Sunday, August 29, 2010

U.S. Open 2010 Men's Preview

For only the third time in the Open Era, the defending champion will not be in the men's draw. It's a shame, because after beating Nadal and Federer back to back last year he looked like he might be ready to have a massive year. Instead, he lost at the Australian Open to Marin Cilic and hasn't played since because of wrist surgery. His absence and Federer's ordinary play at the last two majors open up the possibility of another first-time champion here.

1. Rafael Nadal -- Probably no one benefits from DelPo's absence than Rafa. Del Potro has beaten him the last three times they've played -- all on hard courts -- and only lost one set in the process. Even without last year's winner, it's no sure bet that Nadal will go the distance. While he's gotten to the semi-finals the last two years, he looked really mediocre in both those losses. It's important to note that until Rafa and Roger combined to win the summer double (French Open and Wimbledon) three years in a row, it hadn't been done since 1980. The "summer triple" hasn't been won since Rod Laver won all four majors in 1969 (when three of them were played on grass). Finally, a lot has been said about how Nadal managed his schedule so he wouldn't be too tired when he got to New York. That's fine, but he has no way of managing how players are able to push him back and rush him on the fast hard courts. On the plus side, he has a pretty cushy draw to the semi-finals.

2. Roger Federer -- As if Roger hasn't accomplished enough "firsts" in the Open Era, here's an obscure one he can achieve here. If he wins this year's US Open, he will become the first player to win every major the year after losing in the final of that major. It may sound arcane, but it highlights his "I'm not dead yet" resilience. After so-so performances at the French Open (where his streak of 22 straight semi-final appearances was snapped) and Wimbledon, Roger has stepped it up this summer, getting to the final in Toronto and winning in Cincinnati. He's reached the final here six years in a row. Do I hear seven?

3. Novak Djokovic -- I said this before Wimbledon and I'm going to say it again. I have no idea how this guy is still ranked in the top five. He's gotten past the quarter-finals in three tournaments since February (when he won his only tournament this year in Dubai). Despite the fact that the heat and humidity exacerbate his breathing problems (not to mention the SARS and Bird Flu), this has been his most consistent slam -- semi-final or better three years in a row. It shouldn't surprise anyone if that streak is snapped this year.

4. Andy Murray -- Murray probably wanted to kiss Kim Clijsters when she pull his name out of the draw bowl in Nadal's half instead of Federer's. He has a losing record overall against Rafa, but has beaten him four of the last five times they've played on hard courts. Meanwhile, he has a 7-5 edge over Federer, but hasn't won a set from him the two times they've played in majors. If I were inclined to pick someone who has never proven he could actually win a big match, I might take Murray to win it.

5. Robin Soderling -- I'm pretty sure I don't have any real reason, but I almost hate this guy. He's more cocky and arrogant than Djokovic and has done even less to justify it. And I can't figure out why a guy that serves as big as he does has had virtually all his success on clay. He got to the quarter-final here last year (his first time getting into the second week) and he can probably repeat that result.

6. Nikolay Davydenko -- Whenever I hear Davydenko's name, it always takes me a moment to realize he's not Yevgeny Kafelnikov. I always think, "Isn't he retired?" He's had some success here, getting to the semi-finals twice. It really seems like his window of opportunity for a big major result has closed.

7. Tomas Berdych -- Berdych is definitely having the best year of his career. The only guy in the top five he hasn't beaten at least once this year is Nadal. Lucky for him, he wouldn't have to play Nadal until the semi-final. He has to be the best bet to beat one of the top three.

8. Fernando Verdasco -- Verdasco is 4-5 (not including a Davis Cup loss) since the French Open. Do I need to waste any more characters on him?

9. Andy Roddick -- Roddick had mono earlier this summer apparently. Does that mean Brooklyn Decker had it as well? His semi-final finish in Cincinnati got him back in the top ten. The odd way they drew the 9-16 seeds out of the bowl got him his cushy draw. While Brad Gilbert and Mary Jo Fernandez were claiming that he could end up playing any of the top eight seeds in the round of 16, that wasn't true. They only put 9-12 in the bowl and placed them against the 5-8 seeds. So he had zero chance of playing any of the top four seeds in the fourth round. He also benefits from being in Djokovic's quarter.

10. David Ferrer -- Ferrer is one of six Spaniards in the top quarter of the draw. Only one of them has a real shot at getting to the quarter-finals. It's not Ferrer.

11. Marin Cilic -- It's always great to be heading into a major on a three match losing streak. He's got a whole bunch of momentum, all heading the wrong way. Hard to imagine him getting past Soderling in the fourth round.

12. Mikhail Youzhny -- Here's another guy coming in having won four matches since May. Is anyone in this draw actually playing well? Youzhny almost certainly will go down to Isner in the third round.

13. Jurgen Melzer -- Melzer plays one of the ATP's most colorful characters -- Dmitry Tursunov -- in the first round. That's about the only interesting thing I have to say about him (except that I still think he's hot).

14. Nicolas Almagro -- Other than at the French Open, Almagro's only been past the third round of a major once.

15. Ivan Ljubicic -- In ten US Open's, Ljubicic has won eight matches.

16. Marcos Baghdatis -- Unlike most of the rest of the draw, Baghdatis was playing poorly until Wimbledon. Since then, he's stepped it up, reaching the final D.C. and the semi-finals in Cincinnati. If he keeps playing well, he's at least even odds to beat Djokovic in the fourth round.

18. John Isner -- Isner got off to a good start this summer, reaching the final in Atlanta. He had to retire against David Nalbandian in Cincinnati. If he's healthy, he could get to the second week.

Mardy Fish
19. Mardy Fish -- Here's the guy that's playing well. He lost a bunch of weight on his Gremlins diet (no eating after dark) and is in the best shape of his life. Considering his old shape was round, that's not necessarily saying too much. His results are saying it all however. He won Newport and Atlanta, and lost a three-set final to Federer in Cincinnati. He could meet Baghdatis in the third round.

20. Sam Querrey -- He won Los Angeles, beating Andy Murray in the final. But he hasn't done much since. If he can get to the fourth round, he can probably make use of his experience beating Murray.

Lopez should be mandated to never wear a shirt

23. Feliciano Lopez -- I don't think he'll do anything interesting here, but I still wanted to include a picture.

31. David Nalbandian -- Nalbandian has struggled with fitness issues most of his career (I almost guffawed when I saw they listed his weight as 175 on the ATP website). He didn't play at all from mid-April until July. So, of course he reeled off 11 straight wins before losing to Andy Murray in Toronto. In Verdasco's section, he could realistically end up in the quarter-finals of a major for the first time since 2006.

32. Lleyton Hewitt -- He's clearly nearing the end of his career, but he's still fun to watch (and to look at). He beat Federer on grass earlier this summer, but he's not likely to repeat that performance here if they meet in the third round.


Nadal def. Berdych

Federer def. Fish



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