After a great Olympic tournament, we prepare for the final major of 2016. Djokovic and Serena are still no. 1, and probably still the favorites, but with the top women playing well and some of the younger men showing good signs, we may be in for a great tournament.
All year long I've been complaining about the lack of consistency from the top women and how almost anyone in the top 10 could lose to anyone (really, anyone) on any given day. But now women like Kerber, Halep, and Muguruza have put together nice summers and I'm optimistic we'll have a good number of the top seeds around in the second week. Serena has to still be considered the favorite but there are plenty of chinks in her armor and she'll have to hit the ground running with Makarova in round 1. If she's not 100% healthy or 100% on her game, she'll be vulnerable to the other members of the top 5, assuming she makes it that deep in the tournament.
Kerber has been on fire since the tournament moved off of clay but came up one win short at Wimbledon, the Olympics, and Cincinnati. But it's to see her not reaching the semis especially with Vinci the next highest seed in her quarter. Halep and Muguruza have both played well in stretches, and Radwanska is still in the New Haven draw, losing only 2 games to Olympic bronze medalist Kvitova. The Czech seems to have righted the ship and could be a threat. There's also women like Keys and Kuznetsova, who could get hot and make a run (it's got to coming sooner or later for Keys, who has made finals in Rome and Montreal this year, plus 4th place at the Olympics). There's just a lot of names to throw in the hat this tournament, and I'm hoping that means high quality quarters, semis, and of course the final. I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Kerber to win this title, possibly over Serena, and claim the no. 1 ranking, leaving Serena tied with Graf (but Serena will get no. 1 back later this year since she's not defending any points).
There are 22 Americans in the draw, 17% of the field, including 4 seeds in the Williams sisters, Keys, and Vandeweghe, and qualifiers Pegula, Townsend, and Bellis (remember her). With the sheer volume of players, there are bound to be several reaching the 3rd and 4th rounds, and there's a few teens in the group looking to break out. But there Americans also have strength at the top with 3 top 8 seeds. This could be a good tournament for the local interest as well.
Serena vs Halep
Radwanska vs Venus
Muguruza vs Keys
Kerber vs Vinci
Djokovic or Murray, Murray or Djokovic, who will it be? Or could it possibly be someone different? Just like with Serena, there have been a few chinks in the Djokovic armor this summer. First the loss to Querrey at Wimbledon and then the first round exit to Del Potro at the Olympics. Can he get to Murray in the final, and then beat him? I'm pessimistic about his chances but he's proven me wrong before. He could play the in form Cilic in the quarters, who just beat Murray in Cincinnati. Murray is on fire, save the loss to Cilic, and has the easier half. I'm going to pick him to win title, based on his form, and Djokovic being ever so slightly down.
Can anyone spoil a Djokovic-Murray final? Cilic can, he's won this tournament before and as I mentioned, just beat Murray. That would be a really quarterfinal vs Djokovic. Raonic seems to flying under the radar this year despite playing in the Wimbledon final but he's a threat. I don't think Nadal is much of a threat. If he's able to win his first match or two, I think he can reach the quarters, but there's not much in his recent past that would suggest he's back to being able to compete against the very best -- he lost to Del Potro and Nishikori at the Olympics. I think Wawrinka is ripe to upset and has not been very consistent this year. The men in the top 10 seem to be on shakier ground than the women in this tournament, and this could lead a breakthrough by some of the younger names, especially Kyrgios and Zverev, who are near Wawrinka. Del Potro showed good form in the Olympics, but I wonder how he'll hold up in best of 5. I feel like there could be some surprises this year, so we'll see what happens.
There are 17 American men in the draw, but seems more like just depth than good depth. Despite all the US Big 4 (Isner, Johnson, Querrey, Sock) being seeded, none are top 16 seed, meaning it will be a little tougher to go deep. In addition, Sock and Fritz meet in the first round. There are 3 qualifiers, Donaldson and the Harrison brothers. I'm only expecting a few to reach the 3rd round, and I'll be pleasantly surprised if anyone makes the second week, although Isner has a draw to work with Gasquet as a potential 3rd round opponent.
Djokovic vs Cilic
Nadal vs Raonic
Wawrinka vs Thiem
Murray vs Nishikori
Pennetta def. Vinci (remember that?)
SF - Serena, Halep
QF - Venus, Azarenka, Kvitova, Mladenovic
Djokovic def. Federer
SF - Wawrinka, Cilic
QF - Tsonga, Gasquet, Lopez, Anderson
Former champions in the draw:
-Serena, Venus, Kuznetsova, Stosur
-Del Potro, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Cilic (just realized the US Open has produced 6 different champions the last 8 years)
Former junior champions in the draw:
-Lucic-Baroni (20 yrs ago), Flipkens, Pavlyuchenkova, Kucova, Vandeweghe, Watson, Gavrilova, Crawford, Konjuh
-Muller, Gasquet, Tsonga, Murray, Berankis, Dimitrov, Tomic, Sock, Coric, Fritz (last year's winner)
Enjoy the tennis!