Damn, TWA is getting old. 100 posts. Whew. I’m getting emotional here. I’d just like to thank the little people who made this possible, especially Blogger, before its update. Back when I’d be working on one of these gigantic previews and would lose all my work. Those nights were fun, and I will never forget them. Thank you!
All right, let’s get back to why we’re here. U.S. Open, baby. I can’t think of a better topic for the century post. Let’s rock.
1. Roger Federer: Who’s gonna stop the F-train at Grand Slams? Surprisingly, there are a few suspects. Federer hasn’t looked great this summer, but his version of lackluster also includes a title and a finals showing. Still, a potential fourth round against Richard Gasquet, a quarterfinal against Andy Roddick/Paul-Henri Mathieu and James Blake in the semis? Tall order. Or as Federer would say, “Yawn.”
2. Rafael Nadal: The U.S. Open has not been kind to young Rafa. If it’s not Blake, it’s guys like Mikhail Youzhny ruining his U.S. Open. Nadal, though, looks like he’s improving quickly, especially this season. He’s obviously comfortable with changing his game to get better. So it’s hard not to see another Fed/Rafa final in a Grand Slam. Right, Novak?
3. Novak Djokovic: Believe it or not, he doesn’t agree. Djokovic has made a believer out of a lot of people, and his game’s maturing, too. He’s probably the first guy to beat Federer and Nadal in a tournament. So repeating that feat to win his first major won’t faze him. The question is: Is he ready? Ready for Mario Ancic in round one and the heartbroken Radek Stepanek in round two?
4. Nikolay Davydenko: How far can he go? Only his bookie can know for sure.
5. Andy Roddick: David Ferrer. Frank Dancevic. Novak Djokovic. Well, Djokovic isn't a terrible loss, but Roddick's spent most of his summer losing to people he shouldn't have. After the Ferrer loss, Roddick tried really hard to sound nonchalant by saying he knows what's wrong. Uh-huh. Well, the first thing that's wrong is that he might drown in the depth of men's tennis. The second thing is Roger Federer in the QUARTERS! Really, though, if he can fend off Mathieu in round four, that’d be a feat in itself.
6. James Blake: It looks like Blake's rounding into form just in time for the Open. He's bludgeoning the ball right now, and although he's shown some lapses during matches in New Haven, he's recovering from them, which Blake hasn't always been able to do. His quarter o’ the draw includes the likes of Sam Querrey, (who’s beaten him this summer) Tommy Haas, Marcos Baghdatis, Guillermo Canas.
7. Fernando Gonzalez: He might get Marat Safin in round three, which these days is: 1. an easy win and 2. a chance to be hit with a racquet. Other than that, his results have tailed since Australia, and so even getting to Nadal in the quarters isn’t certain.
8. Tommy Robredo: Does he still play tennis? Oh. I thought I saw him as the centerfold for Playgirl magazine. (The articles are spectacular.) Anyway, I see him squeezing in a fourth round loss to Youzhny before a photo shoot over at TWA Quarterly. (Seriously, Tommy. Answer my calls. My photographer’s waiting.)
9. Tomas Berdych: I think his third round against Mathieu is going to be great theater. Whoever wins gets a crack at Roddick.
10. Tommy Haas: Props to Haas for fighting his way back to the top of men’s tennis. He’s not made any waves at a major, though. I think he can beat Baghdatis in a tough third round matchup. If he does, he’s got a strong shot against Blake.
Mikhail Youzhny (11): Nadal’s nightmare from last year has a good shot at the quarterfinals, and I think he could give Djokovic some trouble.
Ivan Ljubicic (12): Who? Really, what happened to this guy? One second, he’s threatening Nadal at the French a couple years back, the next, he’s folding in early rounds of majors. It’s like he’s Safin without hair.
Richard Gasquet (13): The feisty Frenchy probably wishes he were in Roddick’s quarter of the draw instead of Federer’s. Now do you see the benefit of slipping the draw committee a $20 around this time of year?
Guillermo Canas (14): His results have really taken a dive since whipping Federer twice since his return. He’s in a really vulnerable part of the draw, with Andy Murray questionable after his injury and Davydenko possibly dealing with fatigue after a few tough weeks, on the court and off.
David Ferrer (15): Always good for a few upsets. Another good potential round-three matchup: Ferrer v. Nalbandian.
Lleyton Hewitt (16): Little Lleyton’s all grown up. No more getting bageled from Federer. Seriously, he picked a good time to start looking good. I’d say he’s got a clear look to a fourth round against Djokovic. After that? How about the Baby Gap in Times Square? (I’m looking at Hewitt’s picture on the ATP Web site, and that’s the most rehearsed smile I’ve ever seen, Lleyton. It smacks of staring in the mirror for hours, asking yourself, “How about this expression?”)
