The last of the men’s US Open quarters are about to begin, so without further delay, my picks.
Tomas Berdych v Marin Cilic
I thought at the start of the event that Marin Cilic could have been a guy capable of sneaking through. And he’s on the brink of doing just that. Since returning from suspension less than a year ago, Cilic has been an improving player rightfully will be back in the Top 10. He nearly shocked eventual champ Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon where he did beat Berdych, and this week he did outlast Gilles Simon for a first time in 4+ hours. So he’s playing well under the guidance of Goran Ivanisevic.
Meanwhile Berdych hasn’t shown me much. He crashed out of the French quarters with a lame duck perfomance against Gulbis. Then the controversial Cilic loss at Wimbledon (finished in darkness) and this summer he was off the radar – did he play??
However Berdych has found the groove this week. Only Martin Klizan has been able to muster a set over the big Czech and even though he hasn’t really beaten any top guys, he’s winning easily, he’s playing with confidence and he’s fresh. Plus he’s had final weekend Grand Slam experience including a semi at the start of the year in Australia.
So Tomas has beaten those in front of him and I think here maybe Marin feels a little fatigue from the Simon match.
So in a tough call – this could really go either way – I’ll lean with Bird…
The pick: Berdych in 4
Roger Federer v Gael Monfils
For all the world I want to pick Monfils here, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. How can you, it’s Monfils?
That said, in a stunning change of tactics, Monfils is actually playing tennis instead of just performing. And it’s working. The new, maybe maturing Monfils – he just turned 28 earlier this week – hasn’t lost a set in four matches including impressive wins over Grigor Dimitrov and Richard Gasquet. Those are two very talented guys with 1-handed backhands he dusted. Now he gets the king, Mr. Federer.
Federer has won seven of nine against the Frenchman but Monfils played him really, really tough in Cincinnati this year.
If Monfils can stay composed – a big “if” given the setting against Federer on the biggest court on the planet – he’ll be able to track down a lot of Federer’s shots, extend the points and bait the Swiss into errors. I think that can happen.
To offset that, Federer will have to serve well and take the net shortening the points, something he’s been doing, sort of. Roger’s still having a few hiccups on serve which he’ll need to iron out against the upper crust. But I have to stick with experience and history here. Eventually Monfils becomes Monfils again.
The pick: Federer in 5
As for yesterday’s late night Djokovic-Murray match, my takeway is that Murray just isn’t ready to contend yet. In spurts he look excellent, especially off the forehand, but he couldn’t sustain that momentum as Djokovic, who was also scratchy, finally seized control of the match in the third.
Unfortunately for Andy it looks like this year is a throwaway and he’ll hope to rebuild for 2015 which he could. Or he could not. It’s hard to say but it looks like he’s losing ground to the Big Three.
Top seed Djokovic moves on to the semifinals to face Kei Nishikori who I have to tip my cap to. After his tough, late night win over Milos Raonic I did not see anyway he’d beat Stan Wawrinka, especially not in five sets. But full credit to the 24-year-old, he proved me and just about everyone else 100% wrong with that incredible win over Stan.. Kei’s a fighter and if he can stay healthy the sky’s the limit.
ESPN has full coverage of the quarters in a few minutes. Then CBS will have the semifinals this Saturday.
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