The final major of 2015 is upon us, and with it, comes a men’s singles draw that promises riveting matches from the outset. Over the course of two weeks, the world’s best convene on New York City to play arguably the toughest major to win. This is ISH’s 2015 U.S. Open preview.
Top-seed Novak Djokovic headlines his section as Tennis Abstract’s nearly 1-to-3 favorite to win the tournament with only one realistic threat, Jerzy Janowicz. The huge game carried by the unseeded player is as potent as it is unpredictable, but a surprise fourth-round matchup between the two could give Novak some troubles.
Favorite to win the section: (1) Novak Djokovic
Potential upsets: (WC) Pierre-Hugues Herbert over (23) Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round. Jerzy Janowicz over (14) David Goffin in the third round.
The two biggest seeds in this section, (10) Milos Raonic and (8) Rafael Nadal, have both lost to (18) Feliciano Lopez in recent weeks. Lopez’s major test, now, is to see if he can defeat these two players who’ve had inconsistent summers in best-of-five matches. This is only if the seeds hold: analysts are predicting a great first round encounter between young upstart Borna Coric and Nadal, and Mardy Fish looks to end his career on a high note in New York. Ultimately, Raonic needs a great tournament to interrupt his summer slide, and making his first U.S. Open quarterfinal after three straight fourth round appearances would be the perfect way to do so.
Favorite to win the section: (10) Milos Raonic
Potential upsets: Steve Johnson over (32) Fabio Fognini in the first round. (10) Milos Raonic over (8) Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
Surprise 2014 finalist (4) Kei Nishikori has all the pressure on him this year, seeking to repeat and do one better of his performance last year. The section he’s placed in, however, give him no easy matches in defending 1200 points and his career-high ranking at number four. Having stretched Djokovic to three sets in Cincinnati, Alexandr Dolgopolov is a dangerous potential third round opponent for Nishikori, to say nothing of the tandem of French seeds ((19) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and (16) Gael Monfils) who could await in the round of 16.
Favorite to win the section: (19) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga
Potential upsets: Alexandr Dolgopolov over (26) Tommy Robredo in the second round. (19) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga over (16) Gael Monfils and (4) Kei Nishikori in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.
Can (9) Marin Cilic repeat? That is the biggest question looming over the men’s draw this year. His quarter’s top seed is (7) David Ferrer, easily the most favorable of the top-8 for him to contend against on hard courts. Lurking in a potential third-round matchup, (17) Grigor Dimitrov wants to end the 2015 Grand Slam season on a higher note than his underperforming statistics from the year suggest. Other than Cilic-Ferrer, though, the section offers little in the way of upsets.
Favorite to win the section: (9) Marin Cilic
Potential upsets: (9) Marin Cilic over (7) David Ferrer in the fourth round.
Peppered with five Americans, this section contains some of the nation’s most promising talents of yesteryear (Ryan Harrison and Donald Young, who are still quite young enough to fulfill their promise) and today ((28) Jack Sock and the wild card Frances Tiafoe). Sadly for U.S.A. tennis fans, the best one-handed backhand in the world casts a great shadow of doubt for anybody else looking to make it out of this section. Latvian Ernests Gulbis can beat anybody, and this writer hopes to see him play in as many matches as possible on the hard courts.
Favorite to win this section: (5) Stanislas Warwrinka
Potential upsets: Ernests Gulbis over (11) Gilles Simon and (5) Stanislas Wawrinka in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.
Young qualifiers Yoshihito Nishioka and Andrey Rublev are some of the game’s most promising players. Facing veterans (Q) Paul-Henri Mathieu and (15) Kevin Anderson, respectively, they have difficult, but winnable, matchups. Looking elsewhere, the game’s most talked-about player over the last few weeks, Nick Kyrgios, has an unfavorable draw versus (3) Andy Murray. The question of the section is whether Kyrgios can overcome the off-court distractions to defeat a player his huge style is capable of overpowering.
Favorite to win this section: (3) Andy Murray
Potential upsets: Nick Kyrgios over (3) Andy Murray in the first round. (20) Dominic Thiem over (15) Kevin Anderson and (3) Andy Murray in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.
It’s a testament to the depth of the men’s game, especially that of the dominance of the Big Four, that (6) Tomas Berdych has only reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open once. His section features the potential to defeat Americans in three straight rounds before setting up a match with the Wimbledon semifinalist Richard Gasquet. No player in this section offers a game big enough to overpower or consistent enough to outlast over five sets Berdych, and the intriguing storylines will be who gets through their matches to inevitably fall to him.
Favorite to win this section: (6) Tomas Berdych.
Potential upsets: Sam Querry over (31) Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round.
(13) John Isner, currently America’s best hope for a deep Grand Slam run, has once again been placed in an unfavorable draw. The unstoppable tennis played by (2) Roger Federer in Cincinnati shows the ageless maestro is prepared to make a serious attempt for yet another Grand Slam title. Their five matches have all been close, with Isner taking the first set off Federer at the 2007 U.S. Open. It just remains to be seen whether he can recapture the magic he found versus Federer in the 2012 Davis Cup.
Favorite to win this section: (2) Roger Federer
Potential upsets: (Q) Alexander Zverev over (29) Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round. (21) Ivo Karlovic over (13) John Isner in the third round. Either (21) Ivo Karlovic or (13) John Isner over (2) Roger Federer in the fourth round.
I have the following four matchups in the quarterfinals:
(1) Novak Djokovic versus (10) Milos Raonic
(19) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga versus (9) Marin Cilic
(5) Stanislas Wawrinka versus (3) Andy Murray
(6) Tomas Berdych versus (2) Roger Federer
My predictions for the four matches as as follows:
(1) Novak Djokovic defeats (10) Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-5, 6-2
(19) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga defeats (9) Marin Cilic 5-7, 7-6(8), 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
(5) Stanislas Wawrinka defeats (3) Andy Murray 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4
(2) Roger Federer defeats (6) Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 6-3
The projected semifinals are:
(1) Novak Djokovic versus (19) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga
(5) Stanislas Wawrinka versus (2) Roger Federer
The predictions for these two matches:
(1) Novak Djokovic defeats (19) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
(2) Roger Federer defeats (5) Stanislas Wawrinka 7-5, 6-7(6), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
In a rematch of the Western & Southern Open final, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic square off as the top two seeds live up to their billing. The recently aggressive return style Federer championed in Cincinnati threw Djokovic off during the match, and over the course of five sets, he’ll likely attempt the same. He’s become more committed to first-strike tennis as he’s aged, and Novak hasn’t found a way to adjust his own game yet. Federer fans will rejoice, as I believe he’ll find a way to win his eighteenth major title.
(2) Roger Federer defeats Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-3