The initial week at the U.S. Open is complete and the men’s field has been scaled down to sixteen players. Two names missing from the roll call are Andy Roddick and Andy Murray. These two touted favorites were upset early on. Here’s a summary of the past seven days and an analysis of what could unfold the next few rounds.
While Rafael Nadal barely passed his pre-tournament exams in Toronto and Cincinnati, in his first three matches at the Open, the Spaniard gets an A plus. Despite being tested, with a beefed up first serve to the tune of 130 miles per hour at times, Nadal has dispatched each adversary in three sets. In the fourth round, Nadal will face compatriot Feliciano Lopez. With Nadal’s 5-2 record against his fellow citizen, Lopez is likely the subsequent sacrificial lamb.
After surviving a five set tussle in the first round against Fabio Fognini ranked 86th, Fernando Verdasco is in the round of 16 and will take on David Ferrer, the tenth seed. Although Verdasco has a 6-4 edge in their encounters, Ferrer prevailed at their last meeting on clay and at their only battle on hardcourt in 2004. David Nalbandian, one of the few players who could have troubled Nadal, was easily given his marching orders by Verdasco in the third round.
Also in the top section of the draw, seventh seed Tomas Berdych was surprised in the first round by Michael Llodra. However, the jaw dropper came today with Murray, the 2008 finalist and fourth seed, dismissed by Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round. The Swiss advanced for the third occasion to the fourth round in New York. Wawrinka will meet Sam Querrey for a spot in the quarterfinals. Consequently, for Querrey, this is the ideal scenario to book his maiden quarterfinal berth at a major.
The Spaniards have ruled and Tommy Robredo made sure to partake in the round of 16 festivities. With John Isner beaten by Mikhail Youzhny in the third round, Robredo and the Russian will fight for a place in the quarterfinals.
Another American propelled into the limelight this week was eighteen year old Ryan Harrison. After coming through three rounds of qualifying, Harrison stunned Ivan Ljubicic, the fifteenth seed, in the first round. Furthermore, Harrison was one point from a win in a fifth set tiebreaker in the second round. Harrison became the first American teen to vanquish a top twenty player at a major since Roddick in 2001 also at this event.
With Murray done and dusted, Verdasco, Lopez, Ferrer, Wawrinka, Querrey, Robredo and Youzhny are the survivors in the top half of the draw. Nadal has a record of 48 victories and 9 defeats against the guys left . Thus, one can effectively write Nadal’s name on the final’s program. As the axiom says, “one never knows for whom he works”.
Following a routine debut match, Roddick was toppled in the second round by Janko Tipsarevic. As such, Roddick’s quest for a second major will be delayed another year. With Roddick taking leave, a formidable hindrance to Novak Djokovic was removed in the bottom half of the draw.
After a near exit in the first round against Victor Troicki, Djokovic cleaned up his act to reach the fourth round against Mardy Fish. The American had a strange five set, first round match whereby he lost one game in the three sets he carried. In the third round, Fish escaped again, wrapping up the win in five sets against veteran Arnaud Clement who shocked Marcos Baghdatis in the first round. Fish will be in search of his initial victory against Djokovic in five attempts. With the wave Fish has been riding recently, it’s a feasible goal.
In the second round, sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko fell to Richard Gasquet. With his most successful showing at a major since 2008, Gasquet is now into the fourth round and will collide with fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils. In contrast to Monfils whose play has had many highs as well as lows, Gasquet bounced his adversaries in three sets. Hence, if Gasquet continues to be consistent, he has an excellent shot at making the quarterfinals.
In the same section, Marin Cilic, the eleventh seed, ran into Kei Nishikori in the second round. Cilic was worn out by his opponent and the heat. Yet, an injured Nishikori retired the subsequent round giving Albert Montanes safe passage.
Robin Soderling progressed to the fourth round after getting through the first round in five sets. Since then, Soderling has been flawless and faces Montanes in the fourth round. Thus, for Soderling, a quarterfinal meeting with Roger Federer appears almost certain.
Compared to Nadal, Federer has not been pushed and has readily reached the round of 16. Federer will confront Jurgen Melzer whom he knocked out in their sole career meeting at Wimbledon two months ago. For the five time champion, the real work will start with Soderling his likely quarterfinal counterpart.
With Roddick and Murray gone, it’s time to recalibrate. In the top half of the draw, Nadal appears to be holding all the aces and seems a shoo-in for his first final in the Big Apple. The singular brainteaser is who will be on the other side of the net on that day. If Federer maintains the form he has demonstrated of late, in spite of the difficulties which Soderling or Djokovic could present in the quarterfinals or semifinals respectively, he should solve them. In that case, there will be a Nadal-Federer final with the latter having a high chance of bagging his seventeenth major. To the contrary, Soderling, Djokovic or Fish will be the one standing between Nadal and the career grand slam. Under those circumstances, the Spaniard would be sitting pretty and hoisting his first U.S. Open trophy.