Steen Kirby’s 2013 US Open Week 1 Men’s Preview, Predictions
US Open Official Site
Andy Murray seeks to win his second straight slam and defend his US Open title while the likes of a red-hot Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych and others look to lay claim to the title. It is time for the US Open in New York, 2013 edition.
New York, NY, USA
August 26-September 8, 2013
Top 8 Seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Rafael Nadal
3: Andy Murray
4: David Ferrer
5: Tomas Berdych
6: Juan Martin Del Potro
7: Roger Federer
8: Richard Gasquet
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee), Marin Cilic (suspension) and Gilles Simon (general injury) are the only top 20 players missing. Mardy Fish (heat stroke) and Viktor Troicki (suspension) are also out.
1st round matchups to watch:
David Goffin vs. Alex Dolgopolov
Goffin has recovered this summer after a terrible half season. He qualified in Montreal, Cincy and Winston-Salem, along with winning main draw matches in DC, Cincy and Winston-Salem. Dolgo has had an atrocious year but managed to make the semis in Winston-Salem and he remains as inconsistent as ever. They met once at a clay challenger in 2010 and Dolgo won, but I think Goffin will even the score this time and take it, perhaps in 5 sets.
Lleyton Hewitt vs. Brian Baker
The first meeting between the two veterans. Hewitt hasn’t played since DC, perhaps resting his body, while Baker is playing just his 3rd tournament back from the knee injury. He has gone 2-2 overall in those events. Baker certainly has the ability to pull off this upset, but if Hewitt is healthy and in-form he should take this interesting clash.
James Blake vs. (Q)Ivo Karlovic
Blake has lost in the 2nd round of his last 2 events (Winston-Salem and Cincy) and remains capable of playing great aggressive tennis, but that is rare from him these days. Karlovic, meanwhile, had to qualify but did so rather easily and his serve seems to be clicking quite well. Ivo is as always living on the edge in terms of holding his serve and not getting broken, but he has shown good form and Blake doesn’t deal well with big servers. This makes Ivo a slight favorite, probably in 4 sets. The H2H is 6-3 in favor of Karlovic, though they haven’t played since 2011 and Karlovic has a 4-2 H2H on hard courts.
Jiri Vesely vs. Denis Kudla
A battle of young talents. Vesely, who normally plies his trade in Europe, is in New York to take on the American Kudla, who with high expectations has thus far not had a breakthrough result this summer. Both players seem to have a good future ahead, but Vesely has been better this year and I make him a slight favorite in 4 or 5 sets.
(4)David Ferrer vs. (Q)Nick Kyrgios
Ferrer is an uncharacteristically abysmal 1-2 this summer and has to defend semifinal points here, while the qualifier Kyrgios worked his way to the main draw and is quite talented. Many people give the Aussie a good chance at the win. I still think it is unlikely, but he should at least trouble Ferrer, who seems to play better on the Flushing Meadows surface compared to other summer hard court surfaces.
(19)Tommy Robredo vs. Marinko Matosevic
Robredo has been consistent for a veteran but does much better on clay, though he has a 17-11 record at the US Open and has reached the 4th round consistently. Matosevic has recovered from a poor start to his year and has had a solid summer, making the quarters in DC, and qualifying and making the quarters in Montreal. This match is still a toss-up to me, but if the court plays fast, Matosevic has an upset chance.
(11)Kei Nishikori vs. (Q)Dan Evans
My upset special of the first round. Nishikori has played very poorly this summer and seems to struggle on US outdoor hard courts, especially if it is hot and this is a day match. Evans qualified easily enough and has torn up the summer hard court challenger circuit, playing the best tennis of his career. Certainly his peak level is not Nishikori’s peak level, but if Nishikori remains out of sorts, and Evans plays his best tennis, the Brit they call “Evo” could very well pull off the upset.
(27)Fernando Verdasco vs. Ivan Dodig
Verdasco reached the quarters of Winston-Salem in his only pre US Open tune-up, while Dodig has been good this summer overall and has the type of game that can do damage. Verdasco remains talented but unpredictable, and this match could go either way. They met once on clay last year and Verdasco won. I still think he is the favorite to expand the H2H to 2-0.
Novak opens with Winston-Salem quarterfinalist Ricardas Berankis, who is talented but before Winston-Salem had been playing miserable tennis. Novak should advance easily enough and face Benjamin Becker or Lukas Rosol in Round 2. Rosol cannot for the life of him seem to win a match, so it should be Becker. In Round 3 it should be Jarkko Nieminen or Grigor Dimitrov for Novak. Nieminen gets a struggling Lukasz Kubot in Round 1, while Dimitrov faces Joao Sousa. Dimitrov, of course, beat Djokovic back in Madrid on clay, but he has not played that well this summer and Novak should be good to reach the Round of 16.
In the Round of 16, possible opponents for Djokovic are Fabio Fognini, who opens with Rajeev Ram and then Marcel Granollers/Jurgen Zopp, and Benoit Paire, who plays Alex Bogomolov and the Tim Smyczek/James Duckworth winner. Paire is mercurial, Fognini has had a great year but on hard courts is sort of iffy, meaning Duckworth or Smyczek have at least an outside chance at the 4th round.
