Sunday, August 23, 2015

Some Thoughts Following the Cincinnati Masters

Federer showed he's a contender in New York, but...:  Roger Federer once again showed he's ageless in taking the title in impressive fashion.  He dispatched of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic without too much trouble, and clearly is in great form.  However, while a good argument can be made he's the second favorite heading into the US Open (yes, Djokovic is still the heavy favorite), Federer has often looked great heading into slams in recent years without taking the title.  It certainly won't be a shock if he does pull it off, but it's also getting tough to ignore recent history.  Unlike in Cincinnati where Murray and Djokovic were worn down from a very draining week in Canada, both will be fresh in New York.  Federer knows he may not have many more chances to steal a final grand slam and will be extremely confident, but it's still more likely Djokovic or Murray will be holding the US Open trophy. 

Alexandr Dolgopolov knows how to take advantage of an opportunity:  During qualifying in Cincinnati it became clear that Kei Nishikori was probably going to withdraw after his injury in Canada, so the big question was who was going to take the fourth seed's coveted place in the draw (and accompanying bye into the second round).  Benoit Paire may have thought it was going to be him as a lucky loser following his spot as the top seed in qualifying, but Dolgopolov was awarded the spot.  He certainly benefited by the draw to some degree, but Dolgopolov played some great tennis on his way to the semifinals where he nearly took down Djokovic.  Dolgopolov hadn't been in great form heading in, but posted solid wins over Tomic, Janowicz, and Berdych.  This should give him some much needed ranking points, and he'll clearly be a player seeds will want to avoid early in New York.   

The "Next" Generation is progressing nicely, but still a year or two away:  Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jared Donaldson were all in the Cincinnati main draw and played like they all belonged. Donaldson and Kokkinakis each won their first round matches, and Coric took down Zverev 7-6 in the third in a very high quality match.  Ultimately, Coric went down to Wawrinka in respectable fashion, Donaldson fell to Janowicz in a tight two setter, and Kokkinakis fell to Gasquet.  They might not be quite ready to compete with the world's best on a consistent basis, but it's looking like it won't be long.  Sure they need a bit more seasoning, but multiple members of this group could hold this trophy at some point down the road. 

Nadal and Cilic still can't gain much needed traction:  Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic both fell in the Round of 16 at Cincinnati and thus were unable to build momentum for their US Open campaigns.  Cilic may be the defending champion, but he's certainly vulnerable to an early exit based on his current form.  He'll have a lot of pressure to make a deep run giving all the ranking points he's got to defend, but it's hard to see him going past the quarters if he even makes it that far.  Similarly, it's hard to imagine Nadal being confident about his US Open chances given his losses to Nishikori and Lopez at the Montreal and Cincinnati Masters.  Beating Nadal in a three out of five set match is never easy, but Nadal has played himself out of the top set of contenders in New York.  

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