Saturday, August 29, 2015

U.S. Open Predictions: Bring Balance to the Force

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

It’s a shorter predictions post today as Todd and I just finished an exceptionally long feature.

It is nice to see a balanced draw on the men’s side. Rarely these days do we get a balanced draw, but here at the U.S. we do. Neither Federer nor Djokovic will be happy with their draws, respectively, though Federer may have the slightly wider smile. So by now how this works is obvious. Todd and I do some picks and I blow mine. He doesn’t. Mind you I did pick Kvitova at Wimbledon, which wasn’t totally illogical. So enough from me, as you’ll be seeing oh so much of me the next couple weeks, and onto the draw.

QUESTION: And now a question for you. How many seeded players hail from island nations?

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Janowicz d. Carreno Busta
WS 1st Rd: I-C Begu [28] d. Govortosova

We have the luxuries of the doubles draws being released already. So, let's have a look.

*Ladies Doubles*
Hingis/Mirza [1] are the favourite and rightfully so. Mattek-Sands/Safarova [3] are twice slam finalists this year. They won both, too. I rate them as second favourites above the Russian second seeds. Also in with a good chance of a run here are Dellacqua/Shvedova [9] and Kops-Jones/Spears [7]. Dark horses are the Chinese Taipei sister team of Chan Hao-Ching & Yung-Jan [10]. Could Errani/Pennetta [12] make some noise here?

*Men’s Doubles*
Bryan/Bryan [1] are starting to look a little vulnerable in the rankings. Since losing that 2013 semi-final in New York in 2013 when they could have won the calendar slam, they have won just once at the slams. Defending champions here, if they lose early they could be in trouble in the rankings. Dodig/Melo [2] are dangerous and looking to take the title should the Bryans falter. Matkowski/Zimonjic [4] and Bolelli/Fognini [5] are also likely to meet their seedings. Will Granollers/Lopez [7] crash and burn? Sock/Pospisil [11] now have a ‘prove it’ slam.

Now, finally on to the singles...

1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB....Here we go again. Djokovic opens with Souza, Pospisil and Seppi. And that’s a good start for him. Some early tests there that should get him all limbered up for greater challenges to come. Djokovic made two Masters finals back to back and has reached four finals in a row. Actually, the last time he lost before the final was to Karlovic back in January at his first event. He is 56-5 this year. Two of those to Federer and three to Swiss men. He is not just on form, he is on some kind of super-form. So unless he gets injured he won’t really be troubled. Goffin is seeded fourteenth. He has sat at fourteen in the world for two months and been in the top fifteen longer than that. He has made two finals and the fourth round of Wimbledon. He knows how to beat Djokovic. And he is the archetypal banana skin. Should Djokovic be off his game, perhaps in the heat, Goffin could put in a big upset. But it is unlikely. After that Djokovic gets Nadal. Mentally, Nadal still has the ability to exhaust Djokovic. It was beating Nadal and Murray back to back that did for Djokovic in Paris. Still Novak is a lock to make the semi.
2. DAVID GOFFIN BEL... Nadal is winding down. He is on the way out. Especially off the clay he is barely a top ten player. We just associate the name Nadal with greatness automatically. So Goffin steps up to number two. It’s doubtful Rafa can even make the quarterfinals so it could well be Goffin versus Djokovic, then a lesser ranked player. Bolelli and Berankis are the first two most likely opponents of the Belgian. And those are tricky tests but he should be fine. Janowicz or Agut also lurk. But he should be able to come through to the fourth unscathed. He may even come through more unscathed than the top seed.
3. RAFAEL NADAL ESP... An embattled Nadal should be able to beat an injury plagued Raonic even here on hard courts. One feels as if it’s simply the percentage pick right now. Raonic is very dangerous seeded out there at 10 and Djokovic is going to have a very difficult quarter-final. Coric, Ymer and Fognini is the most likely route for Nadal. I think Raonic has an easier path, but it’s Nadal.
DARK HORSE: JERZY JANOWICZ POL...The perennial question mark in any and every draw. He can power his way to the fourth round. He opens with Busta then probably Agut. After that Goffin lurks, but he can win that. Ranked 47, he can make it back to the top forty with a solid performance here. He might well get it, too.
WILDCARD: FELICIANO LOPEZ ESP...He plays the same man who beat him at Wimbledon. Fish resides in this section and so does the winner of Verdasco versus Haas. Lopez will run into Raonic or Haas/Verdasco as well as Fish. But should he make it through he could beat Nadal. He can throw a huge spanner into the works here. We here at BACKSPIN expect nothing else.
EARLY EXIT: RAFAEL NADAL ESP...He’s either going to crash and burn or go on a run here. It’s one or the other. No middle ground. There’s really no way of knowing. But a Nadal/Djokovic clash would be fascinating.

