The final slam of the year kicks off on Monday in Flushing Meadows, New York. The US Open looks to be the most competitive of the four slams on paper with Andy Murray (Bio), Novak Djokovic (Bio) and Rafael Nadal (Bio) all having valid claims to being the favourite to take home the trophy once more.
Check out the full draw here: US Open Men’s 2013 draw
Last year it was Andy Murray that ended his long wait for a slam with a five set victory over Novak Djokovic but this time round he may have to beat both the Serbian and Rafael Nadal to win number three.
Novak Djokovic heads this section and it is arguably the toughest of them all, containing three players who have already defeated him from outside the top 5. Richard Berankis finally found some form in Winston Salem after a terrible summer but he drew the short straw and will face Djokovic in round one. It’s unlikely Benjamin Becker or Lukas Rosol will put up much of a fight in round two so all eyes are on the potental third round match with Grigor Dimitrov.
Backed by a rowdy Spanish crowd, Dimitrov defeated Djokovic in three sets in Madrid but has yet to convert his potential into a deep slam run just yet with just one third round (French Open 2013) to date in his career. Djokovic would defeat Dimitrov there to gain his revenge, dropping just seven games and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar scoreline should Dimitrov make it as far. Joao Sousa and one of Jarkko Nieminen and Lukasz Kubot stand in his way.
Benoit Paire has an outstanding chance of making the second week with only Alex Bogomolov and one of Tim Smyczek and James Duckworth standing in his way of a meeting with most likely Fabio Fognini. The Frenchman’s struggles with consistency are well documented but his talent is undeniable. A third round between the two is one to watch out for but Fognini’s hard court form coming in is a little shaky. He infamously foot faulted away the match in his loss to Radek Stepanek in Cincinnati to go 1-2 in the US Open Series.
Tommy Haas (Bio) shocked Djokovic in Miami 6-2 6-4 but has since lost in straight sets in both Wimbledon and the French Open. He is a test for anyone over three sets but it is difficult to see him going deep into the tournament if Djokovic is standing in his way. Recent losses over top 10-ers Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro are disappointing if he wants to establish himself here. He has a 0-2 record against first round opponent Paul Henri-Mathieu, although both meetings were in 2005. Alexandr Dolgopolov as always is extremely tough to call but found some form with a semi final in Winston Salem. The Ukranian defeated Haas last year in Washington but lost easily this year to him.
Del Potro (Bio) continues to edge nearer to the form of 2009 that saw him win the title after an outstanding Wimbledon and a title in Washington. Although losing from match point up against John Isner, he looks ready to go barring any injury problems. A second round with Lleyton Hewitt could be a night match classic, but the Australian must see off the returning Brian Baker first. Jurgen Melzer’s up and down season continues – the Austrian was victorious in Winston Salem after ending a four match losing streak.
One of the things to watch out for in the draw was which side of the draw Andy Murray would land in after he slipped to No.3 in the rankings thanks to Rafael Nadal’s incredible summer. Losses to Tomas Berdych (Bio) and Ernests Gulbis aren’t ideal preparation leading into this tournament but Murray will always step it up a notch once into the swing of things at a slam.
Michael Llodra tends to struggle outdoors these days and should be a fairly comfortable match for Murray to begin his tournament. He is 3-0 against the Frenchman including a four set victory at this tournament five years ago. Amongst a sea of hype, Donald Young made the fourth round in 2011 where he lost to Murray in straight sets at this tournament. Things have gone downhill for Young since then but he was impressive in qualifying and is a potential round three opponent for Murray. With an opponent who is 1-8 on hard courts at main tour level, there is a great chance for the American to make the headlines once more. Waiting in round three is another opponent who hasn’t lit things up on the surface either – Juan Monaco is just 2-5 so Florian Mayer will fancy his chances of defeating a seed.
Nicolas Almagro (Bio) is another candidate for an early exit – he is 0-2 against his opening opponent Denis Istomin although neither match was on hard courts – while Steve Johnson (a potential second round matchup) took the Spaniard to five at the Australian Open this year. Also in his section is Andreas Seppi, whose hard court performances this summer aren’t much to shout about either. He went 1-3 but should still have enough to defeat Xavier Malisse and Lukas Lacko or Somdev Devvarman.
Many of the troublesome matchups for Murray are in the next section with Tomas Berdych heading the list. The Czech will feel that he could have beaten Murray at this tournament last year were conditions more to his liking but he struggled a great deal with the heavy New York winds and lost in four sets. A 6-4 record over Murray should leave the Czech feeling confident, especially with the most recent meeting being an easy 3 and 4 victory for Berdych. However, Berdych’s tendency to throw in a bad performance from time to time at slams should be noted. In losing to Gael Monfils at the French Open, he continued his run of losing in at least one slam first round every year since 2004. It’s very difficult to see Paolo Lorenzi pulling off a result like this on hard courts so it could be Jiri Vesely who gives Berdych his toughest test before a possible meeting with Stanislas Wawrinka.
