To answer immediately: Yes, I do think Novak Djokovic will win the US Open this year. Based on his draw, his schedule, his dominant season to date and his belief and motivation, I can’t find a good enough reason not to pick Djokovic. Sure, he’s not an stone cold lock to walk away with the NY title like Rafael Nadal used to be at the French Open or Roger Federer was at Wimbledon, but the data is just too overwhelming right now to go against the Serb.
For one, Djokovic has a great draw and an even better schedule. Novak is clear of danger guys like former champion Juan Martin Del Potro, Gilles Simon, Andy Roddick (don’t laugh, he’s beaten the Joker), Mardy Fish, JW Tsonga and John Isner. All of whom could have been in his quadrant but weren’t. That said, he does have Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils Richard Gasquet and Janko Tipsarevic among others, but in a Slam I don’t think mentally they can topple Djokovic right now.
In the semifinals for Novak it’s likely going to be Federer who I think somehow gets through Tsonga and then Fish. But can Federer really take three sets from the new Djokovic on a hardcourt? (Funny, I would have asked this question in reverse a few years ago.) I don’t think so. This summer Federer’s hardly shown me anything that would make me believe he can pull off another Slam semifinal win over Novak. The court is slower, Roger says, which should help him but on hardcourts Federer just hasn’t been a threat this year.
And Novak lucked out with his schedule. By playing his half first he should get an extra day of rest for that crucial Saturday-Sunday 5-set semifinal and final push, something he’ll likely need based on how he finished last week.
What concerns me most of Novak is his health. Last weekend we in Cincinnati we clearly saw Novak breaking down. And that was after just seven or eight matches when against Monfils in that quarterfinals he looked fatigued and listless. To his credit he won, but the next day against Berdych he looked weary. And that’s worrisome because he did have about a month of rest before the hardcourts, yet after just 7-8 matches he was gassed.
Granted, he was playing back-to-back days and it was hotter, but now after just a week of at the Open he’ll have to battle best of five. Still, the weather should be cooler and again he should benefit from an easy first week and that extra day during week two, weather permitting of course.
As for his opponent in the final, I’m going with Andy Murray. Like Djokovic, he too has a great draw and unless Del Potro catches fire he’ll get out to the semifinal and beat Nadal.
Rafa just doesn’t look like the same guy we saw earlier in the year. Maybe it was the burnt fingers or the new book or his new drink or the losses to Djokovic that are piling up in his head. Whatever it is he looks rattled. His serve is not there, he’s missing easy balls and that week two schedule won’t help him. My gut feeling is that of the Fab Four he could go out the earliest, losing to someone like Ivan Ljubicic or even Ernests Gulbis. But that’s a longshot.
So my quarterfinals look like Djokovic over Monfils, Federer finishing Fish, Murray slapping Simon and Nadal knocking out Roddick. And your final again is Djokovic getting revenge for Cincinnati and beating Murray for the second time this year in a Slam final.
Thankfully, with Irene long gone the tournament will begin as scheduled tomorrow with Roger Federer, Mardy Fish, Tomas Berdych and Viktor Troicki starring. And I don’t really see any issues for any of them.
But the two big matches Monday involve the next generation of kids. Ryan Harrison goes against Marin Cilic while Grigor Dimitrov meets Monfils. I still think the elders will get the wins, but both matches should be pretty fun to watch.
As for the women, chalk rules and I’ll take Serena Williams over Maria Sharapova in the title bout. Something tells me Serena won’t win, but I can’t find anyone else to take. Jankovic? Wozniacki? Azarenka, who could play Serena next Sunday? Marion Bartoli would be one player I think could do it, but I’m too chicken to pick her. So Serena it is.
Tennis Channel has early coverage at 11am, then ESPN2 owns the rest from 1pm tomorrow. Click here for the complete US Open TV schedule for the US.
MONDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium 13:00 Start Time
Tobias Kamke (GER) v. Mardy Fish (USA)
Heather Watson (GBR) v. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Arthur Ashe Stadium 19:00 Start Time
Vesna Dolonts (RUS) v. Venus Williams (USA)
Roger Federer (SUI) v. Santiago Giraldo (COL)
Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 Start Time
Ryan Harrison (USA) v. Marin Cilic (CRO)
Petra Kvitova (CZE) v. Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU)
Stephanie Foretz Gacon (FRA) v. Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Marion Bartoli (FRA) v. Alexandra Panova (RUS)
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) v. Gael Monfils (FRA)
Grandstand 12:00 Start Time
Tomas Berdych (CZE) v. Romain Jouan (FRA)
Jill Craybas (USA) v. Madison Keys (USA)
Alejandro Falla (COL) v. Viktor Troicki (SRB)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) v. Polona Hercog (SLO)
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