Tuesday, September 08, 2015

2015 US OPEN: Men's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the US Open for 2015. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. This year I have also predicted the women's quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP) [19] Rafael Nadal (ESP) [8]. It was expected that the World #1 would have to face a Spanish lefty in this quarterfinal, but Feliciano Lopez was not the Spanish lefty that the draw would have indicated would have made it this far. Thanks to a career-best performance by Fabio Fognini on Friday night, the 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal was bounced from the last major tournament of the year. However, as is often the case, Fognini could not recover from such a huge win in time to build on it, and instead went down in straight sets (blowing a 4-1 lead in the 2nd set) two days later to Lopez. Although Lopez was the initial beneficiary of Fognini's upset of Nadal, ultimately it will almost certainly accrue to Djokovic's benefit, because he is playing someone whom he has never lost to in 5 meetings (although they have not faced each other since 2012 but even so, Djokovic leads the set count 11-1). Lopez gets some great pop on his serve and is a good volleyer, but his backhand side is simply not a Top 20 shot and Djokovic is talented enough to direct many, many shots to that wing to make this match up a mismatch. This is Djokovic's 26th consecutive major quarterfinal, a positively Federian statistic. A win here will let Djokovic reach his 8th consecutive U.S. Open semifinal, which, somewhat bizarrely, he has only won once (in 2011, when he also won the Australian and WimbledonMad Professah's pick: Djokovic.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [19] Kei Nishikori (JPN) [4] vs Marin Cilic (CRO) [9].  This quarterfinal was predicted to be a reprise of last year's major final, with the defending champion attempting to get revenge for the defeat he had against Nishikori at the Citi open in Washington. However, despite winning the U.S. open final, Cilic is 3-6 career against Nishikori lifetime so he actually caught a big break when Nishikori was bounced out of the tournament by his Frenchman Benoit Paire, who  is the person Tsonga eliminated in straight sets to reach this quarterfinal. Tsonga has been playing excellent, efficient tennis through four rounds: he has not had his service broken in the 12 sets he has played and won so far. Cilic on the other hand has lost three sets in his last two rounds, although he has been winning the decisive set each time by a dominating margin. Somewhat surprisingly, Cilic has a distinct advantage in their career head-to-head and is currently sporting a 4-1 lead.  However, Tsonga dominated their first two earlier meetings on the challenger tour and their hard court matches have always been close. This should be a cracker of a match. I definitely believe Tsonga has the weapons to beat anyone on the day that all his weapons are working at maximum effect. If he does so, he will reach his seventh career semifinal (his first at the U.S. Open--Cilic only has one career semifinal, but then he went on to win the tournament). Mad Professah's pick: Tsonga.

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [5] vs Andy Murray (GBR) [3] Kevin Anderson (RSA) [15]. The tall South African player has been getting closer and closer to his first major quarterfinal, despite having lost seven previous 4th round matches at majors, including at Wimbledon this year where he led the defending champion Noval Djokovic 2-sets-to-0 up and was at 5-all in the 5th set before succumbing to the eventual tournament winner. It must have seemed like deja-vu when Anderson won the first two sets against Andy Murray on Monday evening but despite Murray winning a 3rd set tiebreak, he could not win a 4th set tiebreaker, and thus his string of 18 major quarterfinal appearances ended in a dramatic 7-6(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 7-6(0) that lasted well more than four hours. and delighted and entertained the capacity-plus crowd on Louis Armstrong stadium (including  yours truly!) Thus Anderson will play 2-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, who dismissed American lefty Donald Young in four sets. Could Anderson's breakthrough against Murray duplicate Marin Cilic's breakthrough last year? Cilic had never beaten Gilles Simon in 5 meetings and won a tough 5-setter against the French player and used that confidence to win his first major title, beating two Top 5 players along the way. Anderson actually has a 4-3 head-to-head edge against Wawrinka, and has won the last 4 matches he played against him, including at Queen's Club, just a few months ago. However, the two have never played in a major (best-of-five set match) before. You have to believe that Anderson must believe that he can beat just about anyone at this point, considering his recent results, and this is a winnable match for him. I think that pressure may get to him, and I suspect Wawrinka will use his experience in these situations to pull through. Mad Professah's pick: Wawrinka.

Roger Federer (SUI) [2] vs Tomas Berdych (CZE) [6] Richard Gasquet (FRA) [12].  Amazingly, in both men's matches I managed to be in the audience for on Labor Day there were surprising upsets (where the  lower seed one). Gasquet has been playing excellent tennis all summer, as his Wimbledon semifinal indicates, but I doubt very many people thought that the Frenchman would get past the tall Ccech player despite their even head-to-head at 6-all. Because, the Murray match was so long and it's conclusion coincided with the beginning of the Federer match, Louis Armstrong was deserted b the crowd and barely a few hundred hard-core fans (like yours truly!) stuck around to watch this important match. Happily, this meant I was able to view the match from courtside! Gasquet's backhand and movement is very impressive but what won him this match was his impeccable serving. After blowing the first set, Gasquet dominated the next 3, winning 2-6 6-3 6-4 6-1. This is great news for Federer, because he is 14-6 against Berdych but 14-2 against Gasquet. Gasquet has only been in two major semifinals in his career, while Federer has been in a record 37 (6 more than Jimmy Connors previous record) and he is clearly not finished breaking records, especially here in New York. Mad Professah's pick: Federer.

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