US Open Day 1: Djokovic Makes Positive Start, Nishikori Upset by Paire

So we are underway with the final slam of 2015 and it was the good start for the favorite Djokovic, and not only because he won his match against Souza 6-1, 6-1. 6-1. The fourth seed Nishikori, who is in Djokovic’s half and who he lost to last year, was upset 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6), 4-6 by Paire. Nishikori, who made the final last year, was up *6-4 in the fourth set tie-break. That is another very disappointing performance from him.

In a year that some thought he could win his first slam, he has not passed the quarterfinals of any slam. As far as I’m concerned his serve is just too weak and too much of a liability. He is too short and doesn’t win enough free points off his serve. It’s been another disappointing year for the generation of Nishikori, Raonic, and Dimitrov. There is still slam winning potential there, but only time will tell if it comes to fruition.

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As far as Djokovic is concerned he got the kind of start he would have been looking for. Souza wasn’t great, but three breadsticks is nonetheless and impressive scoreline against a top 100 player. Djokovic made 75% first serves, hit 22 winners, and committed only 7 unforced errors. It was a masterful performance and it may even be fair to say that he is back after not being at his best in Montreal and Cincinnati.

Of course, it was just a first round match and the opponent was not of the highest quality, but it is good early signs for him. He looked in more attacking mode than he has of late and that is the key for him. When he becomes too defensive and passive guys like Murray and Federer can take advantage. He has probably been working hard with Becker in the last week on these things to make sure he is in the best possible shape to win a second US Open.

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There is a long way to go but with Nishikori losing his draw, which is not very hard to begin with, has opened up even more. Djokovic’s toughest opponent before the final might now be Nadal who defeated Coric 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. But Nadal is still far from certain of a place in the quarterfinals. He will probably lose to Fognini, Raonic, or someone else. I do hope he makes the quarterfinals so Djokovic can teach him another lesson.

  • Today’s Action

Today the second and third seeds Federer and Murray will start their US Open campaigns against Mayer and Kyrgios respectively. Pretty tough opening rounds for both players but of course you’d expect both of them to get through without too much trouble. If Kyrgios plays his best he could possibly cause Murray problems but that is a big if. Mayer almost defeated Federer in Shanghai last year, but I don’t expect Federer to have many problems this time around.

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It will be interesting to see how Murray and Federer respond to the Djoker’s impressive win yesterday anyway. Stan and Berdych will be in action too, and so will Thiem.

  • The Prediction Game

Ok so I had some requests for the prediction game and since I didn’t pick a prediction match for the first round I will pick two matches for today. They will be Murray vs Kyrgios and Federer vs Mayer. Remember to post your predictions on the predictions page before the matches begin. I changed the points allocation slightly so read the rules again and make sure you understand how everything works. Bring ’em on!

  • Highlights

The is in your court.

US Open Draw 2015 – Murray in Federer’s Half

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You know I don’t put much faith in draws but let’s take a look at the draws of the top four seeds.

  • Djokovic’s Draw
  • Souza
  • Haider-Maurer/Pospisil
  • Seppi
  • Goffin
  • Nadal/Raonic
  • Nishikori/Cilic
  • Murray/Federer

Djokovic got a pretty friendly draw and if he doesn’t win the tournament he won’t have many excuses in terms of the draw. And I think he will be relieved after he has struggled with his form of late(only by his own high standards) and perhaps an injury niggle or two as well. The North-American hard court swing has not historically been particularly friendly to him and he needs whatever help he can get.

There is no reason he shouldn’t win another title, though, having lost two finals that he really should have won. You’d think with this draw he would at the very least make the final. The first four rounds are easy for him and the quarterfinals should not be a problem either. I hope it’s Nadal so we can see another good roasting, but Nadal already has to cope with Coric in the first round.

It’s hard to believe Djokovic would lose for a second consecutive year to Nishikori, but Nishikori himself has the toughest draw of the top four seeds and he is not guaranteed of a semi-final spot by any means, especially if Cilic catches fire again. But somehow I doubt that. In the final it is hard to imagine him losing to Federer unless Federer is in the zone. But Federer would have to be fresh and win in no more than four sets.

It would be very difficult but not entirely impossible. Murray would be more dangerous probably given what happened in Montreal recently and also at the French Open. If Murray stays aggressive and isn’t too tired from a tough match with Federer for instance then he could win a second US Open title this year.

  • Nishikori’s Draw
  • Paire
  • Ilhan/Stepanek
  • Dolgopolov/Robredo
  • Tsonga/Monfils
  • Cilic/Ferrer
  • Djokovic
  • Murray/Federer

So like I said Nishikori has a tough draw. His third and fourth rounds will already be very challenging, and then Cilic and Ferrer can both be very difficult to deal with. He is good on these courts though so he is the favorite to get through to the semis.

  • Murray’s Draw
  • Kyrgios
  • Mannarino
  • Bellucci
  • Anderson/Thiem
  • Wawrinka/Simon
  • Federer/Berdych
  • Djokovic

That’s a pretty tough first round for Murray, but I think people make it out tougher than it really is. Kyrgios hasn’t done much of late and Murray already once made short work of him. Yes, Kyrgios can be dangerous but I’m not sure he is in a very good mental space right now. I’m hoping Thiem will make the fourth round and defend his points, but Anderson could be a problem.

Murray should be fine with either of them though and it would be interesting if he plays Stan in the quarters. Playing Federer in the semis would be very interesting too. He didn’t do that badly in Cincy when he was physically exhausted and the slower US Open courts would be better for him. The two have only met once at the US Open before in the 2008 final and I’d love to see how they match up now.