Wawrinka (Bio) opens against Radek Stepanek with the head to head at an extraordinary 5-0 to the Czech although they have not met since 2009 with Stepanek rapidly declining in the past few years. Ivo Karlovic is more than capable of giving much of this section a tough match after his recovery from illness and the fifth set tiebreak format suits a big server such as himself. He plays James Blake in round one with another big server up next for the winner. Daniel Brands plays No.17 seed Kevin Anderson. Anderson lost in Bogota to Karlovic in three sets as the Croatian went on to take the title.
David Ferrer’s (Bio) position as fourth seed always leaves one section wide open in the eyes of many and it is hard to disagree with a number of talented shotmakers ready to usurp the Spaniard who has struggled by his standards this summer. It looks a year too early for the highly rated Australian Nick Kyrgios to do anything in the opening round but he showed his ability on the big stage by knocking out Radek Stepanek in three tiebreak sets at the French Open.
Ernests Gulbis’ personality has always led to a lot of hype surrounding the Latvian although in the past year he has begun to show more consistency with a handy 12-3 record on hard courts this year. This is the type of draw he should be relishing and will fancy his chances to surprise Ferrer if they both make the third round. It’s hard to see either of his first two opponents troubling Gulbis, given the majority of their time is spent on the Challenger circuit. Gulbis won just three games against Ferrer in their only meeting, although that is over six years ago now.
Meanwhile, the rise of Jerzy Janowicz (Bio) has been exciting to watch and it isn’t too out there to suggest he could make a second grand slam semi final in a row if he plays to his potential. He was a round 1 loser here last year to Dennis Novikov but has progressed a lot in the past 12 months and should be looking at least the fourth round. Maximo Gonzalez spends much of his time on the clay and will find it tough against the big serve of the Pole. Jack Sock retired in Winston Salem and will struggle if he isn’t 100% fit. Janko Tipsarevic was a quarter finalist last year but his performance level has dropped dramatically. He has already suffered one loss to Janowicz in his career – 3-6 6-1 4-1 ret. in Paris. Tipsarevic will open against Pablo Cuevas who once more uses his protected ranking to enter this tournament.
Richard Gasquet’s (Bio) second week struggles are well documented but he is enough who will feel confident of springing a shock with some very beatable opponents in his section. Michael Russell is first up with the potential of an all-French second rounder as the winner awaits either Stephane Robert or the big serving Albano Olivetti, both of which qualified for the tournament. Dmitry Tursunov was outside the top 100 last year but now finds himself seeded 32 after an excellent year. He starts against Aljaz Bedene with wildcard Guillaume Rufin a likely second round foe.
The next highest seed in the section is Milos Raonic (Bio), who owns a 1-0 head to head over Gasquet after defeating the Frenchman in straights in Cincinnati last year. After an awful grass court season, Raonic bounced back and would make the final in his native Canada, although it would be easy for eventual winner Rafael Nadal once he got there. Two qualifiers – Thomas Fabbiano and Florent Serra – reside in this section while Feliciano Lopez is the other seed. Lopez has a 1-0 record over Raonic although on clay rather than the Canadian’s preferred hard courts.
The final quarter sees Rafael Nadal who, thanks to an outstanding summer has stolen the No.2 seed and with it the more generous side of the draw. Ryan Harrison once again gets a tough draw with Nadal becoming the fourth big four opponent he has had to play in the opening two rounds of a slam in the past two years. He played Nadal tough in a first set in Indian Wells before falling to a 7-6 6-2 defeat earlier in the year.
Nadal has been in outstanding form but there is the fear that too much tennis will have burnt him out and he could suffer an early exit but it is hard to see that happening with such a straight forward draw on paper. Vasek Pospisil and possibly Fernando Verdasco are in the way of him and the second week although Nikolay Davydenko has shown he can trouble Nadal in the past but the Russian is quickly declining these days. However, he is 6-0 against Nadal on all types of hard courts. John Isner (Bio) is the big American hope after another great summer but he has always struggled in five setters and despite playing outstanding tennis against Nadal in the Cincinnati final, was just not good enough to break down the Spaniard. A second round tie with Gael Monfils could see Isner exit early once more.
Although not quite as competitive these days, the Fedal matchup always gets people talking. Roger Federer (Bio) silenced some of the critics by taking it to Nadal in Cincinnati and winning the first set before his defeat. Despite a disappointing summer, Federer should still see to it that he meets Nadal in the quarter final but the five time champion will have a tough task on his hands defeating the newly aggressive Nadal. Grega Zemlja has won just nine games in two matches against Federer while Santiago Giraldo and Carlos Berlocq have never had much success at this tournament. Sam Querrey should do enough to make the third round but will most likely falter under the pressure of the crowd against Federer.
The eleventh seed Kei Nishikori (Bio) continues to grind away without really standing out – his best performance to date at this slam is a fourth round in 2008. He faces a tough opener against the British qualifier Daniel Evans – who has finally begun to find some success outside of Britain with two Challenger finals in recent weeks. Bernard Tomic will want to give the US fans a better impression after tanking accusations were fired at him in defeat to Andy Roddick last year. He begins against Albert Ramos. Tommy Robredo rounds off the seeded players and will open against Marinko Matosevic.