With the US Open kicking off main draw play next week, you won’t need to look much further than Tennis Grandstand’s panel of writers for your fully comprehensive breakdown of the men’s draw. We take a look at dark horses, exciting first round matchups, seeded players crashing out early, our prediction of possible quarterfinalists, and, of course, the projected winner. What are you waiting for?! Get reading!
Burrows: #15 Milos Raonic. The Canadian is enjoying breaking into the top 20 for the first time in his career and his big-serving style of game suits the surface perfectly. He has a difficult quarter with a fourth round meeting against Olympic gold champion, Andy Murray, but Raonic has the potential to pull off an upset against Murray, with a big win under his belt, he could finally begin to really shine.
Crabtree: #21 Tommy Haas. Nobody can argue that this guy has had one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory. He won Halle over none other than Roger Federer and reached the final in Hamburg and Washington D.C. Most Impressive has been his rise up the rankings from 205 at the beginning of the year to a current of 22. Now, don’t expect this 34 year old to take the title, but do expect a quarter final showing. Remember old guys make great runs in New York (Connors and Agassi).
Cvitkovic: #13 Richard Gasquet. After reaching the Toronto Masters final, he failed to back it up the following week as he fell to Milos Raonic in the first round, but his path at the U.S. Open seems a lot more open from the get go. His biggest potential hiccup could be a third round matchup against Haas, followed by David Ferrer in the fourth round, and then possibly John Isner or Janko Tipsarevic in the quarterfinals.
Watson: #9 John Isner. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine anyone outside of the Top 3 winning the title, but if one guy could potentially do it, it’s Isner. He’s in one of the softest sections of the draw, he’s reached at least the semis in all of his tune-up events, and he’s notched big wins over Federer and Djokovic in 2012. He’s got a big, imposing game, and as evidenced by the five-set scare he put into Nadal at last year’s Roland Garros, he’s a player that even the game’s best don’t want to see on the other side of the net.
SEEDED PLAYER CRASHING OUT EARLY
Burrows: #25 Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard has not played a tournament since his first round loss at the Olympics and he has been plagued by injury, which saw him withdraw from Toronto and Cincinnati. Verdasco will come into the tournament cold having not played a hard court match prior to the Slam and this year his tennis has been very unpredictable.
Crabtree: #6 Tomas Berdych or #8 Janko Tipsarevic. This is tough, Berdych faces the fearless and very dangerous youngster in David Goffin whilst Janko will probably meet giant killer Brian Baker in the second round. Let’s make the draw totally open. They both crash out.
Cvitkovic: #11 Nicolas Almagro. Not one known to be a slacker, Almagro has not played a tournament since the London Olympics, and last played a hard court event in March in Miami. It will certainly be a wake-up call to play Radek Stepanek in the first round, or solid players Nicolas Mahut or Philipp Petzschner in the second round if he breaks down the Czech wall.
Watson: #20 Andy Roddick. There are a couple more obvious choices than this, but I’ll be a little daring and say Roddick. After a promising start with a title in Atlanta, Roddick has been slowed by injuries, pulling out of Toronto, bowing out to a lucky loser in Cincy, and suffering his latest loss in two tiebreak sets to the unheralded Steve Darcis. With a potential tricky second-round match with Tomic and Monaco possibly waiting in the third, it ought to be considered a successful tournament for the American if he reaches Week 2.
FIRST ROUND (OR POTENTIAL SECOND ROUND) MATCH TO WATCH FOR
Burrows: #7 Juan Martín Del Potro vs David Nalbandian will be an all-Argentinean battle, which on paper looks set to deliver a mouth-watering match that could transfer to be just that on the court. Del Potro is currently fending off an injury to his left wrist, which troubled him in Cincinnati and Nalbandian leads their head-to-head 3-1. They haven’t played against each other since 2008 and Del Potro has since won the US Open, but playing against a compatriot is never easy and with Nalbandian’s infamous fiery outbursts on the tennis courts, there may well be fireworks on the court.
Crabtree:#7 Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro is up against countrymen David Nalbandian, the man with the most dangerous right foot in tennis (just ask the linesman at Queens Club). Del Potro has had an impressive year thus far but the 2009 U.S. Open champion is 1-3 against Nalbandian. This being said none of their encounters have been within recent memory. Expect this to go to five and Del Potro to edge it out.
Cvitkovic: #21 Tommy Haas vs. Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis, always outspoken and unapologetic, will need to dig deep in order to get past a resurgent Haas in their first round matchup. Haas, an obvious contender back in 2002 is now 34-years-old and just as relevant since defeating Federer to win the Halle title back in June. Gulbis can be a tricky player when “on,” so it’ll surely be an all-out battle.