  • Federer’s Draw
  • Mayer
  • Darcis/Baghdatis
  • Kohlschreiber 
  • Isner/Karlovic
  • Berdych/Gasquet
  • Murray/Wawrinka
  • Djokovic

So it turns out that Federer’s title in Cincy didn’t help him much as far as getting the second seed at the US Open goes. He would have been hoping to avoid both Djokovic and Murray before the final but as it turns out Murray landed in his half. Federer also gets Isner or Karlovic in the fourth round and Berdych in the quarterfinals. So I guess he has a pretty tough draw but like we saw last year it doesn’t work out as you expect.

Last year Federer looked to have a cakewalk draw, but it ended up being tough. This year it could turn out differently. Federer could end up having a cakewalk draw. Isner and Karlovic are pretty tough, but they are not baseliners and won’t drain him of much energy, even if it goes to four sets. They are pretty dangerous with their big serves, but historically Federer has dealt well with them. Berdych hasn’t bothered Federer much of late either.

But you never know. If he catches fire he can draw Federer into a long match or beat him even. You just don’t know. Stan and Murray would both be tough and if Federer wants to have a chance in the final he can not afford to be drawn into a long match. If it goes to five sets that would be very bad for him. He’d have to win in four sets at most. All in all a pretty tall order for Federer but on the positive side he didn’t play Montreal this year.

That was a mistake last year and he will be much fresher this time around and he looked in great form in Cincy too. I certainly wouldn’t write his chances off, but he’d have to be clinical and can’t afford any ‘off’ matches that turn into a long physical battle.

 

All set then! Let me know your thoughts about the draw. I like the draw and of course I’d like to see Djokovic win a second US Open which I feel is overdue, but there are no guarantees and mostly I am just looking forward to some good tennis and matchups.

The is in your court.

Federer Surprises Djokovic to Win 7th Cincinnati Title

Congrats to Federer on a much deserved seventh title in Cincinnati yesterday. I can easily say I told you so, that Federer had it coming after losing three big finals to Djokovic, or that it was inevitable with the Cincinnati court speed. I mean let’s face it, Federer keeps winning the matches on faster courts over the best of three sets. But I’d rather focus on the fact that Federer surprised Djokovic in my opinion.

  • Opening Set

Federer tried the surprise tactic of taking the second serve on the rise early on and it was a big flop. It actually had me laughing. Taking the second serve of the likes of Anderson, Lopez, and Murray on the rise is one thing, but not only does Djokovic have a good second serve, he also has great passing shots. So when Federer tried the tactic again and actually won the point, it surprised me.

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It also surprised Djokovic because he missed a straightforward passing shot into the net. Federer was the one applying all the pressure to Djokovic’s serve and had him 15-40 early on but couldn’t convert. He had him at 30-40 in another game as well. As the set progressed Djokovic started holding serve more comfortably and I figured those early missed chances by Federer would come back to haunt him.

But when the set came down to a tie-break Federer had the audacity to take Djokovic’s second serve on the rise again. It paid off again and that seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back because Djokovic only managed to win one point in the tie-break. Advantage Federer.

  • Second Set

How would Djokovic respond to these audacious tactics from Federer? Not well. He got broken in his opening service game and quickly found himself 0-3 down. After that he still kind of hung in there but never looked very interested in fighting back. Whether it was just tiredness or the fact that Federer’s tactics took him totally by surprise I’ll leave to you to decide. It was probably a bit of both.

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I think he was caught off guard and then he pretty much decided to throw in the towel. He’d already had four very tough three setters in the last couple of weeks and he probably just figured he will conserve some energy for once. As usual he was very sporting at the handshake, though. No bitterness like we have seen plenty of times from Fedal.

  • Final Thoughts

So it was a well-deserved first Masters title of the year for Federer and he played very well all week. I liked the fact that he tried something new with taking the second serve on the rise. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the surface was fast and it would be very hard to do the same thing at the US Open without getting passed, but it was something fresh and only Federer is talented enough to pull off something crazy like that.

I also think Federer has been playing too well this year not to win something above ATP 500 level. The level he showed at Wimbledon was as good as anything he has ever played. He’s been consistent all year but falling over the final hurdle in the big events, very much like last year. I think if Djokovic defeated him in Cincy it would have really hurt. It would also have been the first time either of them had won four matches in a row in this tremendous rivalry which Federer leads by one again.

It’s really so much better than the overrated Fedal rivalry as well as the Djokoray rivalry because the matchup is perfect. A great server against a great returner. A great offensive player against a great defensive player. With this title, Federer is also back on equal terms with Djokovic in terms of Masters titles with 24. Nadal is still leading with 27 Masters titles, but he will easily be surpassed by Djokovic.

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Djokovic also loses for the fifth time in the Cincy finals and misses out on the career Masters again, but I’m sure he’ll get it eventually. For now this loss may have been a blessing in disguise. Someone told me on Twitter that Djokovic became cocky and expected to win. I actually think that may be true. And you can hardly blame him after the way he won all the important titles against Federer this year.

Nonetheless, losing now and then, even when you are dominating is a good way to stay humble and motivated. I think with the eye on the one that really matters in New York, it may have been better for Djokovic to lose this one than to win it. He will still have many chances to complete the career Masters, but for now winning the US Open is huge. One US Open title is not good enough for a player of his qualities and winning his tenth slam in New York will put him right on track to get into the GOAT debate.

It sure as hell won’t be easy, but I think it is better for his chances to taste defeat now and stay hungry and motivated. Now he has something to prove, as opposed to having won Cincy and everyone just expecting him to collect the US Open trophy. He has been so dominant this year that he is still easily the favorite for the title, but now at least he will feel like he has something to prove again. Two Masters final losses would be a good exchange for another US Open title.

Edit: Federer won the first four matches in the rivalry, but I think you catch my drift.

  • Highlights

The is in your court.