This is it! The final weekend of the 2016 Grand Slam season. Novak Djokovic made it. But several of the other top names didn’t.
Roger Federer is on the mend with a bad knee. Rafael Nadal is still dealing with nerves in pressure situations and Andy Murray might want to wear headphones during his matches going forward so he doesn’t get distracted by gong-like noises.
But Stan Wawrinka is back as he always, quietly, seems to be. Kei Nishikori has continued his strong run in North American events and Gael Monfils is suddenly living up to his potential. But can he take it further?
On to my picks.
Novak Djokovic v Gael Monfils
Both guys should be super fresh for this one! Djokovic hasn’t played much at all – just 9 full sets – and Monfils hasn’t lost a set and both have had the luxury of two full days of rest.
The problem is, while Monfils has the game to beat just about anybody, he’s never beaten Djokovic 0-12. And that’s bad news against someone who should be healthy and at this stage, with the remaining field, is going to be awfully tough to beat.
That said, it is forecasted to be hot and humid, two things that Djokovic doesn’t particularly like. So Monfils should use his defensive ability and speed to make Djokovic play a lot of balls. And maybe in an extended match some of those nagging injuries return, or Djokovic tenses up late. That’s why I’d like to see Monfils pump his serve and on return, maybe try to wear Novak down playing consistent, safe tennis.
Will Monfils play that way? Probably not. He might just end of going for winners all day and bringing out the circus act. No one really knows.
And Monfils could and probably will get tight. It’s just his second Slam semifinal and he’s going to feel the pressure. He has to.
But that head-to-head is just too overwhelming and while Djokovic has had an easy week, so too has Monfils who’s coasted through a very easy draw.
The pick: Djokovic in 4
Stan Wawrinka v Kei Nishikori
I make Kei the slight favorite here. He’s done better at the US Open and he’s had better wins this year, including a victory over Stan in Canada.
But Stan does leads 3-2 and should be fitter, which becomes a factor if it’s hot. And Kei did just win a tough 4-hour affair against Andy Murray Tuesday, though Stan finished his win over Juan Martin Del Potro after 1am.
So in the heat, a very slight edge to Stan (however, remember Nishikori drummed Djokovic in serious heat two years ago in the semifinals), however based on form and recent results, I have to lean Kei’s way.
Plus, I know Stan finally got a good win beating Delpo the other night, but still no Top 10 wins on the year. None!
The match-up itself is very even. Both have decent serves, very strong backhands and I’d probably rate Kei’s forehand above Stan’s. So the key will be who serves best and who dictates from the ground.
And I just feel for some reason that’s going to be Kei, who has been consistently sharper this summer.
The pick: Nishikori in 5
Could we see some upsets today? For sure. Remember in Canada, after a fast start Monfils was simply out of gas when he faced Djokovic in that semifinal. And with Nishikori, you never know just how healthy he is after that Murray marathon. Stan, though, should be good to go so I expect a good battle.
ESPN2 has all the coverage starting at 3pm.
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