POOR GUY: NOVAK DJOKOVIC SRB...He drew Nadal and Goffin. That’s got to be tough on Djokovic. If there’s rain or bad organization and he has to play those matches back to back he could be in trouble.

=In the End...=

1. KEI NISHIKORI JPN... Nishiori heads the weakest quarter of the whole draw. This whole thing is a mess, but last year’s finalist and winner both reside here. And ooh look there’s Ferrer. But really Nishikori has this section in his pocket. He’s even more of a lock than Djokovic. But what the heck do I know? Paire and Stepanek are his first two matches but they aren’t capable of five set consistency. Kei will grind them down into dust. They play exciting dynamic tennis that just doesn’t work against this type of player. Robredo and either Monfls or Tsonga are the two seeds lurking. Kei will not be troubled by either of those if one looks at it from a logical point of view.That Tsonga/Monfils car-crash match will be one to watch. Nisikori got handed a tough road but not a road that’s too intimidating. And his quarter-final opponent could be anyone. This quarter is just a hot mess.
2. MARIN CILIC CRO... The defending champion gets extremely fortunate with his draw. But surely the defending champion has earned a little luck? In any case there really is no second player here. Ferrer looks very uncertain and he has been injured this past year. And Cilic is on a win streak here at this event. Pella the qualifier and then Pouille is the most likely route to the third round. But he drew 17th seeded Dimitrov there. And that match is going to be the real test. If he can best Dimitrov he could well defend his title. But if he can’t then he falls back down the rankings, possibly as low as 20 and his career will need resuscitation.
3. DAVID FERRER ESP... A former world number three and twice semi-finalist here is somebody who you can never discount. If he wasn’t injured he would be a serious threat here and particularly in this section. He has had a so-so year thus far and one can’t help but think his career feels like one that is winding down. But he is still dangerous and he can still grind his way into the quarterfinals. Albot, Krajinovic and Chardy [27] is his likely route through to the fourth round. There he meets Cilic which should be good.
DARK HORSE: GRIGOR DIMITROV BUL...Just barely missing out on a seed is the young Bulgarian star-to-be. He has slipped out of that nice cushy top 16 bracket which means he no longer has protection for three rounds. He runs into the defending champ but if he can beat him he will have a great shot against a fading Ferrer.
WILDCARD: GAEL MONFILS FRA...How does one predict La Monf! correctly? The story remains the same here with Gael just sneaking into that top 16. We could have a fourth round match between the 16th and 17th seeds which would be interesting on more than just paper.
EARLY EXIT: TOMMY ROBREDO ESP...Not this time Tommy. With Dolgopolov lurking and the Spaniard out of form the upset is coming.
POOR GUY: KEI NISHIKORI JPN...Simply for drawing Benoit Paire. Because nobody wants to draw this guy in the first round.

=In the End...=
It’s still likely a total surprise comes out of this group. It’s still likely that someone like Dolgopolov makes the semi-final. But I think a name I haven’t even mentioned yet becomes the Cinderella story.