Watson: #7 Juan Martin Del Potro vs. David Nalbandian. This one is dependent on how Delpo’s wrist is feeling and which Nalbandian shows up, but if they’re both in the mood to play, this could be a real dogfight – plus there’s always an added sizzle when two countrymen square off. Second Round – #14 Alexandr Dogopolov vs. Marcos Baghdatis: Grab the popcorn if this second-round encounter happens. When these two are on their games, they are two of the most spectacular shot-makers in the sport. Could be some breathtaking tennis on tap.
FIRST ROUND UPSET SPECIAL
Burrows: David Goffin d. #6 Tomas Berdych. The Czech giant has not had a fantastic season so far with a surprising first round loss at Wimbledon and a disappointing Olympic appearance, but he is starting to pull it back together on the hard courts and particularly at Winston Salem this week. He has made it into the semis (at the time of publication), but he will face promising, young hopeful, David Goffin in the first round, who has enjoyed an inspiring 2012 and also progressed into the quarter finals at Winston Salem. Could the Belgium hopeful record an epic first round win at Flushing Meadows? Possibly.
Crabtree: Marinko Matosevic over #12 Marin Cilic. After a number of years as a journeyman, twenty seven year old Matosevic has finally found the confidence to really upset the bigger names. His year to date prize money has doubled his career earnings much in thanks to impressive displays in Delray Beach, Munich, Eastbourne and Los Angeles. Look for Matosevic to finally enjoy his breakout grand slam appearance with a hard fought win over Cilic.
Cvitkovic: (WC) Jack Sock d. #22 Florian Mayer. A very unsteady opponent on the hard courts, Mayer could easily succumb to Sock’s strengths that are best utilized on the hard courts. Although a stretch, Sock has the ability to get into the third or fourth round if he can overcome Mayer’s variety.
Watson: Radek Stepanek d. #11 Nicolas Almagro. No offense to Nico, who’s arguably been slightly underrated over the course of his career, but given that the last time we saw him was at the London Olympics and nursing an injury to boot, it’s a big ask for him to come out on top against his Czech opponent.
Federer/Berdych – Roger Federer’s potential first difficult opponent is Fernando Verdasco who may not cause the Swiss maestro too many difficulties as he is fending off injury, but should he dispatch of him and a potential fourth round clash between Fish or Simon, he might find sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the quarters. However, the Czech faces a difficult debut against Goffin and a hypothetical third round with Querrey, before a fourth round meeting with Almagro. Should Berdych maintain his winning form of this week, he has the ability to set up an interesting match against Federer.
Murray/Tsonga – Andy Murray dominates in the second quarter and in the first round he meets Bogomolov Jr. via a third round meeting with his mum’s favourite, Feliciano Lopez. The Scot is on a collision course with Raonic in the fourth round, but should he dispatch of them, he is most likely to face Tsonga in the quarterfinals. The fifth seed, will open his tournament against a qualifier and should not be troubled until he meets loose cannons Cilic and Nishikori. For me, a Murray/Tsonga quarter-final is likely.
Ferrer/Tipsarevic – Fourth seed, David Ferrer will face Anderson in the first round, Hewitt or Youzhny in the second round then possibly Gasquet and Haas in his quarter of the draw. Despite them being tricky opponents for the Spaniard I think he will make it through to the quarters where he could meet No.8 seed Janko Tipsarevic. The Serb will have a tough task against American John Isner, but he may just have the edge to do it.
Djokovic/Del Potro – After their infamous meeting at the Olympics, which Del Potro won denying Djokovic the bronze medal, it was interesting to see their encounter in Cincinnati which the Serb won. They both have tricky players in their quarter, which they need to overcome first, but they have both won the US Open, they’re both experienced and hungry, with a lot to prove. What a potential quarterfinal that could be!
Federer/ Goffin. Okay call me crazy but why on earth shouldn’t the young Belgian get this far. Remember he did reach the 4th round in Roland Garros and push the Fed to four sets. No reason to think Federer should lose a set here but even less reason to underestimate the potential of the baby faced killer.
Murray/Tsonga – Sorry Cvitkovic (see below). There is no chance Raonic can defeat Murray enroute here, especially with the Scottish Gold Medallist looking for revenge after his loss in Barcelona. Tsonga’s path is an absolutely song, the biggest problem being there is nobody to really test the Frenchmen and get him hyped up.
Haas/ Isner – Big John loves playing for the American crowd and that will show here. Nobody knows for sure where a true New York fairy-tale begins and ends, but Haas is the perfect choice as protagonist for this year’s event.
