Tenaciously Tennis

US Open Predictions – ATP Tour

The US Open is finally upon us. The stage has been set, the qualifying is over, and the last major of the year is underway. Here’s my review of each section of the draw.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter:

This section of the draw is owned by one man: Rafael Nadal, the number one player in the world, and the winner of both the French Open and Wimbledon. He’s primed to take home his first US Open title on paper, but his US Open Series has been severely lacking, raising some questions about his most recent form on the hard courts. Regardless, this is a major tournament, and there’s no one that enjoys the grind more than Nadal.

The first real test for the Spaniard seems to be Ivan Ljubicic, but even that’s a stretch. I’m going for Nadal to get through to the quarterfinals in dominating fashion.

Other notables: Ryan Harrison, the young American qualifier, plays Ljubicic in the first round. Can he get the upset? Probably not.

Fernando Verdasco’s Quarter:

Verdasco and David Ferrer, both Spaniards, own this section of the draw. There is, however, a very dangerous 31st seed in the Argentinian David Nalbandian. Something about Ernests Gulbis, the 24th seed, is also enticing. I’ll pick Gulbis to face against Nalbandian for a spot in the quarters. In that match, I’m going with Nalbandian to find himself across the net from Nadal.

Other notables: None. I’ll just stress that Gulbis and Nalbandian are ones to watch.

Andy Murray’s Quarter:

With a strong US Open Series, including his win over both Nadal and Federer in Toronto, I like the looks of Murray going into this event. And his path doesn’t look to difficult until getting to the fourth round. There, I’m going with Sam Querrey to fight for the chance at the second week.

Murray, however, will win in three or four sets. He’s too masterful of a tactician to get shocked by Querrey’s power.

Other notables: Can the 14th seed Nicholas Almagro make any noise by defeating the home favorite Querrey in the third round?

Tomas Berdych’s Quarter:

The tennis world hasn’t heard too much from Berdych since his stunning run to the Wimbledon finals, where he was promptly dominated by Nadal. This section of the draw won’t make a repeat performance any easier. With Mikhail Youzhny, Xavier Malisse, and John Isner looming in the background, Berdych will need to prove he’s ready to continue his success at the majors. He made the semifinals at the French Open, too. Can he keep up the form when the pressure’s really on?

I’m going for the compelling match-up featuring Isner and Berdych. Although Isner’s health looks questionable, get injured in the last tournament he played, I’m looking for a good showing for the American giant. In the fourth round, however, Berdych stops the big guy without a problem.

Other notables: Youzhny could very well break my prediction with some inspired play against Isner in the third round. Watch out.

Nikolai Davydenko’s Quarter:

While this is called Davydenko’s section — he’s the sixth seed?! — it really belongs to Andy Roddick. Davydenko has been suffering recently with injury, and while Roddick isn’t doing too much better health-wise with his mono, he’s proven he’s on the fast track to recovery. I say it’s already a thing of the past.

Roddick shouldn’t have too much trouble making it to the fourth round. Gael Monfil had a lot of trouble in his first round match, barely getting by Robert Kendrick in the first round. I predict Roddick gets into the quarterfinals.

Other notables: The Frenchman Richard Gasquet may very well have the form to take out Davydenko early on. Even so, I’d say Roddick can dispatch Gasquet without too much trouble.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter:

This section also reads incredibly tough on paper. While Djokovic stands out as the heavy favorite to get through by seeding, one American, Mardy Fish, has been playing some incredible tennis recently. At the top of the quarter, the 16th seed Marcos Baghdatis is more fit than ever before. I call Fish advancing in a tight and dramatic four-setter against the Cypriot. The winner faces Djokovic without a doubt.

Other notables: Wild card James Blake and Robby Ginepri might become inspired by the home crowd. Both made the US Open quarterfinals a few years ago.

Robin Soderling’s Quarter:

Although Soderling, the 5th seed, looked shaky in the opening round, he gains confidence as the tournament progress. He’ll make the fourth round without dropping another set.

Marin Cilic finds good form — he looked good in practice when the qualifying tournament was going on — and doesn’t drop a set on his way to play Soderling. That is, unless one Japanese qualifer doesn’t get in his way (explained below) In the probably match Cilic-Soderling, however, Soderling prevails in five sets.