1. ANDY MURRAY GBR... Federer and Djokovic are the out and out favourites. Nishikori is the fourth favourite. And sitting in a huge gap all on his own between them is Murray. He won’t win another slam. He’s done. But he does have an excellent chance of making the semi-final at least. He is on form and is a great player here. Picking Wawrinka here isn’t the percentage play but he is more likely to make the semi-final than the Brit is. Murray opens up with Kyrgios who will take at least one set. Murray is going to struggle against the fiery Aussie with nothing to lose. Mannarino will certainly meet him next and then Bellucci is the seed. Those two are both around 30 in the world and both have had a good year. If Murray comes through all those, like he should, he then gets Anderson and Wawrinka back to back. Both those players can trouble Murray but really it’s only Wawrinka who may actually beat him. His reward for all that? A semi-final with Federer.
2. STAN WAWRINKA SUI... This quarter is a two horse race. Murray leads their head to head 8-6. But this decade it is 3-3. Murray hasn’t beaten Wawrinka since 2012. Wawrinka won their last two meetings and is 2-1 against the Scot here in New York. But surely Murray is still the favourite given Wawrinka’s sketchy form of late. There were signs of a pulse in Wawrinka’s form, however. He opens with Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas which should be a very quick match indeed. Chung or Duckworth are next. Both are young but both have a bright futures. Sock or Muller are possible opponents for the third round. So he should have a test before the fourth round but he really is a lock to reach the fourth. Simone or Troicki are his two most likely opponents in that round. Over five sets especially he should be nigh on untouchable. But can he beat Murray?
3. GILLES SIMON FRA...Yes, it won’t happen, but if the upsets should occur Simon is ready to step in and make it two slam quarterfinals in a row. But it won’t happen.
DARK HORSE: DOMINIC THIEM AUT...Seeded 20 THE Austrian can improve his ranking by just meeting his seeding. Gimeno-Traver and Istomin are his first two opponents and he should be able to make the third round. That will be enough to get his ranking moving steadily towards the top ten. And should those stars align he may well find himself in the quarters.
WILDCARD: NICK KYRGIOS AUS...Do I really need to justify this? I thought not.
EARLY EXIT: ERNESTS GULBIS LAT...He always deserves a mention and he can have this one.
POOR GUY: ANDY MURRAY GBR...He drew Kyrgios. We knew someone would, we just didn’t know who. And now we do. And is there any chance that won’t be a night match?

=In the End...=
I think it is difficult to pick against Muzza. But if Wawrinka scrapes through the first few rounds then mysteriously picks up some form things could get interesting…


1. ROGER FEDERER SUI... Federer is surely destined to make another U.S. Open final. Well, with all the stars now aligned is this his last and best shot? He has timed his run into the Big Apple perfectly form-wise. He is on top form and he just isn’t losing his serve. He has a genuine sot to win this slam, but Djokovic will most likely be waiting. Mayer then the winner of Darcis/Baghdatis should be good. Federer hasn’t played the Cypriot in what feels like a decade. Maybe it is a decade. Rosol is here. Isner Just avoided his boobie trap Kohlschreiber but they could meet in the fourth round. Federer will have to go through Kohl then Isner back to back. It’s a tough workload for anyone. Then Federer plays Berdych if they both make it. It isn’t a hard section for Federer but it is a very tricky one. Still, the five time champion must be able to remember how to win here. He did it so often.
2. TOMAS BERDYCH CZE... I wonder which Berdych this is? It’s always the question to ask. Is this the Berdych who crumbles in the first round and dissolves into a mess or is it the Berdych with lasers for arms and a serve that can shatter brick walls? How is his second serve? Because that is the shot that makes all the difference for the Czech star. Fratangelo and then possibly Melzer are the most probable first two opponents. Garcia-Lopez or Tipsarevic are probably up next. Then Gasquet. But the Frenchman has his own problems.
3. RICHARD GASQUET FRA... Ah, Gasquet. Someone to be admired actually. He has come back from a suspension for being a naughty boy and he has tried. He has put in the effort and the hard-yards. He has gone for it. He has consistently tried his best and despite a few poor losses he has put together an enviable career. Whatever you may say about him his effort cannot be questioned. And he has been rewarded. Kokkinakis, Hewitt and Tomic [24] are all in his section. So is Brown. Gasquet will be pushed but he should be up to the task. This whole section is Gasquet v. Berdych in that fourth round.
DARK HORSE: JOHN ISNER USA...This is the time, the year, the edition and the slam it doesn’t go wrong for Isner. There is no reason for him to lose early. He is a deserved top fifteen player. Jaziri and Youzhny do lurk but that should be no problem. That Karlovic match in the third round will be worth seeing. I predict a breaker in every set. Then Isner can lose with dignity to Federer. But if Fed falters or Isner beats him he could find himself in a semi-final.
WILDCARD: JANKO TIPSAREVIC SRB...A former top eight player is back. This guy went to the world tour finals and he has a manageable early draw here. He could really shake things up here.
EARLY EXIT: GUILLERMO GARCIA-LOPEZ ESP...He is a good player on the clay. But drawing Janko here is perhaps too hard a match for him to handle.
POOR GUY: RICHARD GASQUET FRA...Poor guy drew Thanasi. It’s a pity because both men are on form and looking to make a run here. But it’s especially unfortunate for Kokkinakis.

