakvetadze should be able to seriously push Maria in this one. Experience will be a factor in the end, so the defending champion should come through.
Semifinal pick: Maria Sharapova
Although she has never beaten Henin, Jankovic is due for a win over her rival. Last year at the US Open she squandered a set and a 4-2 lead against the Belgian after blowing up over a line call, but the Serb knows that she has become a contender at the majors and believes she can win them. Sharapova is the routine pick against Kuznetsova, but against a Jankovic who has just beaten her nemesis, Maria will lose her crown.
Champion: Jelena Jankovic
Park the bus and drop off the keys. The road trip has reached its final destination. It’s showtime.
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