There’s still time before the draw of the final Grand Slam is released tomorrow around noon, so let’s take a look into who’ll be the players to watch next week.
1) Novak Djokovic
The world No. 1 has won two of the three Slams this year only losing to Stan in Paris. And he’s the hardcourt king. That’s the good news.
The bad news is he hasn’t won the US Open since 2011. That was four years ago when he was just 24. Since that triumphant day, he’s lost in the finals to Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray and the semifinals last year in stunner to Kei Nishikori.
But he’s made the finals at all four North American hardcourt events this year, so he has been the most consistent player on cement. He’s also made the US Open final five times, though only winning it once.
And I know he didn’t look great in Cincinnati, but the easy first week of matches should get him in a groove and primed for a deep second week run.
I give him points for consistency and the lack of a big favorite this year make him my pick right now. And with him, I don’t think the draw matters much. In fact, he’s probably glad Roger’s back to No. 2 so he’ll steer clear of Roger at least until the last Sunday – ya think he lost Cincy on purpose? Hmmm….
2) Andy Murray
Every Slam I seem to drink the Murray kool-aid, and usually it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I guess I buy into the British hype and his over-coverage in the media.
On the courts, after a shock loss in Washington, Murray looked great in Canada and played well enough in Cincinnati where I felt maybe he was running a little low by the end of the tournament. So I don’t worry much about that loss. However, his 2-15 record vs the Big 3 still is a worry.
Then again, there’s hope for Andy because he’s played well against Novak in Australia and in Paris, and he’s beaten Novak in New York.
The problem for Andy is avoiding Roger who seems to have his number no matter the surface.
3) Roger Federer
He’s playing well, confidence is soaring, but at 34 you never know with him. A few years ago it was Tommy Robredo. Last year Gael Monfils had him before Marin Cilic blew him off the court.
Best-of-5 makes things that much trickier, and as good as he looked in Cincinnati, I still have to wonder if he can turn back the block again at a place he hasn’t won at since 2008.
The good news is he just beat top threats Djokovic and Murray. The bad news wasn’t in NYC.
4) Kei Nishikori
Assuming his hip issue is OK, I expect a big result from Kei in New York. And honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if he won the title. I’d rate him higher here but I just worry about his injuries. Otherwise, I think he can beat just about anybody and if he gets back to the final this year, I think he can finish the job.
5) Stan Warwinka
Stan is becoming the X-Factor, the one guy you just don’t know. He’s just so tough to read right now. He’s played poorly in Masters then out of nowhere rips off a streak like in Paris.
Stan innocently made the semifinals in New York two years ago, and then a few months later he won the Australian Open.
He’s been going deep in Slams ever since, but can he pull a third rabbit out of the hat and win in New York? I think he can – there’s no overwhelming favorite as I said. I just don’t know if mentally he can do it with all the off court turmoil he’s involved in with Nick Kyrgios and Donna Vekic.
6) Rafael Nadal
So far in recent months, there’s really little I have seen that makes me think Nadal can make the finals or win a third title in New York.
Balls are still landing short. Serve is a glaring weakness now and he just gets tight serving out sets and matches. At 29, maybe Rafa really is done. Or maybe it’s mental. Who knows. I don’t even think he does.
Incredible, this is the first year he’s been healthy and now he can’t win. Maybe if he was injured it would take his mind off the game he’d play more freely. It’s sounds silly but that actually happens….
7) Marin Cilic
The more I look back at last year the more glad I am that Marin Cilic won the US Open. He’s been a fine player, a workhorse type, with a big enough game to do damage. So it was nice to see someone fulfill that potential, get hot and just rip through the field like that.
And while he hasn’t reached those levels this year – started late due a shoulder injury- I think he’s played well enough and I expect to see him in week two.
8) Tomas Berdych
While Cilic reached his potential, Tomas continues to wallow in mediocrity. OK, he’s Top 10 in the world but he’s only managed to reach the US Open quarters twice in his career? For someone with his game that’s a low number in my books.
9) John Isner
If there’s a true American hope it’s John Isner. The problem for the big man is his draw (read: Phil Kohlschreiber) and fitness.
Since he can’t break serve usually he ends up playing a 5-setter, and even if he wins he’s usually too spent for his next match.
His hope, an easy draw! Otherwise he could exit in any round.
So there’s my Super 9….On to the rest.
The French Contenders – Tsonga/Monfils/Simon/Gasquet: I’ll just lump all these guys into one, because anyone of them is capable of thrilling or disappointing. Richard Gasquet’s maybe been the best, but with these four you really don’t know. (Or I guess you do know, you know they won’t win the title.)
The Teens – Kokkinakis, Chung, Coric, Zverev: I really like these kids and I expect at least two in the second and maybe Zverev of Coric maybe go a few rounds further.
The Next Gen – Sock, Dimitrov, Raonic, Thiem: Of the three I’d maybe pick Sock. Raonic hasn’t played much, Dimitrov is struggling with confidence while Sock will have the crowd and the game suited for New York. Thiem’s played well, not on hardcourts though.
Anyone else a threat?
Kevin Anderson – Usually beats the guys he should but also loses to the guys he should. Meh.
David Goffin – Seems to be coming into form, could be an interesting darkhorse.
Ivo Karlovic – With the serve he’s always a threat, but you don’t hear much from him in Slams because it is best-of-5. But rejoice Ivo, in NY you can win matches without breaking serve!
Of course lots of odds and scenarios will change once the draw comes out tomorrow – where will Murray land. I’m still thinking with Novak..
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