=In the End...=
Federer cruises. Berdych threatens. And the Aussies have a good time here. Bernie should make the third round. Who’d have thought he'd be a model of consistency?




...I picked Djokovic to win Wimbledon, but this time Fed gets the nod. Djokovic just looks tired and worn out. He really isn’t on top form and something always happens to him in the U.S. Open finals. And Federer has beaten him here on a few occasions. Besides three slams in a year is greedy.

#1 Williams d. #19 Keys
#12 Bencic d. #8 Pliskova
#3 Sharapova d. #17 Svitolina
#7 Ivanovic d. #21 Jankovic
#5 Kvitova d. #9 Muguruza
#26 Pennetta d. #22 Stosur
#20 Azarenka d. #6 Safarova
#2 Halep d. #14 Bacsinszky

...Williams might lose to Sloane and I have a feeling it’ll be there she wins or loses this championship. But Stephens is not quite there yet. I suppose that’s down to Future Sloane. I like Keys over Radwanska right now. Honestly I think Radwanska might be in a permanent slump. There’s been no evidence to indicate that she’ll come out of it any time soon.

Why is Pliskova seeded higher than Muguruza? That seems foolish to me. I see Bencic beating Venus and then dispatching Pliskova. Pliskova is very good, clearly, but she has been past the second round just twice at slam level. This year she has won four matches at slam level. She’s only won one title. And she’s the eighth seed. Above a slam finalist. Well, great job there WTA on your ranking system. The Russian section is a mess. All the Russians are off form. But Sharapova can grind past Kuznetsova and Makarova. Kanepi lurks here, too. And Svitolina is one to watch.

Vinci and Bouchard are trying to recover some form here and there’s a question mark above Suarez-Navarro’s head. Ivanovic and Jankovic seem destined to meet. Diyas is also hanging around.

Schmiedlova is one to watch seeded 32, but Petra should have too much. Garcia and Petkovic here, too, but I like Muguruza. Wozniacki is the kind of fourth seed only this generation of players could produce. She will go nowhere. Errani is another seed here but Stosur and Pennetta will both go to the fourth. And Pennetta always beats Sam.

Pironkova and Begu won’t stop Safarova. But Azarenka will. Kerber and Schiavone are the has-beens in this section. Nobody here to challenge Timea. She will make the fourth round for sure. Giorgi is the only player who could beat her. But I just don’t think she will. Halep should get past Cornet and then Timea.

#1 Williams d. #12 Bencic
#7 Ivanovic d. #3 Sharapova
#5 Kvitova d. #Pennetta
#20 Azarenka d. #2 Halep

...Serena exacts revenge and rolls through to the semi-finals. I really hope the ladies event isn’t dull again. I’d love for Serena to lose just so we have something different to talk about. But nobody is capable of beating her right now. Or in the foreseeable future. Not when it matters. Sharapova runs out of steam. Kvitova continues her best performance here. And Azarenka beats down Halep.

#1 Williams d. #7 Ivanovic
#20 Azarenka d. #5 Kvitova

...Predictable again, I’m afraid. And Azarenka beats Kvitova in what is hopefully a classic.

#1 Williams d. #20 Azarenka

...If Azarenka takes this to three I’ll light some fireworks.

I'll be seeing you all soon and far too frequently for your liking.


ANSWER: The third seed [Britain], the fourth seed [Japan] and the 24th seed [Australia] all come from island nations.

Go to WTA BACKSPIN. They’ve just got the BBQ going!

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