There’s no Roger Federer, no Rafael Nadal, but Novak Djokovic is in the US Open draw and looking like the strong favorite to close the Grand Slam title gap with his rivals. Djokovic leads a decent draw which features seven of the Top 10 players including Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and fellow former champions Marin Cilic and Andy Murray.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC QUARTER
The top seeded Serb has to like his chances with a comfortable early draw out the 16s where he could run into the dangerous John Isner. But best-of-5 will make things nearly impossible for the American. On these quick courts, he could run into another American in the quarters against either Taylor Fritz or Reilly Opelka. Opelka is battling a knee injury which forced him out of the Cincinnati stop. Fritz is a little-known commodity over five sets so I like the Canadian Denis Shapovalov to shine and get through, unless Opelka is heathy. Speaking of that, let’s hope Novak’s neck troubles are a thing of the past. David Goffin and Filip Krajinovic are in there as well, but I don’t expect much from them.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
STEFANOS TSITSIPAS QUARTER
Tsitsipas is having a great week at the Cincinnati event, though somewhat fortunate getting players who are either injured (Opelka) or coming off long matches (Anderson, Isner). But I think he’s more than proven he’s up to the task regardless of situation. Tsitsipas has a nice draw with Borna Coric in the third round, maybe a Dusan Lajovic in the fourth (out of a very weak section), then possibly Zverev in the quarters. The big German who made the Australian semifinals, will be tested right out of the block by former finalist Kevin Anderson. The South African underwent knee surgery in February and now will try to go best-of-5 on that repaired knee. I like Zverev (though could see Anderson pulling the win if Zverev is on a walk-a-bout) to get through and make the fourth where he could meet Hubert Hurkacz. I think Zverev pulls through but the Greek is the better player.
The Pick: Stefanos Tsitsipas
DANIIL MEDVEDEV QUARTER
With Andrey Rublev, Grigor Dimitrov, Matteo Berrettini and Medvedev, you have four guys who could and have made a deep run at the US Open. I don’t think Berrettini gets back and I feel like Dimitrov needs more seasoning and best-of-5 won’t help post-virus. But the Russians Rublev and Medvedev should get to a tasty quarterfinal showdown. I know Medvedev lost yesterday to Roberto Bautista Agut, but I liked how he looked in the first set and earlier in the week. I think best-of-5 will make him that much tougher to beat. He beats Rublev in five and returns to the semifinals.
The Pick: Daniil Medvedev
DOMINIC THIEM QUARTER
After an awful start at the Cincinnati leg of this event, Thiem has to make amends. His draw should let him do that early. But he’ll have former champion Marin Cilic in the third, probably Dan Evans in the fourth after the Brit takes down the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, then a dynamite showdown with Milos Raonic. Raonic will have to navigate through an in-form Bautista Agut, then maybe Sam Querrey. On these quick courts, I like Raonic over Thiem to get out of the toughest quarter of the draw.
The Pick: Milos Raonic
Djokovic d Tsitsipas: Could be a rematch of the Cincinnati final.
Raonic d Medvedev: Quick courts help the big serve.
Djokovic d Raonic: Raonic drops to 0-11 (maybe 0-12 if they meet this Saturday) against the Serb who collects No. 18.
If this event looks a lot like Cincinnati, it should. It’s a bizarre dynamic basically replaying the tournament just going best-of-5 over two weeks instead of one. So in theory, the results should be pretty similar.
And with the expanded draw and many not playing, the early rounds should be fairly easy for most players, if not boring. Also, the top guys got a week of play in and best-of-5 will make them even tougher to beat.
If the show courts — not used for Cincinnati — are as quick as the outer courts, then that should help the big men like Opelka, Isner, Raonic, etc. But if Novak’s neck is OK, I don’t see anyone beating him.
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