Sunday, September 09, 2018

2018 US OPEN: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Juan Martín Del Potro (ARG) [3] vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB) [6]
Here are my predictions for the men's final at the US Open for 2018. Last year I correctly predicted that Rafael Nadal would defeat Kevin Anderson in the 2017 men's final.  This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals3 of 4 men's quarterfinals, 1 of 2 men's semifinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals. I also predicted the result of the women's final between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.

Juan Martín Del Potro (ARG) [3] d. Rafael Nadal (ESP) [1] 7-6(3) 6-2 RETEven though I didn't predict that this would happen, I'm not really surprised that Del Potro left with the win. Nadal was looking increasingly fragile, having had to battle through multiple epics just to reach the semifinals. It turns out that he had spent almost 15 hours on court before this match, including the fifth set tiebreak win against Dominic Thiem most people are calling the best of the tournament. So the fact that his body let him down and he realized that after losing the first two sets that he did not have enough in the tank to come back and win this match, especially with a persistent pain in his knee which was hampering his movement so he retired, for the second time this year in an important grand slam match (first was against Cilic in the 2018 Australian Open quarterfinals).

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [6] d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) [21] 6-3 6-4 6-2.  This was an unsurprising result, especially given the fact that Nishikori has only won two matches against Djokovic despite having played against him 16 times and that Nishikori was coming off a huge 5-set 4-hour win versus Marin Cilic the round before. Even so, Djokovic showed that he has basically returned to his world-beating level of tennis which had him dominating the tour for the 2 years prior to his 2016 departure from the sport.

This is not the final anyone expected when the draw was announced. (Many predicted a Nadal-Djokovic final.) Djokovic is coming off his surprising title run at the 2018 Wimbledon (his 13th career major) while Del Potro is at his career-high ranking of World #3. The 6-foot-6 Argentine has won the title in New York before, coming back from a 2-1 set deficit against the great Roger Federer in 2009 to snatch the title, one round after demolishing Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is playing in his 8th major final in New York, but has a surprisingly weak 2-5 record, having lost to Federer (2007), Nadal (2011, 2013), Andy Murray (2012) and Stan Wawrinka (2016). Del Potro is 1-0 in major finals, while Djokovic is playing in his 23rd major final (13-9), which is 3rd all time, behind Federer's 20-10 record and Nadal's 17-7.

Head-to-head, Djokovic has a dominant 14-4 record over Del Potro but the two have not played in 2018 where Del Potro has been resurgent. Also, Del Potro is a big match player, having beaten Djokovic both times they have met in the Olympics (2012 in London and 2016 in Rio) with the Argentine ending up with a medal both times. It's amazing Del Potro is even playing tennis, since he has had four(4!) surgeries since winning the 2009 US Open. To come back to be competing for a major title again after he was thisclose to retiring from tennis in 2015 is incredible. For Djokovic, if he wins his 14th major he will be back in the conversation about the Greatest of all time, by matching Pete Sampras haul, and getting within striking distance of Nadal's 17 and Federer's 20.

MadProfessah's prediction: Del Potro.

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