As the US Open gets underway, let us ponder on this stat. From French Open 2005 to US Open 2013, the Big4 in Tennis – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray had won 34 out of the 35 slams played. The only exception being the 2009 US Open which was won by Juan Martin Delpotro. Since the Australian Open 2014- where Stan Wawrinka made the first assault on the Big4 domination at slams – the Big4 have been 4 out of 7 at the majors.
The question that is foremost at this US Open is whether the field will pull another slam win away from the Big4. Remember, the US Open 2014 final was the first slam final in more than a decade where there was none of the Big4 players. Leading the charge for the field will be Stan Wawrinka who finds himself in the same quarter as Andy Murray. This is probably the toughest quarter of the draw. Wawrinka has a line up of tricky opponents – a youngster like Chung and veterans like Muller, Gulbis and Simon. Also in this section is Jack Sock – one of the many Americans in the main draw.
Murray’s section of the quarter is no less challenging. Murray will have to hit the ground running as he will be playing Kyrgios in the first round. Given all the controversy that Kyrgios has flung himself into, one has no indication which Kyrgios will turn up, but taking down Murray would go a long way in helping him gain some more support from the fans – grudging as it might be. Murray might also have to face Anderson who is coming off a title in Winston-Salem. Anderson, as all tennis fans are aware, was just a few good swings away from taking down Djokovic in Wimbledon.
Murray and Wawrinka are in the bottom half of the draw, headed by 17 time major winner Roger Federer. Federer has an equally rough draw – he starts off against Leonardo Mayer who pushed Federer to the very brink in their only face-off in Shanghai, last year. Federer will have to be on his best game to avoid being upset in this very dangerous match up. Federer will have to keep up his best game as he faces a list of gifted ball strikers who can be very imposing on their day. His potential second round opponent is 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis. Should he get through that, Federer will be up against Kohlschreiber, who is always a tough out.
Federer’s fourth round opponent could be one of the big serving giants – Isner or Karlovic. In the other end of this quarter is the 2010 Wimbledon finalist, Tomas Berdych. Berdych has gone off the boil after a good start to the year, however here, he finds himself a good draw where he can hope to play himself into form and make it to the quarters. His biggest challenges will be from Bernard Tomic, the young Aussie or Richard Gasquet. All said Berdych should be able to navigate his way to the quarters and from there on, as Marin Cilic showed last year, it is a different ball game.
While the bottom half is stacked with players in form, the top half is filled with players with lots of question marks on their form as they head to the final major of the year. Djokovic finds himself in a rather cushy quarter with a line-up of players, he should be able to run through without losing much steam. His first real test might be in the quarter-finals – provided Nadal can summon his best form of the year. Djokovic does have a few players who can trouble him on a bad day, however if he bring his best game – like he has done at the slams this year – Djokovic should be able to find himself in the last eight for the 9th year in a row, in the Big Apple.
Nadal and his fans will be hoping that it will be Rafael Nadal who will be awaiting Djokovic in the top quarter of the draw. However, based on Nadal’s performance this year and his sub-par results, there is no certainty with Nadal these days. He starts off against the ever improving Borna Coric . Fognini and Raonic/Lopez are also in the same section as Nadal and have added their contributions to making this the toughest year for Nadal, since he was a teenager. Thus far, Nadal has failed to reach the semifinal at the majors or on hard courts. Needless to say, this might be the best place for Nadal to change his year and those statistics.
In the 2nd quarter of the top half – we find both the finalist from last year’s US Open – Marin cilic and Kein Nishikori. Each of them are facing different questions regarding their chances of repeating their success from last year. Nishikori has been having a see-saw year with the injuries preventing him from stringing together a good run of matches. He started the summer hardcourt season in fine form – winning the ATP 500 level tournament in Washington. He followed that up with a run to the final four in Montreal, Canada. However he was ushered out of Canada under injury concerns and he skipped Cincinnati to be at his physical best at the US Open. Also under injury cloud is David Ferrer who has not played any matches since Wimbledon.
Cilic on the other hand has been facing questions regarding his form. He has not been able to play anywhere near the form he displayed in the second week of the US Open last year. His results in the 3 tournaments leading to the last major have been less than inspiring and his reaching the quarterfinals will be as much of a surprise as his title run last year.
Djokovic vs Nadal
Dimitrov vs Tsonga
Murray vs Wawrinka
Federer vs Berdych
Djokovic vs Tsonga
Federer vs Murray
Murray vs Djokovic
Champion: Novak Djokovic
–Prakash Potukuchi [ Prakash is the founder of Sportz Cosmos. He tweets here.]