Saturday, August 25, 2012

US Open Preview

My tennis blogging this year has been quite abysmal compared to previous years. Perhaps I was channeling the players this year as they had to get through a particularly challenging summer with the Olympics messing up the schedule for all. But with the final Grand Slam of the year upon us, I need to really get back into this especially since it's taking place right where I live. So just a quick preview of what's to come and what to look out for...

Unlike last year, defending champion Novak Djokovic isn't heading into this year's tournament as the odds-on favorite especially since he has failed to replicate his epic results last year. With that said, he is still one of three guys that is likely to win the title. He should be able to get through his first week easily, but then things get tougher in the 4th round against either 14th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov or 18th seed Stan Wawrinka. While he'll likely win those matches, a couple of former US Open champions might await him with 7th seed Juan Martin Del Potro or 20th seed Andy Roddick as his quarterfinal foe. Del Potro recently took Djokovic out during the Bronze Medal match at the Olympics, but Djokovic defeated a slightly injured Del Potro in Toronto.

If seeds go according to plan, Djokovic could meet 4th seed David Ferrer in the semifinals, the Spaniard that lucked out in seeding after his fellow countryman and 2010 US Open champion Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw. With that said, there are plenty of people in Ferrer's quarter that could end up in the semifinals in his place such as a resurgent unseeded Lleyton Hewitt or 21st seed Tommy Haas who he can meet in the third and fourth round respectively. Even more likely contenders are his potential quarterfinal opponents 8th seed Janko Tipsarevic and 9th seed John Isner. The latter is currently in the final of the final tournament before the Us Open. American comeback story Brian Baker is also in this section.

Top seed and 5-time US Open champion Roger Federer will look to get his first US Open championship in four years. He had a fantastic summer collecting hardware in Wimbledon, the Olympics, and Cincinnati so his confidence is certainly high. His first match is against struggling American Donald Young. It's cruise control until the fourth round where he could meet another struggling American in 23rd seed Mardy Fish or 16th seed Gilles Simon. More likely he'll reach his 34th consecutive major quarterfinal (insane!) facing a tough test from 6th seed Tomas Berdych or 27th seed Sam Querrey, both of which are carrying winning form into the tournament.

We can then have a re-match of the Golden Medal match at the Olympics (which was a re-match of this year's Wimbledon final) if Federer meets 3rd seed and former finalist Andy Murray in the semifinals. Murray, perhaps suffering from an Olympic hangover, has lacked hardcourt play this summer, but he should still be able to make a dent. He does have a tricky first match with unpredictable Alex Bogomolov Jr. and a funny-on-paper match with 30th seed Feliciano Lopez in the third round, but Murray should be able to reach the second week easily. There he might have to battle it out with 15th seed Milos Raonic. In the quarters, possible opponents include 5th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 12th seed Marin Cilic, and 32nd seed Jeremy Chardy (who recently took Murray out of Toronto).

R. Federer d. S. Querrey
A. Murray d. J. Tsonga
J. Isner d. D. Ferrer
N. Djokovic d. J. Del Potro

R. Federer d. A. Murray
N. Djokovic d. J. Isner

R. Federer d. N. Djokovic

Seventh seed and defending champion Sam Stosur has unfortunately not done anything since she won the title last year that would hint of a repeat performance. It doesn't help her at all that she has also been placed in the most stacked quarter of the tournament which is headlined by top seed Victoria Azarenka. This quarter also includes 9th seed Na Li and 3-time US Open champion and 23rd seed Kim Clijsters who will be playing in her last US Open match ever. Both of these women can potentially clash in the third round for one blockbuster of a match. Similarly, 16th seed Sabine Lisicki and 18th seed Julia Goerges are also set to battle in the third round. Who will get out of this quarter? I have no idea.

Whoever does get out of that quarter will most likely meet 3rd seed and former champion Maria Sharapova. If her serve holds, she should make the second week without even breaking a sweat with 15th seed Lucie Safarova as the highest seed before the quarters for her. Once in the final eight though, she could face off against 5th seed Petra Kvitova who shocked Sharapova in last year's Wimbledon final. Sharapova has since righted the ship winning all three matches against Kvitova this year including two at Grand Slams. 11th seed Marion Bartoli and 17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also linger here as well as last year's quarterfinalist Andrea Petkovic who is coming back from injuries.

On the other side, the woman to beat yet again is 4th seed Serena Williams who is coming off a magnificent summer in London winning her 14th Grand Slam and first Olympic singles gold. While her performance in the recent tune ups haven't been encouraging, it's just difficult to pick against her. She has a tricky first round match with fellow American Coco Vandeweghe, but I don't see anyone challenging her until maybe the fourth round where 14th seed Maria Kirinlenko or 24th seed Klara Zakopalova awaits. In the quarterfinals, it's more of the same as 8th seed Caroline Wozniacki, 12th seed Ana Ivanovic, and 22nd seed Francesca Schiavone should pose little trouble for Serena if playing at her usual level. Unlike those others though, Wozniacki still needs to prove herself as a Grand Slam winner. Unfortunately, I just don't see it happening this year.

After a pretty damn good year leading up to her first ever Grand Slam final at this year's Wimbledon, 2nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska hasn't done much. She crashed out early at the Olympics and lost twice to Na Li in the lead-up tournaments. She can still recapture her early-year magic especially with a relatively good draw. A possible third round match with former finalist and 30th seed Jelena Jankovic isn't that difficult compared to what it would've been a couple years ago and her possible fourth round match with 13th seed Dominika Cibulkova should also be straightforward. The keyword here is "should" and you never really know with Radwanska. Her real test will come in the quarterfinal where she can meet 6th seed Angelique Kerber, 10th seed Sara Errani, or unseeded Venus Williams. Kerber, who has been on fire recently, could meet Venus in the second round! Suffice to say, underestimate the elder Williams sister at your peril.

K. Clijsters d. V. Azarenka
M. Sharapova d. P. Kvitova
S. Williams d. A. Ivanovic
A. Kerber d. D. Cibulkova

M. Sharapova d. K. Clijsters
S. Williams d. A. Kerber

S. Williams d. M. Sharapova

FINAL WORD: Yes, my predictions are INCREDIBLY boring. Federer, Serena, Djokovic, and Sharapova? But how do you pick against them after the past few months they have had? Yes, Murray is a threat. So are a lot of people and ANYTHING can happen. It is New York after all. And yes, I know form-wise Clijsters making the final four is ridiculous, but I really want her to do well in her last tournament!

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