Together with Wimbledon, its my favorite Slam! I love “The City” from the restaurants to coffee shops, theatre, night life….there is no place like it!!! Apart from the fact it was my most successful Slam (1x Semi’s and 3x Quarterfinalist in doubles) and my favorite surface, I always felt at home in the Big Apple. The tournament paid a lot of bills for me! Also the wind can blow there…i probably was one of the few guys who liked that (conditions could be as windy as hell at my hometown in Durban, South Africa when i was growing up as a youngster) its a great equalizer, and tests your mental resilience, and its a factor, no question, together with the heat and the crowd, it makes for heady cocktail!
So who’s gonna handle the conditions best? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s stay away from Nadal, Federer and Djokovic for a while, because we know they are the favorites, any person can tell you that/ Lets take a look at their various sections in the draw and try pick out some “dark horses.”
Rafa, top of the pile, first time ever at a Slam, has got a tough Quarter!! Berdych ( who by the way I think is grossly under achieving!) can be a handful a for any of the top three, and he had a great record against Rafa, until recently, plays Karlovic potentially in the third round. Nadal will play either of the two I suspect. Those are two guys he won’t be happy to see in his section that’s for sure! Remember the courts play QUICK at Flushing Meadows and those two guys will love that!
Also you have Blake and Nalbandian in the Quarter, ANOTHER two players who have the measure of Rafa. Remember James’s most successful Slam is here, and he’ll be tough to beat under lights at home! As far as Nalbandian is concerned, who knows which guy is gonna turn up, he’s probably short of some matches.
In the next quarter you got the likes of Ferrer, Simon, Youhzny, Murray and the “on fire” Juan Martin Del Potro (he’s won four straight tournaments!) Murray was gonna be one of my picks to make the semis, but that’s a tough section. Del Potro vs. Canas is a very interesting first round matchup, never easy to play someone from your own country and someone you probably looked up to as a youngster. Del Potro will do well to get over this first hurdle! and keep that tsunami size wave of confidence on a roll! I think the fact Murray lost early in Beijing is actually beneficial, because he’ll have more time to recover and get acclimatized back in the US. It’s so tough to play your very best when you are globetrotting like the tennis players have been doing this past month. Murray is my pick to come thru, but only just ahead of David Ferrer, who remember last year put Rafa out…..and they’re in the same half this year???
The Bottom half is definitely easier, I think. Unfortunately I don’t think Roddick is gonna make it as far as the Semis. Djokovic will see to that, if not Ernests Gulbis in the second round. That is my outside pick there! Gonzo is playing well, but that section will be all Djokovic
Then finally the fourth quarter – interesting. A few dangerous floaters – Almagro, Verdasco ( Fernando has had a great season so far!) and Andreev have all had a good year. What about the Haas vs. Gasquet 1st round!!! That’s rough for either player. But perhaps the most interesting matchup, could be the potential third round encounter between Stepanek and Federer. “Steps” beat him in Rome earlier this year and is a tricky customer even when Roger was playing well…..but considering how susceptible the Swiss Maestro is looking now, that match could be a massive headache for “Big Rog” And if Fed does get bounced early, which one of the above mentioned guys will capitalize…..Probably NONE….That’s because Davydenko is in that section. The guy who always finds his way into the last four, and the one player we always say very little about!!! But boy has he earned his stripes, remember the win in Miami this year, he drilled Rafa in the finals! Beware the Russian.
I can’t wait for Monday! To see the players go toe to toe at a Slam is the ultimate! (I’m not a big fan of tennis being an Olympic sport, so I wasn’t that in to it). I would love to see Murray win his first Slam, it would spice things up even more at the top of the rankings. Don’t forget he won the Junior title there back in 2004, so there’s that ‘feel good factor’ for him in NYC!!!
Enjoy the spectacle!