Sunday, September 11, 2016

2016 US OPEN: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Here are my predictions for the men's final at the US Open for 2016. Last year I incorrectly predicted Roger Federer would beat Novak DjokovicSo far this year, I have correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals1 of 2 women's semifinals, 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals. I also correctly predicted Angelique Kerber would beat Karolina Pliskova in the 2016 women's final.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] d. Gael Monfils (FRA) [10] 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-2 I didn't actually physically see this match myself because I was on a plane from Washington. D.C. to Los Angeles for most of it but I heard that it was a bit of a horror show. The conditions were hot and humid, but Monfils got the New York City crowd against him with his antics which made it appear as if he was not trying when he lost the first two sets. The Frenchman did manage to win the 3rd set but then was unable to sustain the momentum and lost the fourth set and the match. However, reaching his second major semifinal is enough to insure that Monfils will return to the Top 10 when the rankings come out on Monday. One question remaining is whether Monfils can achieve even more? Another more relevant question is what does this match say about the state of Djokovic's game as he reaches his 7th U.S. Open final?

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [3] d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) [6] 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-2.   I did not expect either of these players to reach this semifinal; since I saw both Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori up close when I visited the U.S. Open on Labor Day I was very surprised that these two were able to get past crowd favorites Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Murray, respectively. I didn't see this match either but it appears as if the warm conditions were harder on Wawrinka than Nishikori and this led to his loss of the first set. With a big push, Wawrinka was able to break at 5-all and serve out the second set to even the match. The roof was then closed and although one would have thought that would favor Kei, it appears as if Stan took more advantage of the climate-controlled conditions and ran away with the last two sets.

Djokovic is playing in his 21st career major final (12-8 record) and has already won two major finals in 2016, beating Andy Murray in Melbourne and Paris. He is on track to potentially surpass Roger Federer (18-10) and Rafael Nadal (14-6) as the all-time major singles title holder. Wawrinka is playing in his 3rd major final (2-0 record) in as many years. The Swiss player has turned into a remarkable big match player, having won the last 10 finals that he has played in during the last two years.

However, Djokovic has a prohibitive 19-4 career record against Wawrinka, but only leads 4-2 ever since Wawrinka joined the top 5 after winning the 2014 Australian Open. But the two have played some of the most thrilling 5-set matches of the last 5 years, particularly on hard courts. The two have not played in 2016, so it is hard to know what to expect. Djokovic is the #1 player in the world for a reason but he has looked vulnerable ever since he lost (shockingly) in the 3rd round of Wimbledon this summer and was dismissed by an in-form Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets at the Rio Olympics. In this tournament, Djokovic has been the recipient of a walkover (from Jiri Vesely) and not one but two retirements from injured players (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals and Mikhail Youzhny in the 3rd round). Because of this we don't know how he will react when truly tested by someone he knows who can beat him, and this is one reason I thought if Andy Murray had reached the final, he would have won. Stan has won more majors in the last two years than Andy has, can he  also challenge Novak? Yes.

MadProfessah's pick: Wawrinka.

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