And finally we’re here, after a season filled with more drama, surprises and on-court action than usual (thanks, London!): at the season’s final Major of the year in NYC. The top three seeds – World No. 1 and Wimbledon Champ Roger Federer, defending US Open titlist Novak Djokovic and Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray – have all simultaneously enjoyed big wins this season while still leaving just a little something to prove to one another. This tournament gives them that chance. (A moment of silence here for Rafael Nadal, who may just catch a match or two from a stationary bike somewhere close to a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean, surrounded by adorable little cousins.)
2012 U.S Open Men’s Draw Preview – as overseen today in NYC by U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur (remember her?)
Abridged version: Federer vs. Murray and Djokovic vs. Ferrer in the semifinals
The epic unfolds below. . .
Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Top ranked Roger Federer, who enjoyed a belated 31st birthday celebration with NYC’s fashion glitterati this week, is sitting pretty at the top of this year’s US Open draw. If there’s any nervousness in that 60 million dollar smile, any glossy piece of hair out of place on his coiffed head, it’s because he’s the sucker who gets Andy Murray in the semis. The GOAT will face some early round challenges before scaling Murray Mound, including Fernando Verdasco in the 3rd round and possibly Mardy Fish or Gilles Simon in the Round of 16. Ivo Karlovic and Nikolay Davydenko – fading but memorable threats – are also lurking in this little section.
It’s ice man Tomas Berdych who looms largest as Roger’s likely quarterfinal opponent. Berdych will play the Belgian surprise, David Goffin, in the first round and perhaps Sam Querrey (seeded 27th) in the 3rd. Nico Almagro is Berd’s seeded Round of 16, in a potential rematch of their bitter Australian Open 4th round at the beginning of the year.
Diversions: Look out for Almagro vs. Stepanek and Mahut vs. Petzschner in the first round
This is an amazing quarter of the draw for three big reasons (6’4″ and above): Murray, Raonic and Tsonga. Murray, who has been cast in the role of “Whammy” in Novak and Roger’s game of Press Your Luck, landed on Roger’s side and will play him in the semis. I’d think Roger in the semis and Nole in the finals is a nicer prospect than the alternative for the striving Scot, as he has only just proven that he can beat Roger on a Major(ish) Sunday.
But there will be plenty of fireworks for the Scot before Super Saturday – like Milos Raonic in the Round of 16 and a date with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters. Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic are Jo-Dub’s likely Round of 16 opponents in a section that’s padded with five qualifiers.
Diversions: Look out for James Blake, perhaps playing for the last time in NYC. He gets Lukas Lacko in the first round.
BOTTOM HALF – 3rd QUARTER
This is David Ferrer’s section of the draw, in which Janko Tipsarevic is his still-surprising-at-least-to-me seeded quarterfinal opponent. As expected, this section of the draw is a bit of a sub plot to the bigger dramas surrounding the Big 3, but there are plenty of fabulous first week story lines already taking shape.
Ferrer gets big serving Kevin Anderson in his first round and Mikhail Youzhny or even Lleyton Hewitt in the third. Richard Gasquet, who’s been perking up in the past few months, is David’s seeded (at #13) Round of 16 opponent, but look out for a resurgent Tommy Haas (who plays Gulbis in the 1st round) to challenge the Frenchman in a battle of pretty one-handers in the third round.
I also look forward to watching Brian Baker take a crack at Janko Tipsarevic in the second round – potentially writing yet another inspiring chapter in his come back story. John Isner and Philipp Kohlschrieber, also in Janko’s section and seeded to meet each other in the third round, play tasty first matches vs. Xavier Malisse and Michael Llodra, respectively. Dimitrov is also wedged in there, just for fun.
Diversions: Everywhere you look! This section of the draw was tailor made for the first week.
And then there was 2: No. 2 Novak Djokovic, anchoring the bottom of the draw. 2009 US Open Champ Juan Martin Del Potro, who’s played Novak twice this past month in big matches and won the bigger one for Olympic bronze, looms as his potential quarterfinal opponent (assuming his left wrist is not too big an issue). Before that match, Nole may be tested in the Round of 16 by either Dolgopolov or Wawrinka.
Diversions: Del Potro will have to play the Argentine Davis Cup team before the quarters, facing the ever enigmatic David Nalbandian in a fabulous first round match and perhaps Juan Monaco, who is his seeded Round of 16 opponent. American hope, Ryan Harrison, is Del Po’s second round. Speaking of Americans, No. 20 seed Andy Roddick is also in this section, playing a qualifier in his first round. He’s suffered some injuries and bad results lately – most recently a third round exit to No. 81 Steve Darcis in this past week’s Winston-Salem Open, for example – but may find some inspiration in his “could be a lot worse” draw next week. Baghdatis vs. Dolgopolov in the second round is destined to be one of those great late afternoon Grandstand matches that makes spending the day fighting the Tennis Center’s heat and crowds completely worth it.
Confession time: I’m currently writing this post in front of a picture window view of palm trees, the Pacific and the Kilauea lighthouse i.e. about as far away as a blogger can get from Queens, NYC, without needing a passport. So forgive me if first week posting is a bit lighter (and coconut scented) than usual, though I wlil do my best to keep up with those overworked tennis players on the other side of the country between snorkeling sessions. (I don’t think this condo even has cable television!)
I’ll hopefully get to the women’s draw before I get too blissed out. In the meantime, I hope everyone reads John Jeremiah Sullivan’s fantastic profile on the Williams Sisters from this weekend’s NYTimes magazine