The dangerous former champion Juan Martin Del Potro faces Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in Round 1, before seeing the Hewitt/Baker winner and probably a rejuvenated Jurgen Melzer in Round 3. Melzer, the Winston-Salem champion, just needs to beat a struggling Evgeny Donskoy and a struggling Igor Sijsling or qualifier Peter Gojowcyzk. In Round 4, I expect Del Potro vs Tommy Haas. The German needs to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu, Rendy Lu or Dani Gimeno-Traver, and one of Goffin/Dolgopolov, Mikhail Youzhny/Nicolas Mahut.
The defending champ gets an easy start with Michael Llodra before facing Victor Hanescu/Leo Mayer and most likely Juan Monaco in Round 3, if Pico beats Florian Mayer and Donald Young/Martin Klizan. Klizan made noise here last year but has been quite bad this year. Young has had some good US Open showings, but is not expected to do that well. Murray was not great in either of his tune-up events, but he wasn’t last year either. I wouldn’t read too much into that.
In Round 4, Murray should continue to have a rather easy road as his most likely opponent is Andreas Seppi, if Seppi beats the seemingly hopeless Xaiver Malisse, Lukas Lacko/Somdev Devvarman and one of Denis Istomin/Nicolas Almagro, Steve Johnson/Tobias Kamke. Almagro has been poor this summer. Johnson will also have an outside shot with Istomin able to do damage as well.
Tomas Berdych, who has semifinal points to defend, will face Paolo Lorenzi and then the Vesely/Kudla winner and probably Julian Benneteau in Round 3, if Benny beats Michal Przysiezny and Sergiy Stakhovsky/Jeremy Chardy. All of Berdych’s possible Round 3 opponents have been out of form and I don’t think he can complain about his early draw.
In Round 4 his highest seeded opponent would be Stan Wawrinka. Stan is struggling. He opens with Radek Stepanek and then a difficult test against Karlovic/Blake. Kevin Anderson plays Daniel Brands and Marcos Baghdatis/Go Soeda to reach Round 3, and I have Anderson getting out of that section to face Berdych yet again, as they always seem to find each other in these draws.
Assuming Ferrer beats Kyrgios, he gets Roberto Bautista-Agut or Thomaz Bellucci in a losable match he should still win. The trouble comes in Round 3, though, with Ernests Gulbis needing wins against Andreas Haider-Maurer and Mikhail Kukushkin/Andrej Martin to get there. Ferrer won their only match 6 years ago, but Gulbis is much improved now and purely off of form I have the Latvian getting through.
The 4th round opponent from that section should be Jerzy Janowicz, if Jerzy beats qualifier Maximo Gonzalez, Jack Sock/Philip Petzschener and probably Janko Tipsarevic. Even though he is still in terrible form, the Serb only has to beat the sort of inactive clay courter Pablo Cuevas and Dudi Sela/Andrey Kuznetsov, both of whom are mainly challenger players. Janowicz has a very easy draw, especially with Sock struggling.
Richard Gasquet, who has not been great this summer, faces Michael Russell, who is still looking for his first career US Open main draw win, and then one of qualifiers Stephane Robert and Albano Olivetti in what should be an all French Round 2 match. Gasquet should meet the tricky Dmitry Tursunov in Round 3, as the Russian needs wins over Aljaz Bedene and Jan-Lennard Struff/Guillaume Rufin to advance. Tursunov could upset Gasquet, but I have the top Frenchman in the draw through to Round 4.
Milos Raonic, who is simply unpredictable these days, gets qualifier Thomas Fabbiano in Round 1 followed by Pablo Andujar/Thiemo De Bakker and probably Feliciano Lopez in Round 3, assuming Lopez beats Florent Serra and Bradley Klahn/Kenny De Schepper. If Raonic plays anywhere near his Montreal level, he should be good for at least Round 4.
Montreal and Cincy champ Rafa Nadal did not play here last year and thus has no points to defend. He will play Ryan Harrison, who he beat in straights at Indian Wells this year in their only meeting. Harrison always gets sympathy for his difficult grand slam draws. Nadal should get another young talent to dispatch in Round 2, as Vasek Pospisil just needs to beat qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva. In Round 3, it should be Nadal vs Verdasco/Dodig, unless Rhyne Williams/Nikolay Davydenko have something to say about that. Williams has struggled this summer and Davydenko is sort of unpickable. Of the Big 3, Rafa has on paper the toughest first 3 rounds, but I still think he will win them all and not drop a set.
