Thursday, August 21, 2014

Draw puts Murray and Djokovic in same quarter

The 2014 US Open draw was released today with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray drawn in the same quarter and Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov in the bottom quarter

Here's a quick overview of the draw:

Toughest Path: Andy Murray

It has been a tough 13 months for the Scot. Since becoming the first British man since Fred Perry to win Wimbledon, Murray hasn't reached a final at any tournament. It will be tough for Murray to end that drought in the next two weeks at Flushing Meadows or even reach the semifinals.

Murray opens against Robin Haase, who beat Murray in 2008 and took the No. 8 seed to five sets in 2011 at the US Open. Murray's second round opponent will be either a qualifier or Radek Stepanek. This is the fourth consecutive big tournament where Stepanek has been drawn to face a member of the Big Four in the second round. Stepanek has already beaten Murray this year at Queen's club and has won three of the last six sets he has played against Murray on hard courts.

Murray will likely face Fernando Verdasco in the third round. In 2009, Verdasco beat Murray in five sets at the Australian Open. Also, en route to Murray's title at Wimbledon, Verdasco won the first two sets in their quarterfinal match. As tough as those first week matches are for Murray, things step up a level quickly in the second week.

Murray should face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round. Tsonga defeated Murray just a few weeks ago in Canada on his way to a second career Masters 1000 title. After a short visit to Cincinnati, Tsonga has had plenty of time to prepare for the US Open and before the draw was among the favorites outside of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to take the title.

If Murrray survives those first four tests, he will be rewarded with Djokovic, the No. 1 seed. Murray defeated Djokovic for that Wimbledon title. If Murray does pull off this upset, it would be the perfect way to end this slump in his career. Murray's probably opponents in the semifinals and final are the pair of Swiss men, Stan Wawrinka then Federer.

Easiest Path: David Ferrer
Ferrer opens play against Damir Dzumhur, who is playing in just his third main draw of a grand slam in his career. Dzumhur has only played one other top 10 match, which he lost in straight sets with only eight games won. Next Ferrer will face the winner of Bernard Tomic and Dustin Brown. Ferrer has won nine of the 10 sets he has played against those two players.

Ferrer will likely play Simon in the third round. Simon beat Ferrer on hard courts in 2011 at Cincinnati, but has lost seven consecutive sets to Ferrer since then including two break sticks and a bagel. Add to that this is Simon's worst season in recent memory, and Ferrer should get through this in three quick sets. Things get tougher for Ferrer in the second week with either Kevin Anderson or Marin Cilic in the fourth round.

Anderson beat an injured Ferrer earlier this year, but other than that match, Ferrer has won three of their four meetings. Cilic, who is Ferrer's more likely opponent, hasn't beaten the Spaniard since 2009.

Ferrer's quarterfinal opponent could be several different players. Berdych is the highest seeded opponent he could face. Ferrer leads the head-to-head record against Berdych 7-5. In the semifinals, Ferrer could face Federer and then potentially Djokovic in the final.

Most exciting potential match ups per round
1st Round: Lleyton Hewitt vs. Tomas Berdych
2nd Round: Dominic Thiem vs. Ernests Gulbis
3rd Round: Roger Federer vs. Ivo Karlovic
4th Round: Andy Murray vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Quarterfinals: Roger Federer vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka
Final: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

The most open Open in the Open Era: Since Novak Djokovic's loss to Tommy Robredo in Cincinnati, this event has been named the most open US Open ever and the draw certainly helped that argument. After Roland Garros, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were the clear favorites for the US Open. But then Nadal had a right wrist injury, leaving Djokovic as a clear favorite. However, "clear" is nothing anymore.

Djokovic was upset in his second match in both Canada and Cincinnati and was not convincing in either of his wins. On top of that, Djokovic has a tough draw with potential match ups with Gilles Muller, John Isner, and Milos Raonic, who all have the kind of serves that Djokovic struggles with. He also has potential match ups with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka before the final.

Roger Federer now considered the favorite by some based on his form in Wimbledon, Canada, and Cincinnati along with a very beneficial draw. Still, Federer has won just one slam in the last 55 months and none since July 2012. At 33-years old, it would be one of the biggest shocks of the year if Federer won the US Open after not reaching a final on a hard court at a slam since Australian Open 2010.

Wawrinka would be the next guy to look to since he is the last man to win a major on a hard court. However, Wawrinka, who has always been a streaky player, is in another slump, going 9-7 since the start of May. Wawrinka has always had slumps like this in his career, but now that he has won a major, his slumps get a lot more attention. Reaching the quarterfinals would be a solid result for the Swiss No. 2.

Determining a favorite after those three is extremely difficult. Murray, Milos Raonic, and Tsonga all have incredibly difficult draws. Berdych and Ferrer have each only reached one major final and haven't been a real threat to win a slam in a long time, if ever. Grigor Dimitrov has never even reached the final of a masters 1000 and just reached his first semifinal of a major at Wimbledon.

This is a rare situation where, the US Open Title is going to fall into someone's lap and knowing who's lap that will be is anyone's guess. Opportunity abounds.

Let the hype begin! Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov are drawn to meet in the quarterfinals. The two players have only met once before, which was in the early rounds of a 500, so it didn't get the attention it deserved. No other pair of top 8 players have played less often than three times, so this match up is long overdue.

Dimitrov's game has been compared to Federer's since he was just a teenager. Both players have similar one-handed backhands, Nike gear, and did have the same Wilson wand. That doesn't explain just how similar these two are. If you aren't looking carefully, it is easy to think that you are watching Federer, when Dimitrov is playing (I've done that more than once).
Watch this video to see just how similar they are. Their match in Basel looked like something out of a video game. In their cross-court rallies both players were hitting the ball the same way. Both players were trying to do to the other what was being done to them.

Aside from the similarities of the two games, this is clearly one of those moments in tennis where the future of the sport is taking on the champion. In 2002, Federer had to beat Pete Sampras, which was the start of Federer's dominance of the sport. If Dimitrov beats Federer, the win would have the same level of significance.

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