Carlos Moya (17): Old Man Moya’s on the second wind of his career, but he won’t get very far here, thanks to either Youzhny or Hewitt.
Marcos Baghdatis (18): Poor guy. Think he still has nightmares about last year’s U.S. Open match against Andre Agassi? This year, it might be James Blake disturbing his sleep patterns.
Andy Murray (19): Is he or isn’t he ready? He’s taken some beatings this summer upon his return from a wrist injury. Of course, it’s better to test that wrist in Cincinnati than the ’Apple. His second round’s against Jonas Bjorkman, who may be 82, but he’s no slouch.
All right, I'm going to stop here. Men's tennis is freakin' deep.
The way it'll go down:
Quarterfinals: Federer v. Mathieu, Haas v. Blake, Youzhny v. Djokovic, Gonzalez v. Nadal
Semifinals: Federer v. Blake, Djokovic v. Nadal
Final: Federer v. Nadal
Winner: Nadal, by a wedgie.
1. Justine Henin: Please, someone, beat her. Because you know you’re gonna hear about that sore shoulder in the final once Sharapova starts beating her.
2. Maria Sharapova: Not to say the defending champ’s got a ticket into the finals. Although it’s looking good. I don’t know how she keeps ending up with all these cream puff draws, but it does her no good. If the only real threats in your half are an upcoming Russian (Anna Chakvetadze), one who’s rediscovering her game (Nadia Petrova) and one who can’t win titles (Svetlana Kuznetsova), what’s your tough prep for the final?
3. Jelena Jankovic: Watching Tatiana Golovin rip up Jankovic’s Ms. Softee serve a couple weeks ago makes it clear that she’s got a real liability. That’s why I don’t think she’s a lock for the quarters for this tournament. She could run into a real problem in Elena Dementieva.
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Always the bridesmaid. She did win the Pilot Pen this week, sort of, in a walkover or three. (Three walkovers in one tournament. What, is she taking tips from Amelie Mauresmo?) One problem for Kuznetsova: There’s no on-court coaching in Slams. What’re you gonna do now? Figure it out yourself? (gasp!)
5. Ana Ivanovic: Can she beat Venus at the U.S. Open, even though she got creamed at Wimbledon by same?
6. Anna Chakvetadze: Could be the only player to keep Sharapova out of the final. For the sake of our eardrums, let’s hope so.
7. Nadia Petrova: Still looking for confidence. Not gonna find it against Daniela Hantuchova.
8. Serena Williams: Who knows. Really. She could flame out against Lucie Safarova or Justine Henin, or she could win it all. I have to admit curiosity about the shape she’s in right now after an injury layoff, even though I know the answer is that it doesn’t matter.
9. Daniela Hantuchova: It seems she lacks belief at the big events. Witness the meltdown against Serena at Wimbledon. She blinked, plain and simple. Her section of the draw could give her a shot at the quarters against Kuznetsova.
10. Marion Bartoli: Unbelievable. She's in the top 10? Extra 17 pounds and all? C'mon, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles. I don't care if you can barely walk. This is your time.
Patty Schnyder (11): All that playing through the summer, and all she scores is an 11 seed. Well, that worth it, wasn’t it Pat? (Can I call you Pat?) Was it worth it to have to face Chakvetadze in the fourth round?
Venus Williams (12): You know what's really impressive about Venus Williams? Her ability to come from the brink in the early rounds of Wimbledon. You know what else is impressive? Her ability to toss in 79 unforced errors -- in one match. So, really, who knows? What she should consider doing is getting some grass soles for her sneakers. It might help.
Nicole Vaidisova (13): Unstoppable. Those blasted Vaidisova commercials are. So is the problem with her shoulder. She’s been citing it since the Montreal tournament. So Shuai Peng might be the one to clean her clock in round two.
Elena Dementieva (14): OMG. Look who’s been working on her serve. I don’t know what took her so long, but she’s finally trying to turn it into a weapon. In New Haven, she was hitting them at 107 mph. They were in, too! Anyway, this is why I think she can stage the upset against Jankovic. Dementieva can attack a weak serve and has a potent ground game.
The way it’ll go down:
Quarterfinals: Henin v. S. Williams, Dementieva v. V. Williams, Hantuchova v. Kuznetsova, Chakvetadze v. Sharapova
Semifinals: S. Williams v. V. Williams, Kuznetsova v. Chakvetadze
Final: S. Williams v. Chakvetadze
Winner: Serena, for her portrayal of an injured tennis player trying to find her way back to the top.