The season’s first Grand Slam is upon us and the just-announced draw is a good one, if not unbelievably top heavy.
On the first page are no less than Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, JW Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro. Add in Australian heroes Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic plus rising stars Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov and you have quite a powder keg — did I mention Tomic plays Nadal?
On the bottom half, Novak Djokovic’s bid for a fourth straight title is looking good — very good — with just Stan Wawrinka and either Tomas Berdych or David Ferrer in the way of another final. And that’s about it unless you factor in the forecasted heatwave.
So here are my quarter-by-quarter breakdowns:
While top seeded Nadal is in a brutal half, his quadrant isn’t all that bad. He’ll open with a tough test against talented youngster Tomic, then potentially another one in Thanasi Kokkinakis followed by either Gael Monfils or Jack Sock in the third. In the fourth round it’s maybe Lleyton Hewitt or Kei Nishikori, two similar-type opponents. The quarters are where things could get interesting for the Spaniard. With Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov or Juan Martin Del Potro all angling for that last eight berth, it will be a heck of a shootout in that section. And with the heat — none of those three are great in the hot weather — I still like Del Potro to come through, but what shape will he be in against Nadal.
My guess is not good enough.
In the second quarter is where we find four-time champion Roger Federer. The Swiss has a nice opener against Aussie James Duckworth but then a dangerous date with Radek Stepnak followed with a possible collision against Fernando Verdasco in the third. In the fourth, among Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Marin Cilic, I still like Tsonga. He’s a former finalist and if the courts are playing fast that’s to his advantage.
In the quarterfinals with a bunch of qualifiers in his section, Murray has to be pleased. So I like the Scot to come out to face Isner or perhaps Phil Kohlschreiber before running into Tsonga or Federer. And right now I think that guy is Tsonga who beats Federer then beats Murray to reach the semifinals.
Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer are the top guys in a extremely wide open third quarter. Tommy Haas, Jerzy Janowicz, Jeremy Chardy, Mikhail Youzhny and Kevin Anderson are in the mix there as well. But if they play well, Ferrer and Berdych should meet in the quarters. Can Tomas take advantage? What about David in the heat — he should thrive. For now I’ll take Tomas.
In the final quarter, with Dimitry Tursunov, Ernests Gulbis, Fabio Fognini, Sam Querrey, I don’t now how Djokovic even loses a set en route to the quarters. The only thing that could get him is the heat, but he’ll likely be indoors in AC for his matches or at night. In the last eight the Serb could have another showdown with Wawrinka or maybe even Richard Gasquet who both have good draws. I like the way the Swiss has been playing and he’s among the fittest guys on tour, so I’ll take Stan to face Djokovic in that quarter. But Novak gets through.
So here are my semis: Nadal v Tsonga; Berdych v Djokovic. And in the final right now I like Djokovic over Nadal.
Overall, the draw looks great for Djokovic, horrible for Federer and so-so for Nadal. However with the heat I think that helps Nadal the most.
And heat, if it really comes, will be a huge factor the first week and the guys who did the most work, trained the hardest are going to win.
Sunday night can’t get here fast enough!
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Shanghai Masters Draw: Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Nishikori In Loaded Top Half
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