Well, I finally got my quality time in with my US Open brackets and my pencil, and just in the nick of time! I’m sure some part of this will be blown apart by tomorrow, the first day of the 2013 US Open in NYC, but we still have a few hours, at least, to scribble away, anticipate and dare I say, dream of what’s to come over the next couple of weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking about:
Seeded Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Del Po, Murray vs. Berdych, Gasquet vs. Ferrer, Federer vs. Nadal
Top Half: Novak Djokovic is putting his afro wig in storage right now, because he won’t be in the mood to celebrate until he’s holding the trophy on Monday. His draw is killer, including (perhaps) a tough third round match vs. Dimitrov and Paire or Fognini in the 16s, all guys with strong results this season, including Dimitrov’s victory over Nole in Madrid. It gets really interesting in the quarters, when Djokovic could face either Haas or Del Potro (look for these guys to play an entertaining Round of 16 match). Haas and Del Po have scored wins over the world number one this season. Murray is Novak’s seeded semifinalist, assuming the Scot gets past Berdych in the quarters. Berdych aside, Murray’s draw is fairly ATP500 level in its challenges, with possibe match ups versus Juan Monaco in the third round and Almagro in the 16s. It’s the Berdych section which is really fun, starting with Wawrinka vs. Stepanek and Blake vs. Karolovic in the first rounds. Kevin Anderson is also in that section, and could face Baghdatis in the second round. Before facing the likes of Wawrinka or Anderson in the 16s, Berdych could get Benneteau or Chardy in the third round. Lots of fun tennis in this part of the draw – if I was in NYC this year, I’d be enjoying watching these in the Grandstand all day long.
Bottom Half: It’s the bottom half of the draw that kicks off the action on Monday, with both Roger (vs. Zemlja) and Rafa (vs. Harrison!) taking Arthur Ashe. Let’s just note here that tomorrow’s line up on Ashe is absolutely killer for the first day of the first round, with the Williams sisters featured as well, and playing quality opponents (Venus vs. Flipkens, Serena vs. Schiavone!). The big news in this half of the men’s draw is that we may get a rematch of last week’s thrilling Federer vs. Nadal quarterfinal match in Cincy. Both men have challenging, but not terrifying draws (unless you’re a Fed fan these days, in which case you’re terrified, generally, and also thankful that Daniel Brands is safe on the other side of the draw). Roger’s “eighth” includes Sam Querrey as a possible third round opponent and Nishikori as the seed for the round of 16. Tommy Robredo, Bernard Tomic are also hanging around there. Nadal’s looking at a good first round vs. Ryan Harrison, maybe Verdasco (or Davydenko) in the third round and Isner (or Kohlschreiber) in the 16s. David Ferrer is the seeded semifinalist opponent on this half, though there are plenty of other viable possibilities in his quarter of the draw. David could play Gulbis in the 3rd round, Janowicz in the Round of 16 and either Gasquet or Raonic in the quarters. With David’s form slipping, this section could contain the tournament’s surprise semifinalist. I’m thinking its Janowicz.
Rankings, shmankings- both #1 Nole and #7 Federer (ack, that pains me to type) are on the defensive going into the Open.
FUN FIRST ROUNDS: Hewitt vs. Brian Baker, Murray vs. Llodra, Wawrinka vs. Stepanek, James Blake vs. Karlovic, Nadal vs. Harrison, and Gasquet vs. Michael Russell.
Seeded Quaterfinals: Serena vs. Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Li Na, Wozniacki vs. Errani, Kvitova vs. Azarenka
Top Half: Like her counterpart on the men’s side, No. 1 ranked Serena Williams has a challenging draw. Or at least a fun one, from a fan’s point of view. She’ll warm up versus former French Open champ, Francesca Schiavone in tomorrow’s first night match on Ashe. Everyone’s already looking forward to a possible Round of 16 versus budding rival Sloane Stephens (The Guardian newspaper is calling it “the match of the tournament” – no pressure, Sloane!) Serena’s seeded to meet Kerber (who beat her in Cincy last year) in the quarters – Venus is another possible match-up in that round, but I don’t think too many people with any credible hold on reality are looking forward to that one. Venus has a tough first round versus Kirsten Flipkens. Carla Suarez Navarro, Zheng Jie, Kaia Kanepi and rising American Lauren Davis are also in this little section. Jelena Jankovic, Li Na, Sorana Cirstea and Laura Robson are all possible quarterfinal opponents for A-Rad or Lisicki, who are seeded to meet in the round of 16.
Bottom Half: Besides last weekend’s Cincinnati champ, Victoria Azarenka, I’m having a hard time getting a handle on this half of the draw. It’s filled with so much uncertainty and so many questions. Like, how the heck is Wozniacki ranked number six in the world? And do we really think she will meet world number four, Sara Errani, in the quarterfinals? This seems like a stretch to me. I’m really intrigued by Simona Halep, this weekend’s New Haven champ, who could meet Errani in the Round of 16. Halep beat two top ten players this past week (Wozniacki in the semis and Kvitova in the finals) who happen to be in her half of the draw in New York. Kvitova is seeded to meet Azarenka in the quarters, though Sam Stosur is a possibility as well. Also in Azarenka’s section are Ivanovic and Cibulkova, who could play one another in a fun third round.
FUN FIRST ROUNDS: Serena vs. Schiavone, Venus vs. Flipkens, Jankovic vs. Madison Keys, Kirilenko vs. Wickmayer, Halep vs. Watson.
I also loved these quotes from Serena and Vika (vis USOpen.org)
So what happened yesterday? “‘That’s the beauty of my career. I don’t need to do anything at all. Everything I do from this day forward is a bonus. Actually from yesterday.’ – Serena Williams, winner of four US Open singles titles and 16 Grand Slam singles crowns, including Roland Garros earlier this year, when asked if winning a second major would make 2013 a great year.”
But you wouldn’t put it past her, would you? “‘I never look back, really. I always look forward. My head doesn’t spin all the way back.’ – Victoria Azarenka, reflecting on her 2012 US Open run to the women’s final, which ended with a a chance to serve for the match against eventual winner Serena Williams.”
Finally – it was nice to see first lady and tennis lover Michelle Obama giving our sport some major publicity at Kid’s Day. What a great way to kick off the tournament.