John Isner could get a Cincy final rematch against Nadal, assuming he can beat Filippo Volandri in a match between one of the best servers in tennis and one of the worst. John would then see Gael Monfils or Adrian Ungur, though Monfils retired from the Winston-Salem final and appears injured with a stomach muscle, meaning a lucky loser would take his place if he withdraws. That would make things even easier for Isner. In Round 3, it could be an Isner/Kohlschreiber US Open 2012 rematch. Kohli has not been at the form level that allowed him to beat the American in that late night clash though, and he opens with USTA Wild Card Colin Altamirano, a 17 year old junior who mainly plays futures. After that match, Kohli should play Edouard Roger-Vasselin, with ERV facing Albert Montanes in the first round.
Roger Federer went from being seeded first last year to seventh this year. He plays Grega Zemlja in Round 1 and Santiago Giraldo/Carlos Berlocq in Round 2. Maybe even Sam Querrey. Sam Querrey needs an upset, needing wins over Guido Pella and Adrian Mannarino/Horacio Zeballos to get there. Federer doesn’t have a uber-hard draw in the first three matches but a Nadal quarterfinal looms, assuming he can beat one of a section consisting of Robredo/Matosevic/Frank Dancevic/Robin Haase/Albert Ramos/Bernard Tomic/Nishikori/Evans. This section is quite weak but Robredo/Matosevic are probably co-favorites to advance, with Haase and Evans having outside chances and, of course, Nishikori. If he can find his game, he could always get through. Tomic is talented but has no confidence right now.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter): Jurgen Melzer, Ivo Karlovic, Dmitry Tursunov and Marinko Matosevic
I didn’t do this for the last couple of slams as there weren’t really as many certifiable dark horses. In this case, Melzer with his rejuvenated game could, with a tremendous run, make the quarters, needing to beat the fragile Del Potro and Haas/Youzhny to do it.
Karlovic, with his serve, is always a dark horse when healthy. I already have him in Round 3, but if he can score wins over Anderson and Berdych he could be in the quarters against Murray. That would be another match he would have an incredibly unlikely shot at winning, but a shot none the less.
Tursunov has been under the radar and could beat Gasquet and Raonic/Lopez before meeting Janowicz/Gulbis/Ferrer in the quarters. Gulbis and Raonic are dark horses as well, but given a lot of people have Gulbis as the favorite in his section, I didn’t give him the tag this time. Matosevic has a weak section with Robredo. His opening match is his toughest match on paper. The Aussie has been much improved and has played great tennis this summer. If he beats Robredo, after Dancevic/Haase he should face Evans/Nishikori and then probably Federer. The Swissman is not guaranteed anymore, so who knows? Matosevic has a low percentage chance of reaching the quarters.
Week 1 Predictions (4th round matchups)
Djokovic d. Fognini
Del Potro d. Haas
Murray d. Seppi
Berdych d. Anderson
Raonic d. Gasquet
Gulbis d. Janowicz
Federer d. Matosevic
Nadal d. Isner
Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and Federer shouldn’t have much trouble, all winning in straights. Del Potro should overpower Haas given the 5-0 H2H (all on hard courts), and the Argentine’s two wins over the German this year. Berdych has beaten Anderson 5 times this year and is 9-0 overall, as the South African just can’t seem to beat him. Raonic beat Gasquet in their only meeting last year and should do so again. Gulbis-Janowicz is a toss-up to me, and the H2H is 2 each, Gulbis winning their only hard court meeting last year.
Djokovic d. Del Potro
Murray d. Berdych
Raonic d. Gulbis
Nadal d. Federer
Del Potro could very well beat Novak, as he did so once this year at Indian Wells. But the overall H2H is 9-3 in favor of the Serb, and the Serb won a tough Wimbledon match this year as well as a win in Dubai over JMDP. Del Potro will need to play peak tennis to win.
Murray-Berdych is also a tough match to pick, as Berdych has a 6-4 H2H edge and just beat the Scot in Cincy rather easily (2-0 overall this year). Murray beat him in four sets at the Open last year, though. Maybe it is just because I’m a fan, but I think he will do so again. The US Open seems to suit Murray very well and Berdych tends to struggle mentally in slam matches.
Raonic is 4-0 against Gulbis career, beating him twice this year. The last one was in Montreal on hard courts, thus the Canadian is the favorite.
Nadal has beaten Federer all three times this year, including in Cincy and Indian Wells. I just don’t think Federer has it in him to beat a healthy in-form Nadal anymore. This is not 2006-2007 anymore.
If these quarters come to fruition, it will spawn a great set of offerings.
Murray d. Djokovic
Nadal d. Raonic
In a rematch of the 2012 US Open final, the 2013 Australian Open and the 2013 Wimbledon final, I like Murray over Novak given their overall play this year. Again, it’s a toss-up and Novak has an 11-8 H2H and a 9-6 H2H edge on hard courts.
Nadal should beat Raonic rather easily like he did in the Montreal final.
Nadal d. Murray
The two players who have performed at their best this year, Nadal and Murray, should meet in the USO final. It is 60/40 Nadal simply because he has not lost on hardcourts this year. Murray will certainly give it a go, but if Nadal is at 100%, I think he wins this in four sets. The overall H2H is 13-5 Nadal, but on hardcourts, it is almost even with Nadal having a 6-5 edge. Nadal in a razor thin decision.