Other notables: Qualifier Kei Nishikori, who made the fourth round before injury set in, has looked sharp so far in his four matches. With a withdrawal after two sets in the first round, he’ll have the extra rest to do some damage. He may give Cilic a real test in the third round. In fact, I hope he does.

Roger Federer’s Quarter:

This section, of course, belongs to Federer. He’s gunning for his second major in a year and number 17 in total. After losing in two straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, he’s hungry for the win. With Paul Annacone as his full-time coach and his new, aggressive brand of tennis, he’s looking very, very good. Federer cruises into the quarterfinals in straight sets all the way.

Other notables: Jurgen Melzer and Lleyton Hewitt are promising, but there’s no way either can get past Federer in a major tournament.

The Quarters and Semis:

In the top half, Nadal defeats Nalbandian in four, while Andy Murray loses to Berdych in five sets. In the semis — a rematch of Wimbledon — Nadal dispatches Berdych, although this time in four sets.

In the bottom half, Roddick faces Djokovic, a player he’s beaten four times in a row. He continues the streak to make the semis. There, he faces Federer, the winner versus Soderling to avenge his quarterfinal defeat at Roland Garros. Federer beats Roddick in three.


Federer’s Loss Makes for Unsettling Clay Court Future

In light of Serena and Venus Williams’ recent loss to Jelena Jankovic, the clay court surprises keep coming with Roger Federer bowing out in the semifinals to Albert Montanes of Spain in two sets. Montanes went on to defend his title at Estoril against Portugal’s Frederico Gil, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-5.

While Montanes is a clay court specialist whose confidence going into the event was at a high point, Federer’s loss forms a question mark going into the rest of the clay court season. Can Federer improve on his form last year and take out a healthy Rafael Nadal at the French? So far, it isn’t looking to good for the greatest player of all time. The true test will be coming in the next few weeks with the Masters Series in Madrid, which Federer won last year against the true King of Clay, Nadal.

With a few more matches under his belt, Federer’s form should show itself. After all, he’s human like the rest of the players on the ATP tour and is prone to poor play after taking time off. In fact, with the first round bye at Estoril, Federer has only played one other match on clay, which was his second round defeat at the hands of the Latvian, Ernests Gulbis in Rome. There, he was also given a first round bye. Combined with the fact that clay is his weakest surface, although that isn’t saying much, Federer’s defeat doesn’t seem so implausible.

With Madrid his next destination, we’ll see what happens. It’ll be a true test for the defending French Open champion.

Federer Fades Early in Rome; Schnyder Surprised

Posted in Ernests Gulbis,Patty Schnyder,Roger Federer,Simona Halep by Ben on April 30, 2010

In a shocker of a match, the Latvian Ernests Gulbis dethroned the 2009 King of Clay, Roger Federer in the first round of the Rome Masters event in a lopsided 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 affair. Playing in his first clay match of the year, Roger’s loss calls into question his drive and ability to succeed in the surface that typically alludes his success. However, even more interesting is the fact that the Swiss took home the French Open last year. Can he do the same this year with a healthy Nadal back in action becomes the question.

In the Associated Press article, “Federer Loses to Gulbis in Second Round of Rome,” he is quoted as saying, ““I hope I can come back from this. That’s usually what I do after a loss like this …Sometimes it takes a loss to wake up and shake you up for your approach the next week. When you always win, sometimes you forget how hard it is. That’s why today I don’t get too worried about this loss.”

The match, along with being his first on clay, was also his first in approximately one month.”He took off several weeks after losing in the fourth round in Key Biscayne, Fla., at the end of March,” continued the article. Federer blames his serve for the uncharacteristic loss. For example, he got in less than 50 percent of his first serves in, reports the article. Gulbis landed in 71 percent. Match play probably plays a large part in this poor showing.

Although Federer is used to winning and taking out lower ranked guys through intimidation and sheer skill, as the years go on, he’ll find himself losing more and more, especially as his schedule of play lessens to mostly the top tier of events. With his dominance these past few years, maybe that challenge is a welcome one.

On the WTA side, personal favorite and fellow Swiss, Patty Schnyder, also succumbed to a lower-ranked player. Schnyder, who is in a senior slump of her own, was taken out in the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix SAR in Fez, Morocco by the Romanian teenager, Simona Halep. With the successful results coming fewer and farther between, the veteran Schnyder, a former perennial top ten player, might just call it quits after this year is finished.

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