I. Djokovic’s Quarter:
Novak Djokovic has a reasonable path to the quarterfinal round. He could face some resistance in the 3rd round from Grigor Dimitrov and his first round match is not easy, but this is a good draw for Nole to add confidence during the first week of the event. 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro lost a tough 5 setter to Nole at Wimbledon. This is not an ideal quarterfinal opponent for anyone as the #1 seed faces the prospect of having to beat 3 of the 4 most likely champions in order to win the title.
Best 1st Round Match: Alexander Dolgopolov vs. David Goffin
Prediction: Djokovic defeats Del Potro in 4 sets to reach the semifinal Round
II. Murray’s Quarter:
Novak would have preferred Ferrer as his slated semifinal opponent, but this is the draw system in tennis. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have contested 3 of the past 4 Grand Slam finals but are seeded to play in the semifinal here. Murray has a very nice draw for reaching the quarterfinal round. Like Nole, Murray then draws a tough match. Tomas Berdych can set up a rematch of their 2012 US Open semifinal in the round of 8. Berdych just beat Murray convincingly in Cincinnati.
Best 1st Round Match: Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Radek Stepanek
Prediction: Andy Murray defeats Tomas Berdych in 4 sets to reach the semifinal round
III. Ferrer’s Quarter:
This is easily the weakest section of the draw. For that reason, David Ferrer might repeat his semifinal finish of 2012. Still, Ferrer’s form has been woeful since Wimbledon ended. I think the semifinalist will come from Jerzy Janowicz, Milos Raonic, or Pablo Andujar (?!). Jerzy has been in a post-Wimbledon haze, but he is my pick.
Best 1st Round Match: Richard Gasquet vs. Michael Russell (maybe an upset if Gasquet implodes in the face of unrelenting effort)
Prediction: Jerzy Janowicz d. Pablo Andujar in 3 sets to reach the semifinal round
IV. Nadal’s Quarter
Rafael Nadal is the form horse at this US Open. He enters with similar momentum to what Andre Agassi had in 1995, Patrick Rafter had in 1998 and Andy Roddick had in 2003. Those men swept the Canadian-Cincinnati duo and produced 2 US Open titles and 1 US Open runner-up. This bodes well for the Spaniard.
Rafa will likely face John Isner in the round of 16. This could be a tricky match especially at night as Isner’s serve will be faster and Isner will be less likely to fatigue. Rafa also has a potentially tricky second round match. Still, he is the favorite to reach the quarters. Roger Federer has a very manageable draw to reach the final 8 as well. It is odd that Federer’s legacy might be less scrutinized if he lost matches such as his round of 16 tilt with Tommy Haas in Cincinnati rather than lose to Rafa in the Cincinnati quarterfinals. Still, I think Federer is likely to face Nadal in the quarters. Kei Nishikori might be consistent enough to beat Federer on an off day, but no one else in his section of the draw looks like a huge threat.
Best 1st Round Match: Rafael Nadal vs. Ryan Harrison just to see what Harrison did to deserve so many bad first round draws. Jay Berger must be shaking his head at this draw for his new charge.
Prediction: Nadal d. Federer in 4 sets to reach the semifinal round
I’ll look at the final four when it happens.
PS – Pretty dull to pick 3 of the top 4 in the semis and to have 3 of the 4 quarters unfold as the draw holding form, but the uniformity of surfaces these days does make these rankings/seedings fairly accurate.