Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the US Open for 2010.
Andy Murray GBR (4) Stanislas Wawrinka SUI (25) vs. Mikhail Youzhny RUS (12). This is the dark horse spoiler quarter where Andy Murray went out early and loudly to the suddenly sharp other player from Switzerland. Wawrinka did very well to follow-up that big win with a strong-hearted outlasting of American Sam Querrey in 5-sets on a tough, windy day to win in just under 5 hours. Youzhny also dashed American hopes by taking out Marathon Man John Isner in the 3rd round. This will be the quiet quarter because no one expects the winner of this match to be able to win their next match and reach the 2010 US Open final. I agree, but Youzhny would be the player who could pose more questions for his future Spanish opponent. PREDICTION: Wawrinka in 3 sets or Youzhny in 4 or 5 sets. Sam Querrey USA (20)
Roger Federer SUI (2) vs. Robin Soderling SWE (5). The showdown everyone has been waiting for since the draw was released is this repeat from the 2010 French Open quarterfinal where the Big Swede ended Federer's streak of 23 consecutive major semifinals on a cold, wet day in Paris. Soderling has become a legitimate Top 5 player, playing in the last two Roland Garros finals (losing both). Federer's recent disappointments at majors have all come at the hands of tall, muscular, mobile players like Soderling (French Open 2010) Berdych (Wimbledon 2010) and Juan Martin del Potro (US Open 2009). It is supremely possible that this could be another addition to that string. But, I doubt it. Federer has something to prove, and like most great players hates to lose to any player twice in a row. For Federer to win he will need to play better than he did against Jurgen Melzer in the 4th Round, and he has to hope that his felicitous luck continues. PREDICTION: Federer in 4 sets.
Gael Monfils FRA (17) vs. Novak Djokovic SRB (3). The extremely gifted French player has never beaten the Serbian champion, but a lot of their matches have actually been pretty close. The annoying aspect of Monfils' game is that despite being (in Jim Courier's words) "the most gifted athlete tennis has ever produced," the 6'4" 176-pound speedster plays a defensive, counter-punching style of tennis. Monfils did well to dismiss his even more gifted French compatriot Richard Gasquet in straight sets in the fourth round (winning the last 5 games) to reach his first ever US Open quarterfinal. Djokovic has also played well, easily dismissing American Mardy Fish in straight sets.Unless New York City gets very hot and/or Monfils (does and) starts playing the way all his coaches have been begging him to play (lights out, aggressive tennis) Djokovic will be in his fourth consecutive US Open semifinal, where he would most likely face Roger Federer for the third consecutive year. PREDICTION: Djokovic in 4 sets.
Francisco Verdasco ESP (8) vs. Rafael Nadal ESP (1). This is a repeat of the now-legendary 2009 Australian Open Men's Semifinal where Nadal beat Verdasco in a 5-hour, 14-minute 5-sets instant classic. It's doubtful that this repeat will be as amazing as that match (very few matches in any year are). I'm sure many people would be satisfied if this match is as exciting as Verdasco's last match, where he came back from 2-sets to love down against David Ferrer and won the 5th set despite being down a service break and then 1-4 in the tie-break--winning the last 6 points of the match! Nadal is playing the best tennis I have ever seen him play, and is clearly the best player in the tournament so far (he still has not dropped serve!) but he hasn't really been tested. He has clearly had the better half of the draw and potentially will be able to reach the final of a major by only facing one Top 10 player. Verdasco has never beaten Nadal in ten attempts, but if he plays like his life depends on it, just maybe he can turn that stat around. After all, before Soderling beat Federer in France, he had lost to the Swiss player 11-times in a row. Is Verdasco how one pronounces Soderling in Spanish? PREDICTION: Nadal in 4 sets.