By Mike McIntyre
The U.S. Open main draw was revealed today and here at World Tennis Magazine we are very much excited for the commencement of the final Grand Slam of 2010. There are so many different possibilities to imagine this year in New York.
Will Rafa win his first U.S. Open? Can Andy Murray finally deliver in a Slam final? Could Roger Federer capture his second hard-court Slam of the year?
With defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro unable to compete due to his continued recovery from wrist surgery, we are guaranteed of seeing a different man hoisting the trophy this year on the final Sunday.
After watching back-to-back Masters 1000 events in August in Toronto and Cincinnati we can look at who the contenders and pretenders are for this year’s edition. That being said, two tournaments does not give us a tremendous amount of depth to judge the field, so take these recommendations with a grain of salt.
Seeded number one, though certainly not playing like the favorite, is Rafael Nadal. His return to form in 2010 has been a welcome sight on the ATP Tour and he has just won successive Slams at the French Open and Wimbledon. Nadal has made no secret of the fact he wants to win the U.S. Open to complete his career Slam, but the Spaniard seems to have trouble sustaining his dominance in the latter stages of the season.
In Toronto he admitted that if he is not playing at his best on hard-courts then he is vulnerable. At the Rogers Cup he navigated his way to the semi-finals before being soundly defeated by Andy Murray 7-5, 7-5 in straight sets. While a Nadal vs. Murray match on hard-courts is a coin flip most days, his loss to Marcos Baghdatis in Cincinnati shows that he is still struggling to find his rhythm on the surface.
Still, Nadal in a best of five set match is hard to bet against. At Wimbledon he twice came back from a two sets to one deficit to pull out the victory. Nadal grows stronger the longer a match lasts and I think we can all agree there is no way Baghdatis wins that match in Cincy if it went the distance.
In New York Nadal opens against Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia. He could face Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round against whom he has never lost, but was tested by in Toronto recently. An encounter with David Nalbandian in the quarter-finals would be interesting. The pair have a 2-2 career record against one another and with Nalbandian suddenly showing flashes of his old self we could be treated to a great match.
Other names to watch in the top quarter of the draw include the talented but unreliable Ernests Gulbis, lefty Fernando Verdasco and the up and coming Alexandr Dolgopolov who must first face 10th seeded David Ferrer in the first round. If this isn’t the Slam where Dolgopolov announces his presence at, then I guarantee a strong showing in 2011.
In the second quarter, Andy Murray seems like a good bet to advance. He won the event in Toronto defeating Nadal and Federer in back-to-back matches and then fell in Cincinnati to Mardy Fish. Fish has Murray’s number this year, beating him three times, but fortunately for Andy he does not have the veteran American anywhere near him in the draw.
Sam Querrey has had a great year with multiple titles, but still has not come up big in any definitive events on the tour schedule. He looked ordinary in a loss to Kevin Anderson in Toronto and I just don’t feel the confidence from the 6’5” American. A fourth round match against Murray looms which would be a re-match from their LA final in July where Querrey prevailed in a tight one. I don’t see a repeat of that on the horizon for him this time around.
Tomas Berdych should find his way towards the quarterfinals as well in this section. With John Isner still hobbled by an ankle injury, I really do not see any true opposition for the emerging Czech super-star. He will battle Murray for a semi-final spot against Nadal.
The third quarter looks pretty good for Andy Roddick. If he has truly recovered from his mild case of mono then he should make a good dent in the draw. Roddick could face the acrobatic Gael Monfils in the third round and either Mardy Fish or Novak Djokovic in the quarters. Despite having a tough summer, Roddick showed us he is capable of defeating almost anyone after his performance in Cincinnati where he took care of Soderling and Djokovic back-to-back.
Djokovic meanwhile, seems lost lately and I’m not just saying that because he couldn’t find his way to the draw ceremony in New York on time today. While he made the semis in Toronto, he was highly erratic in that match against Federer and then in Cincy he was beaten by Roddick in the quarters. His battles with the heat have continued and if he gets a day time match against a guy like Mardy Fish in the fourth round, I really don’t feel confident picking him to advance.
Marcos Baghdatis should be mentioned as a potential sleeper in this section of the draw, but a second round match against Robby Ginepri could give him trouble as would a third round tilt with Fish. Baghdatis would have the crowd against him in either of those matches just as he did in 2006 against Andre Agassi.
Mardy Fish has had the summer of his career in 2010 and has recently risen to the number 21 ranking in the world. With two titles under his belt and a strong showing against Federer last week, he is a guy that nobody wants to face.
That being said, I don’t like his chances in a five set match and he does seem to have a particularly tough section of the draw to work with.
Roger Federer lurks in the fourth quarter of the draw and comes into the Open as the favorite again this year. After winning five consecutive titles here, he mismanaged a two sets to one lead against Del Potro last year in the final. Federer has a great draw with Lleyton Hewitt and Jurgen Melzer as the only two names of note in the first four rounds. Neither will give him much of a struggle but Rodin Soderling could challenge in the quarter-finals.
With Nadal, Murray and Berdych all in the other half of the draw, it seems as though Federer has as good a chance as ever to get to his seventh straight U.S. Open final where he would feel right at home.
Even though Federer came ever so close to bowing out in Toronto to both Berdych and Djokovic he still managed to persevere for the gritty victories. In Cincinnati he certainly benefited from a first round bye, an abbreviated second round 5-2 win and then a third round walkover – but then he turned it up against Nikolay Davydenko and Baghdatis before waiting for the right moment to finally break Fish’s serve for the title.
The possibility for a 17th Grand Slam title is very realistic and Federer seems eager to once again prove any doubters wrong. In 2008 he came into the Open without a Slam title to his name and waltzed through the draw with relative ease. He seems to have the same type of defiant attitude this time around which I think will work to his favor.
Nadal vs. Murray and Roddick vs. Federer
Federer over Murray in four sets
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