On whose half was Roger Federer going to end up on in the US Open men’s draw? Since Federer has never played Rafael Nadal in New York, of course he had to get placed with Novak Djokovic.
Nadal, who won the US Open two years ago, drew Dominic Thiem in his semifinal. Thiem was a tough customer for Rafa a year ago, but Rafa has to be happy. And so, to a degree, does Federer who has the easiest path of anyone to the semifinals.
On a steamy day in New York the draw was unveiled, let’s get to it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC QUARTER
Djokovic may have only won the US Open three times in eight finals, but it’s arguably his most consistent Slam – he never loses early in New York. And he won’t again. Djokovic might drop a set to Querrey, but otherwise coasts into a fourth round meeting with Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka will have to get past the tough Pol Hubert Hurkacz and maybe another youngster in Miomir Kecmanovic. Former finalist Kevin Anderson is in there, but how healthy is the big man who’s hardly played. Just below, the hot-handed Daniil Medvedev keeps winning, getting past Taylor Fritz then maybe Nikolaz Basilashvili or the Opelka-Fognini first round winner. But Djokovic gets revenge on Stan for the 2016 US Open final and then on Medvedev for Cincinnati.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
ROGER FEDERER QUARTER
I know Federer is beloved, but my gosh did the US Open really have to make it this easy for him? Even at 38, I just don’t see anyone beating him en route to the semifinals. He’ll have Damir Dzumhur in the second — he’s actually decent, then probably Lucas Pouille in the third, Cincinnati finalist David Goffin in the fourth and someone like Alex De Minaur, Kei Nishikori, Pablo Carreno Busta, Borna Coric or Milos Raonic in the quarters. Former semifinalist PCB’s been playing good but drew Guido Pella in a tough opener. Goffin is coming off a great event and Nishikori can be tough, but unless Federer has a Millman kind of day, he should get through.
The Pick: Roger Federer
DOMINIC THIEM QUARTER
Two of the best first round matches take place in the Dominic Thiem quarter. At the top there’s Stefanos Tsitsipas against Andrey Rublev who just beat Federer in Cincinnati. And in a rematch of their 2018 first rounder, young Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassame and Denis Shapovalov meet again — just crazy they face off for a second straight year. There’s also Nick Kyrgios-Steve Johnson and Matteo Berrettini-Richard Gasquet. Plus, seeds Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils and Kyle Edmund. So any one of 7-10 guys could emerge. After his poor post-Federer performance, I don’t think Rublev, who’s been to the US Open quarters, beats Tsitsipas who has been struggling. With FAA’s serve a mess, I think Shapovalov prevails. I like Theim’s draw out to the fourth round where he faces Monfils in a war. I think Gael advances and then beats Bautista Agut who knocks out both Gasquet and Tsitsipas. Monfils is your last man standing. But…who knows, he could get injured tonight getting into bed…
The Pick: Gael Monfils
RAFAEL NADAL QUARTER
Rafa will be on high alert right from the start against Millman. Then he could get his buddy Fernando Verdasco who has given him problems, but rarely scores the upset win followed by the improving Struff in the fourth round. The German eliminates Isner then Cilic who are both slumping. I think Rafa then takes out Karen Khachanov in the quarters. The big Russian is playing well and has a manageable draw with JW Tsonga, then Diego Schwartzman followed by Alexander Zverev who I lean to somehow get to the fourth round (I know, big ask!). Rafa, though, too strong for Khachanov.
The Pick: Rafael Nadal
Djokovic d Federer: Djokovic is the best right now.
Nadal d Monfils: Monfils keeps it real close, but in the end…
Djokovic d Nadal: This is hard courts, Djokovic’s best surface.
And at the rate we are going, I can probably just cut-paste this for next year’s US Open as well. Of the men to watch out for, Medvedev was the guy but I just don’t see how he beats Djokovic in best-of-5 in the quarters. No way. Has he landed with Federer or Nadal, then maybe, but he’s not beating Novak three straight times.
Other than him, who is there? Thiem hasn’t played well of late (just 2-2 off of clay since the French). Zverev can’t get a serve in. Khachanov is flaky. Kyrgios can’t be trusted… to not get defaulted. Tsitsipas is tslumping and FAA can’t even figure how to toss the ball up.
So I think a veteran like Monfils who played well in Canada could get a crack here. But the gap is so wide between the Big 3 and everyone else right now, it’s hard to pick to do much more than that, or anyone else.
That said, who saw Federer losing to Millman? Or Federer losing to Tsitsipas? Maybe on that quick US Open court, Querrey could stun Novak again? Or someone like Isner gets hot and serves Rafa off the court?
It’s all possible, but history shows it’s unlikely and you have to have lighting strike three times to prevent another Big 3 title. And that’s not happening.
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