It’s always so nice when the draw comes out and everything looks so inevitable on paper, doesn’t it? Let’s make the Tennis Gods say “Ha!” and take a look at what this year’s US Open draw has in store.
2010 US OPEN MEN’S SINGLES DRAW
What you need to know: Seeding wise, it’s Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray in one semi, Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic in the other.
I rendered coach and ESPN2 commentator Brad Gilbert speechless on Thursday when I asked him which one was the more likely at the US Open this year: a Federer vs. Nadal final or Federer vs. Murray final. It was via conference call, so I can’t confirm that it was my hard boiled questioning that stunned him. Maybe he’d taken a big bite of hot dog or was playing Veggie Samurai on his iPhone. Perhaps Mary Carillo, his fellow interviewee, had just mouthed “Gilbert, you don’t deserve to be on the same ESPN2 conference call with me! You are the worst. The f’ing worst!”. I have no idea. All I know is my question earned some significant dead air followed by a cagey reply about needing to check out the court speed. Meaning it’s a damn tough call, even for ESPN2’s king of bold predictions.
RAFAEL NADAL’S QUARTER
Rafa’s freely admitted this year that winning the US Open is a huge goal for him. But he’ll need keep his eyes on the prize and the heat on his forehand to improve on his past semifinal performances this year. Nadal faces Teymuraz Gabashvili in the first round. Istomin or Simon (remember him?) await him in the second. Philipp Kohlschreiber – who took Rafa to three in Toronto this month – is a good-looking third round. Two guys who actually beat him this year on fast courts, Feliciano Lopez and Ivan Ljubicic, could challenge him again in the Round of 16. Ferrer, Verdasco, Gulbis or Nalbandian are possible quarterfinal opponents.
Hey, Tennis Gods, I have absolutely no interest in watching a Nalbandian vs. Nadal quarterfinal under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium. None at all. Zip. Nada. In fact, I beseech you to do everything in your considerable powers to make that not happen. Pffft.
First round alert: Chardy vs. Gulbis
ANDY MURRAY’S QUARTER
Former US Open finalist Andy Murray takes on Lukas Lacko in the first round. The Scot will get a major test in the third round if he faces second Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka. From there he’s facing the prospect of two tough consecutive best-of-five matches: a Round of 16 vs. Sam Querrey and a quarter vs. Tomas Berdych. Wimbledon sensation John Isner is also in this section, but is likely hobbled after suffering an ankle injury in Cincinnati.
First round alert: Berdych vs. Llodra
ANDY RODDICK’S/NOVAK DJOKOVIC’S QUARTER
Brad Gilbert, has pronounced Andy Roddick’s draw as “awesome”. If Roddick was in tip-top shape, I’d agree, but I think the mini-mono and lack of match play will have a lingering effect on him in NYC. Roddick will face a pesky, big-match underdog in the second round in the winner of Ollie Rochus vs. Janko Tipsarevic. But I guess he could do a lot worse than a rusty Kolya Davydenko as his seeded Round of 16 and Novak Djokovic – who Roddick’s beaten as recently as Cincinnati – as a likely quarterfinal opponent. Let’s make that a night match, please! Speaking of night matches, Roddick’s American buddies Robby Ginepri, James Blake and Mardy Fish are all possible quarterfinal opponents as well. So is Baghdatis. Awesome, I don’t know, but it’s an interesting, tricky part of the draw for everyone involved.
First round alert: O. Rochus vs. Tipsarevic.
ROGER FEDERER’S QUARTER:
Roger’s biggest threat before the semis is his seeded quarterfinal opponent and Major semifinal-streak-breaker, Robin Soderling. Other than that, he’s looking at a smooth ride: a nostalgia match vs. Hewitt in the third round and Melzer as his seeded Round of 16. Marin Cilic and a back-from-injury Fernando Gonzalez are the other two big names, other than Soderling, that could come up next to Federer’s in the second week. Of course, Roger has run into some potholes and dead ends in his last couple majors, so he shouldn’t turn off the GPS just yet.
First round alert: how ’bout Soderling vs. Dent in a possible second round match-up?
2010 US OPEN WOMEN’S SINGLES DRAW:
What you need to know: last year’s finalists, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters, are the top two seeds.
One of the ESPN execs on Thursday’s call was asked about the challenge of building storylines around this Serena-less women’s draw. I liked his answer: follow the stories, don’t force them. I share his attitude. Francescca Schiavone’s story at Roland Garros was better than anything thought up on a TV set. Melanie Oudin became an overnight sensation last year in New York. I’m excited to see what’s in store this time around.
Let’s set the stage.
Yes Caroline Wozniacki is the top seed at this year’s US Open. Which seems weird until we remember than she was a finalist in 2009. Also weird: after winning the title in Montreal last week in a final delayed a full day due to weather, she’s currently playing the tune up in New Haven. I appreciate her work ethic (or is it the adoring Yale football team that drives her?), but she could use some rest before taking on this draw. Lucie Safarova is her third round. Maria Sharapova – who is suddenly a favorite to win the title in New York – is a (hotly anticipated) opponent in the Round of 16. Sveta Kuznetsova or Li Na could await in the quarters.
First round alert: Sharapova vs. Groth. And in the third round, Rezai vs. Sharapova. Tennis balls, beware!
JANKOVIC’S QUARTER. . .
. . .or Zvonareva’s or Radwanska’s, Petrova’s or even Petkovic’s for goodness sakes. This section’s pure dentist’s chair; “Open wide!”
First round alert: Petkovic vs. Petrova
Venus and Schiavone are the top seeds in this quarter, but Victoria Azarenka is the girl to beat in this section. Keep your fingers crossed for a Vika vs. Venus night match in the quarters.
First round alert: Oudin vs. Qualifier. Cinderella returns to the ball. Catch her before the pumpkins set in.
Last year she was the comeback kid, this year she’s the second seed and defending champion. I would love to see Kim Clijsters healthy and focused enough to mount a real defense of her title. Sam Stosur and Elena Dementieva are possible quarterfinal opponents. Budding BFFs Dinara Safina and Ana Ivanovic have just enough mojo to be considered dangerous floaters. Though most of these people in bold font are just as banged up right now as Kimmie is.
First round alert: Safina vs. Hantuchova
US Open first round men’s and women’s action starts on Monday, August 30. Click here for the draws.