Men’s US Open Preview
So who’s the favourite for the men?
If you were to ask me straight after Wimbledon, I would say a toss-up between Murray and Djokovic.
But after winning both Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati, I am left with no choice to have Nadal as favourite. If you have a closer inspection at his season, that R1 loss to Steve Darcis, as surprising as it was, is the only blip on season. In every other event he has entered this year, he has made at least the final and he is unbeaten on hardcourts having also won Indian Wells in March.
Indeed, Nadal could even usurp Djokovic to be the year-end world no.1 because he has no points to defend remember because he was injured this time last year. But now he looks back to his best and that knee looks healthy and he looks confident.
He has Federer as a possible quarter-final. The same match-up was possible at Wimbledon but didn’t eventuate. Surprisingly, Nadal and Federer have never met at the US Open, at any round. The NY crowd will be hoping that will change.
Now am I discounting Murray or Djokovic? Absolutely not. They are firmly in the mix. Murray has won two of the last four grand slams. While in the last couple of seasons he has struggled for form in ATP events, for some reason, he has performed his best at Majors. The defending champion is super consistent, making at least the semis in 9 of the last 10 Grand Slams he’s entered. And by winning Wimbledon, the first British male in 77 years to do so, he has proven he definitely knows how to deal with pressure.
Djokovic too hasn’t had the best lead-up; his serve in particular looking dodgy, reminding us of his struggles early on in his career. But I’m confident he’ll find form in the first week of the tournament. Djokovic has incredibly made the last 13 Grand Slam semis, still 10 off the all-time record held by Federer (23). But the point is, he’ll be there.
There is no chance of a repeat final from last year because Djokovic and Murray are seeded to meet in what would be a mouth-watered semi-final, probably even more anticipated than a Federer-Nadal quarterfinal.
So I have Nadal, Djokovic and Murray as my three main favourites with Nadal just slightly favoured because he in great form and has a clearer draw.
After that, I have the champion from 4 years ago, Del Potro, as fourth favourite. He won the Washinton 500 and lost to Djokovic in the semis at Wimbledon in an amazing match, one of the best I’ve seen this year.
What about Federer? He has dropped to seven in the world, his lowest ranking in 11 years. He had a shock loss to 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky in R2 at Wimbledon. He then changed his racket to a larger frame and struggled to adapt. He entered two clay events that he normally wouldn’t, in Hamburg and Gstaad and had two more shock losses to Federico Delbonis and Daniel Brands ranked 114 and 55 in the world respectively.
Federer is definitely on the decline but he that still doesn’t make him irrelevant. He has won this event 5 years in a row when he was at his peak. I think he’ll make the quarterfinals but no further, but you just never know.
Besides the aforementioned players, I have the Cincinnati and Montreal finalists, Isner and Raonic, as outside chances as well as Ferrer. The fourth seed has a fantastic draw. He can the semi-finals for the third time at Flushing Meadows without having to play one of the big 4. Also, don’t rule out Tomas Berdych, even though he’s had an indifferent season.
With Andy Roddick retiring at last year’s US Open, there seems a bit of a man drought of top US players with John Isner the only player ranked inside the top 20. He’s in good form too, finishing runner-up to Nadal in Cincinnati. I was very impressed with that display; his defensive game looks like it has improved considerably and his forehand was bone-crunching. With 7 ATP titles, he has teased for a long time but has never made a grand slam quarter-final and only once made the last 16.
John McEnroe is of the view that if one of Nadal, Murray or Djokovic wins the US Open, he would be regarded as the best player of 2013 because as it stands they have won one Grand Slam each and the US Open would almost act as a ‘tie-breaker’.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is highest ranked player to have withdrawn because of injury. Marin Cilic, Gilles Simon and Mardy Fish are also absent.
As for the US Open, it seems a lifetime ago that Lleyton Hewitt won this event in 2001. He plays Brian Baker first up and then is seeded to meet Del Potro in R2. That would be a fun match to watch and the USTA should put that on Arthur Ashe at night in my opinion.
Bernard Tomic is unseeded and if he beats Albert Ramos in R1, I’d expect him to lose to Kei Nishikori in R2. Marinko Matosevic did well to make the quarter-finals at the Rogers Cup, losing to Nadal. But his Grand Slam record is 0-10 and he plays a resurgent Tommy Robredo in R1. Sorry for the pessimism, but I’d expect him not to break his duck and go to 0-11.