Djokovic v Shelton, Alcaraz v Medvedev; US Open SF Picks And Pans
And then there were just four.
Just four men remain at the US Open, and what a semifinal slate it is. Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and of course the guy who everyone thought would be there, Ben Shelton (kidding).
Shelton emerged from the open U.S.-heavy quarter home to Casper Ruud, Holger Rune and then the Americans Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul. Paul was my pick to get through but I’m not overly surprised that Shelton got in the way of Paul and Tiafoe.
Paul pretty much gagged that first set away when he missed an easy forehand for 4-0. That doesn’t mean he would have won the match, but certainly winning the first set would have changed the dynamics. And then Tiafoe just hasn’t been playing well enough to believe in his game when he needed it most in that third set breaker.
Meanwhile, Shelton doesn’t care. He’s just out there banging serves and ripping winners like he was a no pressure 20-year-old. Oh wait, he it.
As for the rest of the draw, not much excitement other than that crazy Alexander Zverev-Jannik Sinner match. Djokovic made things interesting going down two sets. Alcaraz has looked better than he did over the summer, as has Medvedev.
So the stage is set for the Top 3 in the world plus Shelton to do battle this weekend. On to my picks.
Novak Djokovic v Ben Shelton
Here we have experience v youth, precision v power and on and on.
Obviously it’s tough to pick against Novak. He won’t let Shelton off the hook from the ground but I think he will give Shelton some chances on his own serve.
In crunch time of late, we’ve seen Novak struggle getting first serves in and allowing things to get complicated.
Since this is a first meeting or even first hit, Djokovic might need a few reps to get accustomed to the Shelton firepower and that where perhaps the youngster can steal a break.
“I also think that it’s an advantage with my game style playing someone who’s never played me before,” Shelton said. “I think that I can bring some things to the table that maybe you don’t see in your normal match that you play on the ATP Tour. So I’m definitely going to try to bring some things to the table that are different and hopefully disruptive on Friday.”
Shelton’s problem is going to be managing his own serve. While he can bang ’em, he also misses ’em. And I feel like Novak is going to be able to make a strong impression in the Shelton service games.
Ben will get his aces, 145mph+ and quick holds, but I’ll say one of the every three of Shelton’s services will go deep.
That said, Shelton is going to hammer on the Djokovic serve. So Djokovic better get a lot of first serves in otherwise Shelton will grip-and-rip and likely connect on a few and occasionally get the Serb in trouble. The kid has absolutely going to rip the ball and do it as often as he can.
“Ben has been serving some bombs this tournament,” Djokovic said. “When his serve is on, he is a very difficult player to play against, especially because he’s lefty as well.”
But in the rallies, it should be all Djokovic who won’t (or shouldn’t) succumb to the pressure of the moment like Paul and Tiafoe did.
Shelton will make a good showing with his high energy red-line game, but I don’t think it’s good enough for the upset.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic in 4
Carlos Alcaraz v Daniil Medvedev
This year it’s been one-way traffic for Alcaraz in this matchup. The Russian stands so far back on return of serve that all Alcaraz has to do is get the serve in and then decide, do I run the Russian or hit a drop shot? That’s it.
And with Alcaraz’s power, Medvedev can’t track ’em all.
“Last matches that I played against Daniil, I played a tactical game perfectly,” Alcaraz said. “I did pretty well all the things that I had to do against him, so I think my game suits pretty well against that type of opponent like Daniil. So I’m going to try to do the same things that I did in Indian Wells and at Wimbledon and hopefully get the win and play the same level that I played in those matches.”
Unless Alcaraz is well off his game, Medvedev is not going to win playing defense 15 feet behind the baseline. He has to know that.
He’s going to have to be up in the court and taking risks. And cranking the serve.
Medvedev is a great returner so if he can hold easily then he can really take chances in his return game, and that could pay off.
“What makes him difficult is just that he has every shot. He has extra power,” Medvedev said of Alcaraz. “Many players, probably 97%, it’s tough for them to hit the ball through me, I’m always there, always running, always trying to get it back. He can do it just because he has this power, we see 100 miles per hour forehand winners and stuff like this.
“He’s good from forehand, backhand, he can slice, dropshot. So he has every shot in the game. But again, tennis, you can always beat players. People beat Novak. People even beat Rafa on clay, which is almost impossible but some players do. It’s the same about Carlos.”
And Medvedev is 100% right. Alcaraz is beatable but Medvedev is going to have to do something different.
The US Open court is better for Medvedev than the grass so I expect a better performance than Wimbledon. But I think the result is the same.
The Pick: Carlos Alcaraz in 3
Could we see a Shelton-Medvedev final? Sure. Ha ha. Things have been going too smoothly thus far and in the back of my mind I felt like another Alcaraz-Djokovic is too good to be true. But here we are.
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