Sunday, August 28, 2016

U.S. Open 2016: The men's draw (or Why Not Be Seeded Fourth?)

Must be nice to be Novak Djokovic. You work hard, become a post-Federer/Nadal machine and then just when there's the slightest vulnerability (a bad wrist, for example) that might be at the heart of you being bundled out of the Olympics early, you end up in this top-heavy draw and you have what appears to be a very hard path just to the semifinals. Even Rafael Nadal, seeded fourth has got a smoother-looking draw than you. And on top all of that, there's a donkey cheese shortage that has severely curtailed your training.
Just kidding about the last part, although someone should really make sure Djokovic's supply remains secure. He's going to need it over the next two weeks. 

First up is Jerzy Janowicz, who has a nice game but his head game is a touch sensitive. But then you get perhaps Martin Klizan. SEED. Low seed, but still. Then maybe John Isner or Richard Gasquet. SEED. Marin Cilic. SEED. Jo-Jo Tsonga. SEED.  That's just through the quarterfinals. Djokovic will see a megaton of potential landmines just to advance through the first week. 
Having said all of that, I believe he will do that. Maybe only that. Curious to see how he looks after that first round. 
At the bottom half of this half is Milos Raonic. This weekend, one of his coaches, John McEnroe, said he would not be working with Raonic during the Open, and it must have been in part because of the criticism he took on because of his concurrent duties as commentator for ESPN during Wimbledon. It was a distraction. I'm not a fan of this arrangement either, but honestly, I think it's a worse offense when it involves coaches of female players during non-Slam events. I have gone there before, so I will digress. But it was a good call on Mac's part, and also, it appears that Raonic is a quick study. He's taken all of that net advice to heart and between McEnroe and Carlos Moya, Raonic is on track to be a threat. With a shaky Djokovic looming, this could be his chance to strike.

Here's my bottom half of the draw 
and I know what you're thinking. You might even be right. Yeah, I'm still thinking of Juan Martin del Potro's fine performance in Brazil and yes, that came virtually out of nowhere. There is no real evidence to back up a semifinal showing from him at the U.S. Open. But I will say it again -- if del Potro had been remotely healthy since he upset Roger Federer in the U.S. Open final in 2009, the men's tennis landscape would have more of a South American flair to it. And it looks like he's healthy again. He's unseeded here, but do I think he can beat Diego Schwartzman, Steve Johnson, David Ferrer, Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka or Nicolas Kyrgios? Um, yeah. Yep. This could totally backfire, but I'm putting some eggs in the del Potro basket. 
I will also be leaving some of those eggs for Andy Murray, of course, because I believe he will win the U.S. Open. He is the steadiest of the Big Four right now (one, Roger Federer, is missing). 

First round matches worth blocking out some time at work for: 
Fernando Verdasco v. Stan Wawrinka: Like, really? I guess really, then. Unfair draw for both guys.
Feliciano Lopez v. Borna Coric: A wily veteran vs. an upstart kid who just beat Nadal. Hm. Hmm.
Radek Stepanek v. Gilles Simon: Just because Stepanek reminds me of Dracula. Will his tennis career never die? Does he have a reflection? Are you sure??
Dustin Brown v. Milos Raonic: Should be entertaining. One-sided, but entertaining. 
Djokovic v. Janowicz: For Djokovic's sake, here's hoping that wrist is at least serviceable. 

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