Quarter of Champions [2009, 2011]
Novak comes into the final GS of the year amid a title-less run that stretches all the way to his 2nd biggest achievement of the year, his Monte Carlo win over Nadal. Since then, Novak has not been able to win a title or beat Rafa. That is the bad news. The good news is that he is still the No.1 player in the world and both those losses to Rafa were in over-time. There is more good news for Nole fans. Nole has been bringing it in the slams, the last few years and this year looked the same. Looking at the draw, Nole should coast along in the first and second round. A very interesting match would be if Lukas Rosol can show us that lightning will strike twice by throwing things at Nole. Unfortunately, Rosol doesn’t have the cloak of invisibility he had when he shook the tennis world right to its foundations in Wimbledon last year.
A Djokovic-Dimitrov 3rd rounder could be an absolute block-buster of a match. It has all the potential to become the best match of the week. Will it? I don’t think so. Nole is going to be a man on mission and he will take care of business. That lands us at the 2nd most promising QF match of the draw: Djokovic – Delpotro [You know the 1st, don’t you?]. I can’t believe that it has been two months since Delpotro’s blazing forehands have overwhelmed Novak’s baseline game in their epic SF encounter at Wimbledon. Delpotro is among the few strikers in the world who are capable of tearing through Novak’s defence and it remains to be seen if Delpotro can reverse the result of this encounter. Can the spectators witness another epic 5 setter at Flushing Meadows? Only time will tell! They met in the same round last year. Here I will take Novak to the semis in 4 sets.
Prediction: Nole’s quarter and he will not let anyone else own it!
Quarter of Champions [2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010]
Rafael Nadal has delivered an early gift to his fans as he entered Newyork as the US Open series winner for the first time in his illustrious career. Riding the momentum, Nadal would still be wary of the magnitude of the destructive forces that awaits him in the draw.
Ryan Harrison, still touted as a “future” prospect, has emerged into more than familiar face on tour. He has a huge tidal force to paddle against and while I don’t see him stunning the 12 time major champion, he would do well to learn how tides are created from Nadal! Vasek Pospisil, the upcoming Canadian who rode on local support at Montreal, looks an all round player with gut-inspired stroke making. Nadal, as smart a reader of game’s pulse as he is, might be surprised a ‘little’ here in R2. Nikolay Davydenko owns Nadal on hard courts with a commanding 6-1 lead in H2H. It would be interesting to see if the Russian can use this encounter to reassert his dominance over Nadal and boost his slumping career. Ever lasting question – can he make it to R3? I predict Nadal meeting Big John, the American John, who is more than capable of outlasting Nadal. Big serve and aggressive forehand, and tremendous crowd support, could propel him to pull off a “Rosol”er in R4.
Nadal jumping at the net, looking eye-to-eye at his long-time rival, Roger Federer, as he gets ready for the coin toss in QF…familiar sight and a palpable one too! Nadal’s game started to resort back to the defence as Cincinnati neared its end and Roger had laid the foundation to it. The million dollar question at the beginning of the week was which quarter will Federer end up in the draw? The last time that question was asked was more than 10 years ago – Wimbledon 2003. USO 2013 draw answered that question in an emphatic manner pairing Federer with his greatest rival Nadal. Let us take a look at their paths to the Quarter-Final meeting that the entire tennis world is awaiting with bated breath.
I find a latent intelligence in this USO 2013 draw for Big 4; it just seems to have listened to the players’ forms. Federer has a great draw, all things considered. Even his harshest critics will find it hard to not pick the man to the quarter-finals. Who is going to stop him? Nishikori? Querrey? Tomic? If I am not mistaken, the three of them have 1 win against Roger in 8 combined efforts. The other possible contender who can stop Federer before the Quarter-finals, Robredo has 0 wins in 10 matches. Yes 0.
