We are just over a day away from the start of the final Grand Slam of this long and unique tennis season. With Rafael Nadal seated on the sidelines unfortunately due to a persistent knee injury, the Big Three is well, still the Big Three if you are willing to replace Nadal with Andy Murray. Murray may just be ripe enough to take that next step after his Olympic effort.
But the main spotlight shines again upon the two stars who have done battle in New York the last five years: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Both guys enter on high notes if you will. After a dissapointing Olympics Federer breezed through Cincinnati without dropping a single service game. Not bad for a guy who just turned 31.
Djokovic left London unhappy as well but quickly marshaled his game to take Toronto followed by a final in Cincinnati where Federer blew him away.
But that was the Cincinnati. The Midwest. This is the bright lights, the big stage of New York and the stakes are raised. So who’ll be left standing in the end?
First, the big question was answered when No. 3 Murray ended up in Federer’s half. That doesn’t make either players’ life any easier. Federer beat Murray at Wimbledon, then Murray returned the favor a month later in stunning fashion at the Olympics. Can Murray beat him twice in a row, best-of-5? Doubtful. Can Roger beat Murray twice in a summer? More plausible.
Overall, though, of the Big Three the draws came out pretty fair. As the top seed for the sixth time at the US Open Federer has Fernando Verdasco, Mardy Fish or Gilles Simon and then Tomas Berdych to deal with in his quarter. Maybe Sam Querrey gets to that match against Federer instead of Berdych, but otherwise it should be straightforward for Federer. Berdych is dangerous but he also loves to choke as we saw today in that final set breaker against John Isner. Simon and Fish can get a set if they get hot but it’s a longshot either could actually finish the job.
While it’s tougher than Roger’s, Murray’s section also looks favorable for the Scot. His first seed could be Feliciano Lopez, then the powerful Milos Raonic followed by JW Tsonga or perhaps Marin Cilic. Raonic beat Murray on clay earlier this year however lately the Canadian really hasn’t lived up to his potential, and I wonder about him in best-of-5 in warm weather. Tsonga is clearly the second best guy in that quadrant but Murray’s played well against the streaky Frenchman, so again, it’s hard to pick against Andy.
In the bottom half, Djokovic really has the great draw. He’ll have Julien Benneteau in the third, then Stan Wawrinka followed by a tough one with Juan Martin Del Potro. If DelPo has the wrist and body in shape, then watch out. Otherwise Djokovic should coast rather comfortably. Delpo opens against countryman David Nalbandian in the best first round match then could clash with the feisty Ryan Harrison before a run-in with Juan Monaco or Andy Roddick. So it won’t be a gimmee that Delpo even reaches the quarter and if he does what condition will he be in? Looking deeper, could Monaco be the guy to play Djokovic?
In the wildcard section, we find what else, a bunch of wildcards. David Ferrer is the top seed but maybe John Isner is the favorite in the section. Isner just won Winston Salem this weekend but I worry about his abilities in best-of-5 matches. Janko Tipsarevic, Richard Gasquet and Tommy Haas are also packed into that quarter, which is one of the most wide-open sections we’ve seen in a long time at a Major (thanks Rafa!). As a former semifinalist in New York, Ferrer has the most experience and the pedigree while Isner is the hot, trendy selection, but I’m going to take a flyer and go with someone I should never pick that’s Richard Gasquet. Gulp!
So my semifinals looks like Federer v. Murray and Gasquet v. Djokovic. I’ll take Djokovic and then I think I’ll go Federer in a tight one over Murray. In the final, I’ll lean ever so slightly with Roger. I think that bagel he fed to Novak hurts and I Djokovic may be struggling a little from fatigue from a long summer.
In the end I do the the champion will come from Federer, Djokovic or Murray. I wish Del Potro was feeling better with his wrist, but I don’t trust it. I wish Tsonga could string together seven good matches, but that’s asking a lot. And I wish a new face like Raonic can step up, but it’s seems he’s still too young. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to endure another Federer-Djokovic US Open thriller. How lucky we are.
Main draw matches begin Monday at 11am ET on Tennis Channel with ESPN2 picking up coverage at 1pm ET.
US OPEN MONDAY SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 AM Start Time
1. Women’s Singles – 1st Round
Petra Martic (CRO) v. Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Not Before:1:00 PM
2. Men’s Singles – 1st Round
Andy Murray (GBR) v. Alex Bogomolov Jr. (RUS)
3. Women’s Singles – 1st Round
Maria Sharapova (RUS) v. Melinda Czink (HUN)
Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 PM Start Time
1. Women’s Singles – 1st Round
Victoria Duval (USA) v. Kim Clijsters (BEL)
2. Men’s Singles – 1st Round
Roger Federer (SUI) v. Donald Young (USA)
Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 AM Start Time
1. Men’s Singles – 1st Round
Lukas Lacko (SVK) v. James Blake (USA)
2. Women’s Singles – 1st Round
Melanie Oudin (USA) v. Lucie Safarova (CZE)
3. Men’s Singles – 1st Round
Mardy Fish (USA) v. Go Soeda (JPN)
This match may be moved to Ashe Stadium.
Not Before:3:00 PM
4. Women’s Singles – 1st Round
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v. Alexandra Panova (RUS)
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