Thursday, August 27, 2015

Winners and Losers from the US Open Draw

It may be fun to talk US Open predictions as soon as Cincinnati is over, but the reality is that until the draws are released any prediction is largely meaningless.  Now that the US Open draws are out and we know what the players are dealing with, here's a look at some winners and losers.


Novak Djokovic: Djokovic simply has to be thrilled with his draw.  In years past this would seem hard to believe, given that he could play Nadal in the quarters.  But the 2015 version of Nadal seems highly unlikely to even take a set off Djokovic, and this match simply won't live up to any hype it's given by the media.  The other high seeds in his half (Nishikori and Ferrer) have injury issues, and seem unlikely to trouble the world number one.  More importantly, Federer, Murray and Wawrinka are all in the other half.  They're the players most likely to trouble Djokovic at the moment, and he'll only have to face one of them in the finals.  Djokovic was the favorite going in regardless of his draw, and is an even heavier favorite now.

Grigor Dimitrov:  Dimitrov may be having a down year, but his draw gives him the chance to have a big US Open.  After an easy couple of opening rounds he could face defending champion Marin Cilic in the third round.  But Cilic hasn't been himself this year, and Dimitrov would have a good opportunity to knock him out.  Ferrer, who hasn't played in forever and is battling injuries would be next.  Nishikori, who missed Cincinnati with a hip injury could be waiting in the quarters.  This doesn't mean you should necessarily pick Dimitrov to make the semis in your bracket, but his draw was as friendly as it could have been.

Victoria Azarenka:  Azarenka had to run into Serena earlier than she would have liked at the French Open and Wimbledon, and fell to Serena in tight three setters at both events.  She won't have to worry about Serena until the very end this time, and if she's recovered from her leg injury that forced her to withdraw in Cincinnati she'll be a threat to make the finals.  She beat Kvitova easily in Toronto (a potential semifinal opponent), and the former two-time finalist is definitely a contender given her manageable draw.


Serena Williams:  No one said trying to win the calendar Grand Slam should be easy.  Serena could have to get through dangerous young Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys in rounds three and four.  Belinda Bencic, who she lost to in Canada could be waiting in the quarters, and Maria Sharapova could be Serena's semifinals opponent.  In the finals, she could have to deal with Kvitova, Halep, or Azerenka.  Sure Serena will be heavily favored against each of these opponents, but that doesn't mean it will be easy to run through all of them if they each make it to play Serena.  Serena remains the fairly heavy favorite to take the title, but if she starts feeling the pressure of going for the Grand Slam or simply comes out flat one day, she could be vulnerable to an upset given her extremely rough draw.  She's had plenty of close calls in Grand Slams this year, and it looks like the US Open could be more of the same.

Young Guys:  Several of the ATP's brightest young stars may just have to wait a little bit longer to break through in New York given their brutal draws.  18 year old Borna Coric just missed being seeded, and has to play Nadal in round one.  (Not a good draw for Nadal either, as the youngster did manage to beat Nadal at the end of 2014).  19 year old Thanasi Kokkinakis has a great future on tour, but opens with Richard Gasquet who just took him out in Cincinnati.  And in the blockbuster match of round one, 20 year old Nick Kyrgios (who just received a strangely "delayed" suspension) opens with third seed Andy Murray.  These young guys will likely make several deep runs at the US Open down the road, just don't expect it to happen in 2015.    

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