I will rephrase the question: “Will Nishikori/Querrey/Tomic stop the Federer Express before he reaches the most important milestone in his quest to win a 6th US Open trophy? I don’t think they will. Of course, they CAN beat the Swiss Maestro. WILL they? I really cannot pick them over the 5-time Champ. Besides, Federer seems to have rediscovered his mojo with some of the most terrific ball-striking in a sequence of 3 sets spanning his last 2 matches in Cincinnati. In the last part of his match against Haas and the beginning of his match against Rafa, Federer was doing what he does at his best – effortlessly hit winners from any part of the court. I expect Federer to build on that good work and make it to the quarter-finals to deliver us the 1st Fedal of the US Open.
Prediction: I wonder if Nadal, the creature of habit, will be fed enough food called ‘rhythm’ in those first four rounds. Federer wins in 4 sets; FEDAL H2H: 21-11.
Quarter of Defending Champion 
Andy Murray was brimming with confidence after he had become the first Brit to hold Wimbledon trophy in 77 years. TRING TRING!! Time has used 2 testing months from its bag to hamper the Wimbledon champion’s confidence before asking him to defend his US Open title. As he proudly confesses, Andy brings ‘best’ tennis to majors. Should Andy’s fans read too much into his efforts at the Montreal and Cincinnati performances? I’d say NO!
Murray opens his title defence against Michael Llodra, the 33 year old French veteran. Murray has a comfortable lead of 3-0 against Llodra, but the aggressive serve and volley game Llodra brings to the court might make for an interesting first round encounter. R2 encounter for Murray will be against the winner of V. Hanescu-L. Mayer R1 match. I haven’t heard cuckoos singing about either player’s abilities to dismantle the defending champion. Now this R3 match could get Andy Murray sweating! He is drawn to meet Juan Monaco. Monaco knows how to beat Andy and he has 2-2 H2H record to prove that. Oh, I didn’t tell you enough of that stat. He is yet to defeat Andy on hard courts which make it safe to presume that Andy could prevail with a little ‘lesson’ noted.
Xavier Malisse has decent success in grabbing sets from Murray, while Andreas Seppi has beaten Murray before Daniel Craig made his debut as James Bond. Nicolas Almagro, the clay court specialist would surprise many if he makes it to R4. Of this lot, Denis Istomin’s recent showing against Nole prompts me to see him as a deserving contender for a R4 match against Murray.
Main test awaits Murray in QF when he sets a rematch against the “BirdMAN“, Tomas Berdych. Birdman has a knack of shooting flying birds down and he has demonstrated his killer instinct when he shot another ‘flying’ Wimbledon champion in Roger Federer at QF in USO 2012.
Prediction: Having humiliated Murray with sheer power of his ground strokes at Cincinnati, I believe Czech could spoil the British party, yet again!
Quarter of PREDATORS [Scary!]
“Predator” – a horror action thriller from 1987. Remember how Arnold was tormented by the predator? While Arnold was heroic enough to survive the hunt from an alienated predator, I don’t see 33 year old David Ferrer or the inconsistent Richard Gasquet escape the assault from Jerzy Janowicz, Ernests Gulbis, Milos Raonic – the tennis predators!
Short men are coincidentally named ‘BIG’ men in this least celebrated quarter. David Ferrer has hit a rough patch and his performances this summer in America have left a lot be desired of a No. 4 ranked player. He is drawn to meet Gulbis in R3 and Janowicz in R4. While Gulbis can be unpredictable with all his talent, the tall ‘Pole’ Janowicz has suffered unexpected losses to Nadal [JJ was leading in both sets] at Montreal and to 33 year old James Blake at Cincinnati. Despite these results, I believe Janowicz can overwhelm another Spaniard in Newyork. How can you not remember JJ tearing through Amlagro in London, on his crazy run to SF? One would hope that this JJ cloud is here to stay!
Richard Gasquet, the artistic and appealing French player, has a potential possibility of facing Dmitry Tursunov, good stroke maker, in R3 and Feliciano Lopez / Milos Raonic in R4. Raonic became the first Canadian in recent times to reach Montreal finals and I’d pick him to be repeat the feat in reaching US Open QF too!
Prediction: It’s a battle of big boys in the QF and considering his baseline solidity, I’m inclined to pick Jerzy Janowicz in 5 sets!
Semifinal 1: Novak Djokovic Defeats Tomas Berdych
Semifinal 2: Roger Federer Defeats Jerzy Janowicz