Men's US Open Preview: Djokovic the favorite to win back-to-back Slams

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WATCH—The Daily Serve takes a look at the US Open draw: 

The gang is finally back together again. For the first time in 2018, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are all in a Grand Slam draw; and with the possible exception of Murray, are all in decent health. The Big 3—Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic—have split the first three majors of the year, and the last seven in total, between them. Can anyone break their Grand Slam grip? Here’s a look at what we might see over the next two weeks in New York.

*****

First Quarter

Nadal is the No. 1 seed and the defending champion, and he just won his first hard-court Masters 1000 in five years, in Toronto. That’s enough to make him, in my estimation, the co-favorite with Djokovic for the title. As far as the draw goes, Rafa has the edge on Novak, at least to begin.

While Djokovic landed in Federer’s quarter in the bottom bracket, Nadal looks to have a smoother path at the top. He’ll start against his old friend and Davis Cup teammate David Ferrer; while Ferrer beat him at the Open in 2007, Nadal leads their head to head 24-6. Nadal will likely get a tougher match in the third round, if he faces Karen Khachanov. The young, power-hitting Russian pushed Rafa in Toronto earlier this momth, and would seem to be due for a signature win.

The second-highest seed in this quarter is Kevin Anderson. He’s also one of the more intriguing players in the draw. A finalist at the Open last year and at Wimbledon last month, Anderson lost tamely both times, to Nadal and Djokovic. If he goes deep again and faces another top-level opponent, he should be ready to make a better showing.

Also here: Dominic Thiem, Denis Shapovalov, Kyle Edmund

First-round matches to watch: Nadal vs. Ferrer, Mischa Zverev vs. Taylor Fritz, Anderson vs. Ryan Harrison

Potential third-round match to watch: Anderson vs. Shapovalov

Semifinalist: Nadal

*****

Second Quarter

How much fear should Juan Martin del Potro inspire in the rest of the field right now? After beating Federer in Indian Wells, making the semis and quarters at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and moving up to a career-high No. 3 in the world, it looked as if Delpo was going to be a player to be reckoned with at his favorite Slam, in New York. But after pulling out of Toronto and losing to David Goffin in Cincinnati, the Argentine doesn’t appear to be quite the colossus he did earlier in the year, and he has been passed on the favorites’ list by Djokovic.

But Delpo has won the Open before, and his draw gives him a solid chance of going deep there again. He’ll start against a qualifier, the first seed he could face is Fernando Verdasco, and his quarterfinal opponent is slated to be Grigor Dimitrov. But look beyond the bold-faced names and you’ll some potential landmines here, in the form of two former Open champs, Murray and Wawrinka, who are unseeded this time around. Delpo could face Murray in the third round, while Wawrinka, who plays Dimitrov in his opener, may be the favorite to reach the quarterfinals from the lower half of this section.

Also here: Stefanos Tsitsipas, John Isner, Milos Raonic, Borna Coric

First-round matches to watch: Wawrinka vs. Dimitrov, Murray vs. James Duckworth

Semifinalist: Wawrinka

Third Quarter

Like Del Potro in the quarter above, Sascha Zverev won’t come to New York with quite the head of steam that he had earlier this season. While he has won a Masters 1000 in Madrid in May, and he won the Citi Open on hard courts this summer, in his last two events Zverev took two tough, close, surprising losses, to Tsitsipas and Robin Haase. On the upside, he will be here with new coach Ivan Lendl, who would seem to be a good fit for a talented young player looking to win his first major. Zverev’s draw should help him get out of the gates quickly. He starts against a qualifier, and the first two seeds he could face are Filip Krajinovic in the third round, and either Diego Schwartzman or Kei Nishikori in the fourth round.

In the quarters, Zverev’s opponent may be Marin Cilic, who is yet another question mark in this draw. The 2014 Open champion reached the Australian Open final in January, and looked like a good bet to make at least the semifinals at Wimbledon, before he went out early. Cilic has a good draw here—the first seed he could face is Adrian Mannarino—but he has also had a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory of late.

First-round matches to watch: Mannarino vs. Frances Tiafoe, Nishikori vs. Maximilian Marterer

Semifinalist: Cilic

*****

Fourth Quarter

Where was Djokovic going to land in the draw? This was the first question we needed to have cleared up, and the answer didn’t disappoint—unless you’re a Federer fan, that is. Djokovic and Federer, who just played in the Cincinnati final, are scheduled to meet again in the quarters at the Open.

As of now, Federer seems to have the rougher road to that showdown. He’ll start against Yoshihito Nishioka, but could soon find himself on the other side of the net from a 30th-seeded Nick Kyrgios—the Swiss and the Aussie have played nine sets, and eight of them have gone to tiebreakers. As for Djokovic, his toughest assignment may come right out of the gate, against Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics. But after two years of struggles, Djokovic should be hungry to make the most of his good form now that he’s found it again.

Semifinalist: Djokovic

*****

Semifinals: Nadal d. Wawrinka; Djokovic d. Cilic

Final: Djokovic d. Nadal


Wake up every morning with Tennis Channel Live at the US Open starting at 8 a.m. ET. For three hours leading up to the start of play, Tennis Channel’s team will break down upcoming matches, review tournament storylines, breaking news and player developments.

Tennis Channel’s encore, all-night match coverage will begin every evening at 11 p.m. ET, with the exception of earlier starts on Saturday and Sunday of championship weekend.

 

Watch the best matches from the first three Grand Slams on Tennis Channel PLUS. From Federer’s historic win at the Australian Open to Halep’s breakthrough at Roland Garros. It all starts Monday, August 27th.  

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