Tuesday, September 06, 2016

2016 US OPEN: Men's Quarterfinal's Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the US Open for 2016. 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 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [9].  These two have played some very important matches against each other (2008 Australian Open Final, 2010 Australian Open Quarterfinal, 2011 Wimbledon Semifinal, 2012 Roland Garros Quarterfinal) with Djokovic almost always prevailing, and he leads their overall head to head 15-6 and  5-1 in majors (the only loss was the 2010 Australian Open quarterfinal). Since Djokovic reached his peak in 2011 and 2015 the matches with Tsonga more often than not have not even been that competitive. There are some lingering doubts about the World #1's form, but those are basically based on the fact that he's been extremely lucky in having opponents retire or withdraw and so has really only played two-and-a-half matches to reach the quarterfinal of  a major. But, to me, that makes him more of a threat to win his 13th major title, not less of one. Then again, He has only won the title here in New York twice (in those two outstanding years) so I would not say he is the favorite right now even though he is the #1 seed. Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic.

Lucas Pouille (FRA) [24] vs Gael Monfils (FRA) [10].  This all-French quarterfinal is a result of an amazing effort by the 22-year-old Frenchman, who made a splash at Wimbledon this year by reaching his first major quarterfinal there but has really heralded his arrival as a Top 10 contender by defeating Rafael Nadal in a 5th set tiebreak which everyone is describing as the best match of the tournament. That being said, he has played a LOT of tennis in New York City this week and he will be playing Gael Monfils, a countryman who is well-rested, having not dropped a set in the entire tournament. Matches between players from the same country can often be nervy, low-quality affairs (c.f. Clijsters-Henin, Jankovic-Ivanovic, Nadal-Ferrer, Isner-Sock) and I suspect that will be the case here. However, you can also get 5-set thrillers, like the one John Isner and Donald Young played in the first round here this year. Monfils and Pouille have only met one on the ATP tour: in the first round f this year's Australian Open, and the match was won by Monfils in 5 sets. It's amazing that there could be another French men's finalist at the U.S. Open for the first time since Cedric Pioline did it in 1993. The only problem is that for that to happen, a French player needs to beat Novak Djokovic, and the Serbian has only lost one match to a Frenchman in the last 3 years. Mad Professah's pick: Monfils.

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [3] vs Dominic Thiem (GBR) [3] Juan Martin del Potro (ARG). Now this is a compelling match-up, and should be the standout match of the 4 quarterfinals. It's the only meeting between two major champions, and Del Potro is slowly coming back to his own and figuring out how to be effective with his restructure game built around his refurbished wrists. The reason why the 6-foor-6 Argentine won his first  major  at the tender age of 20 (by beating Roger Federer and Nadal along the way) was because he has it all: huge serves, amazing movement for a big guy and blistering groundstrokes, especially the forehand side. However, his backhand is now almost exclusively slice, and I think that Wawrinka will be able to take advantage of that on Arthur Ashe in a way that he could not at his 1st round loss to Del Potro at Wimbledon earlier this summer. However, it really is quite significant that del Potro leads their head to head 4-2 and has won their last  four meetings, including two since Wawrinka became a major champion and Del Potro returned from his injury timeout. I was courtside for Wawrinka's 4th set win against a very stubborn Ilya Marchenko and witnessed the Swiss' fragility. Del Potro is a big step up in class and I'm not sure Wawrinka is ready for that. So,  on paper I would give the slight edge to Wawrinka, but  based on his heart and hunger I give the overall edge to Del Potro. Mad Professah's pick: Del Potro.

Andy Murray (SUI) [2] vs Kei Nishikori (JPN) [6].  From their rankings one would think this would be the most competitive of the quarterfinals, but  I have already awarded that title to the Del Potro-Wawrinka match, primarily because of the lopsided head-to-head between Nishikori and Murray. The Scot leads 7-1 with the one loss coming in the 2014 World Tour Finals which Murray shouldn't even have entered because he was not fully recovered from back surgery. However, I saw Nishikori's vocal fan support first hand when he played Ivo Karlovic in his 4th round match so it's possible that he could make this match competitive. He did reach the final here two years ago beating players like Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic along the way. There's no sign that Kei is on another hot streak like in 2014, while it is very clear that Murray is playing at or near the every peak of his powers, having reached three major finals this year and with a very good chance to reach his 4th. Mad Professah's pick: Murray.

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