With the first week of the US Open completed and (almost) all of the big names still in the tournament it is time to preview the business end of the tournament. Of the top four, Novak Djokovic has looked utterly imperious in coasting through to the last 16, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal similarly comfortable and Andy Murray a little shaky, not least in his second round 5-setter against Robin Haase. David Ferrer, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and Mardy Fish are also still in contention with 7 seed Gael Monfils and 9 seed Tomas Berdych the highest ranked players to fall. Hopefully, the forecasted poor weather will bypass New York and the tournament will progress as scheduled.
Fourth Round Matches
Novak Djokovic (1) v Alexander Dolgopolov (22)
Djokovic has been almost invincible all year and after a slight dip in form during Montreal and Cincinnati he has regained his edge at Flushing Meadows; crushing his groundstrokes with impunity and covering the court like a speed demon. Dolgopolov also has a huge game from the ground which may pose problems for Djokovic if he can hit the forehand consistently – although attempting to outduel Djokovic on the cement has proved absolutely impossible this year. The other problem Dolgopolov will face is Djokovic’s ability to track down almost any shot. If Dolgopolov is on then he may keep it close or even steal a set but Djokovic will win comfortably in the end
Djokovic in 3
Janko Tipsarevic (20) v Juan Carlos Ferrero
This one should be close. Both players benefitted from withdrawals in the previous round – Ferrero particularly happy with his walkover after outlasting Monfils in a brutal 5-setter and match of the tournament thus far, in round 2. Tipsarevic has more weapons at his disposal off the ground but Ferrero is quick and will frequently make Tipsarevic play an extra shot – potentially taking its toll over five sets. If the notoriously flaky Tipsarevic doesn’t collapse under the pressure of attempting to reach his first Grand Slam quarter final then he should win; but Ferrero is a wily old fox who might just be able to rile the Serb enough to induce a meltdown.
Ferrero in 4
Roger Federer (3) v Juan Monaco
This is probably the easiest match of the round to call; and has been surprisingly selected as the floodlit match on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court on Monday night. Federer was courageous in dismissing the dangerous Croat Marin Cilic in the previous round and this should prove a simpler assignment. While Federer is susceptible to players who can blast him off the court (see Tsonga at Wimbledon & Djokovic at Melbourne) Monaco doesn’t have the firepower to truly test the Swiss. It may be close for a set or even two, but Federer will have far too much game for the Argentine.
Federer in 3
Mardy Fish (8) v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (11)
This is definitely the toughest match of the round to call. After Djokovic, Fish has the been the most in-form player on tour this summer but Tsonga has added consistency to his Grand Slam performances and has the artillery to blow any opponent off the court on a given day. The match will be played in the early evening and the New York crowd will be raucously backing Fish – this may just be enough to supplement his serve and athleticism, and carry him to victory in what is potentially the match of the tournament.
Fish in 5
Gilles Simon (12) v John Isner (28)
Isner will be confident of victory if his serve fires; Simon knows that he will win if he can get into enough rallies. With the match resting on the 6”10 American’s serve the pressure will be on the Simon return. The Frenchman will be confident of holding serve but will not want to go into tiebreakers with Isner. The towering serve has been dominant during the first week, with Isner’s 80% of first serve points won in the tournament second among the remaining players. Simon’s return game may not quite be of the required standard to make Isner look as pedestrian as the top 4 do but it may just be enough to see him through this match.
Simon in 4
Andy Murray (4) v Donald Young
Young actually beat Murray in Indian Wells earlier this season when the Scot was suffering a crisis of confidence but the 4th round at Flushing Meadows, in possibly the night match on Ashe, is a different story. While the inexperienced American has swagger enough not to be overawed by the occasion, Murray’s overall ability should be sufficient to ensure a comfortable victory. Murray looked impressive in humiliating Feliciano Lopez in the previous round and will feel that he has a genuine chance of breaking his Grand Slam duck here at Flushing Meadows. 7-time major winner and respected tennis pundit Mats Wilander believes that he will do exactly that.
Murray in 3
David Ferrer (5) v Andy Roddick (21)
Roddick has appeared somewhat rejuvenated at the Open following a dismal summer. While his opportunity to win another major has almost certainly disappeared he is still a threat to win any given match. Unfortunately for Roddick, Ferrer is a bit of a nightmare opponent for the American with his fantastic court coverage and solid groundstrokes off both wings. The number 5 seed also destroyed Roddick in straight sets in the Davis Cup earlier this summer. Another contender for the night match on Ashe, Roddick may need the extra boost of a pumped up New York crowd to compete in this one.
Ferrer in 4
Rafael Nadal (2) v Gilles Muller
Defending champion Nadal has had trouble with the big-serving Luxembourger in the past, with a notable defeat at Wimbledon in 2005 on his resume. Even this year, Muller took Nadal to a couple of tie-breakers on the grass. Muller has played well in New York before, reaching the quarters in 2008 and also serving a colossal 65 aces in the first three rounds this year and he may well challenge Nadal in this match. However, once Nadal starts getting into Muller’s service games, as he undoubtedly will, then the Spaniard will typically dominate from the ground. Muller’s huge serve may win him a set, but no more.
Nadal in 4