Del Potro/Djokovic – An amazing quarter of the draw if you go on former form. But this year Roddick has been struggling all season. Monaco on hard courts? Nah. Dolgopolov- too unpredictable. Harrison and Tomic- both missing some zing at present. This quarter final match up will be an all-out shoot out.
Federer/Berdych – Federer should have absolutely no excuse to not reach the quarterfinals given that he could face a recuperating Verdasco in the third round and Fish who he has beaten eight of the last nine times. Berdych, on the other hand, seems to be struggling on every surface this year, but can break out and make deep runs as well. His only real test could be in the form of Sam Querrey who has returned after injuries.
Raonic/Tsonga – Sorry, fans. They’ll be no repeat of Wimbledon or the London Olympics finals between Federer and Murray, as on-point Raonic will finally mark his territory by defeating Murray in the fourth round. Tsongsa may have a duel with Marin Cilic in the fourth round himself, but having five of the sixteen qualifiers in his 1/8 helps!
Isner/Ferrer – Arguably the trickiest quarter, Isner will have to overcome Janko Tipsarevic, who has become synonymous with pushing his opponents into tough five-setters at the U.S. Open. Ferrer, likewise, is indestructible and could face either Gasquet or Haas, against whom he has solid winning records.
Del Potro/Djokovic – Easily the toughest and most unpredictable quarter, it features Roddick, Monaco, Dolgopolov, Baghdatis, Harrison and Tomic in addition to Del Potro and Djokovic. My chosen quarterfinalists will have to stay on top of their game in order to get through – especially Del Potro, whose first round opponent is fellow Argentine Nalbandian.
Federer/Querrey – It’s no secret that Federer is back to playing some of his best tennis, and it’s hard to imagine him losing before the semis, let alone the quarterfinals. As for his quarterfinal opponent, it’s a toss-up between Berdych and Querrey, but I’ll go with Sam. His stock is on the rise, and he’s had a better summer than the Czech. He’s also got the home crowd advantage, so I’ll put some faith in the Yank and hope he pulls through.
Murray/Tsonga – I’ll stick to the seeding here, despite their poor showings in the lead-up events to Flushing. Murray has become remarkably consistent at the majors, and Tsonga is in a very cushy section littered with qualifiers. Besides, you can generally count on the top guys to deliver at the big events, so you have to like their odds.
Isner/Haas – This is a tough one to call. Possibly Malisse and Tipsarevic could prove problematic, but on the fast US Open courts, Isner is in with an excellent chance to make the quarters. The bottom portion of this section is the trickier end. Ferrer is seeded to come through, but the No. 4 seeded Spaniard could buckle under the pressure of trying to prove he’s an adequate substitute to fill the void left by Nadal – something a resurgent Tommy Haas could exploit.
Del Potro/Djokovic – On paper, there are a lot of potential stumbling blocks to this match up happening, including how Delpo’s wrist is holding up. But even at less than 100%, Delpo is better than a chunk of the players in his section. As for Djokovic, he’s come up big in both Canada and Cincy, so there’s no reason to think he can’t push on the gas when necessary to go deep in Flushing.
AND THE WINNER IS …
Burrows: Novak Djokovic. He is the defending champion and he has had a good run at the two Masters 1000 Series tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati the two events preceding the US Open. He is seeking to put to bed the rumours of his apparent issues off the court which have supposedly affected his game in recent months and he is a man on a mission: to defend his title and he is in search of his No.1 ranking once again.
Crabtree: Andy Murray- Nope. Roger Federer- Are you kidding me? Novak Djokovic- Most certainly not. 2012 shall be the first year since 2003 that all four slams will be held by different names. And all this will be thanks to Juan Martin del Potro who will have again found the dominance that brought him the 2009 U.S. Open crown. Sadly for the Brits I am picking him to take down Andy Murray in the final.
Cvitkovic: Roger Federer. Big surprise, right? Even though he didn’t take home the gold medal at the London Olympics, he’s easily shaping up to be the clear choice of champion in New York. Of the top four seeds, his path is the least trying and he’ll certainly have enough energy to withstand an intense final with Djokovic or Isner.
Watson: Novak Djokovic. Seems Federer is the more popular choice at the moment, especially with the growing murmurs that the Swiss Maestro might be getting into the Serb’s head. But I’ll continue to back the Serb. Djokovic has come back from match points down to defeat Federer the last two years at the US Open. And don’t forget…just like last year, Djokovic won Canada and was a finalist in Cincy. It worked out well for him then, so maybe history will repeat itself now.