The final Grand Slam of the season, the US Open, kicks off today with 49 of the top 50 in the ATP rankings taking part in the 128 player draw. Big names like Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer are primed to impress and perform well, but other top players won’t be having happy stays in New York, and some new names could rise into the spotlight.
5: Alexander Zverev
The qualifier Zverev has a great record below the main tour level at just 18, and a .500 record on it, suggesting that he has an excellent chance to earn a Grand Slam win and knock off his countryman Philipp Kohlschreiber in the opening round. From there the former top junior will need to beat either Lukas Rosol or fellow teenager Jared Donaldson for a nearly certain chance at world #2 Roger Federer in the third round. While Federer is likely a bridge to far for this ATP star in the making, Zverev should still post a solid result this US Open and outperform expectations after reaching the quarterfinals in Washington this Summer.
4: David Goffin
The undersized ballstriker Goffin has put together a solid top 15 season and should be able to continue his good form in New York. The Belgian #1 should get a rematch with Novak Djokovic at the start of the second week, after pushing Novak to three sets in Cincy, as long as he takes care of business against Simone Bolelli, Joao Sousa/Ricardas Berankis and Jerzy Janowicz or Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3 most likely. It’s not the easiest draw in the world and has some variety but Goffin has used this season to move his game up to a level that is just outside the most elite ATP players.
3: Alexandr Dolgopolov
A semifinalist in Cincy, Dolgo is back into the top 40 these days and continues his streaky play that occasionally flashes top 10 talent while other times is befitting of a player on the challenger tour. The human highlight reel took a set off Djokovic in Cincy, upset Tomas Berdych, and also gave Djokovic a tough match earlier this year in Miami. If he can find some form for the USO he’s a threat to go as far as the quarterfinals or semifinals, but Kei Nishikori stands in his way, as does Sam Groth, Tommy Robredo, and likely the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/Gael Monfils winner if he beats Nishikori. Dolgopolov has played Kei close before and to get over the top he’ll likely need help from his opponent, that said his tennis is certainly worth watching at the moment.
2: John Isner
John Isner had success all summer long with a title in Atlanta, a final in Washington, and a quarterfinal in Montreal, and on top of that he finally got a good rest period in advance of the US Open which should prepare him to excel as the American #1 in his home slam. Isner’s first big test should come against fellow big server Ivo Karlovic in the third round and #2 Roger Federer looms in the round of 16, but Federer has shown vulnerability in best of five Grand Slam matches this year, and perhaps Isner will shock everyone and reach the quarterfinals beyond just putting together a solid week 2 showing.
1: Kevin Anderson
The Winston-Salem champion was in an awful slump post Wimbledon, but he finally snapped it and didn’t drop serve all week after his first round match at the Winston-Salem Open. Snapping a string of ATP final losses should add to his confidence and the big serving South African has a gam built to perform well at the USO. His 7-1 record in his last two tournaments should continue to grow in the win column as Andrey Rublev, a young gun, is first up and presuming he gets through the seed Dominic Thiem in a weak section, he, like Isner, will have to run into an elite player in the fourth round, that being Andy Murray, barring any surprises. Like Federer, Murray is in excellent form and is one of the tournament favorites, and Anderson doesn’t have a great h2h record, but if his game stays strong he should at least reach the second week and have a shot at more after nearly knocking off Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon.
5: Roberto Bautista Agut
RBA already has more losses than he had all of last season, and he has far fewer wins as he’s fallen out of the top 20 and more or less had a wasted year. He’s still a good ball striker with a solid forehand but his game has failed to grow in any aspect and the slight decline in his performance (3-3 in his last 6 matches), could see him fall victim to Pierre-Hugues Herbert, a French wild card, in the opening round. PHH comes off an ATP final, and even if RBA wins that, he could also suffer defeat at the hands of Jerzy Janowicz in the next round. Once thought of as a player on the cusp of making a move into the top 10, RBA is now an afterthought on tour.
4: Grigor Dimitrov
Another player who is suffering through a bit of a “wasted” season where his results and ranking have declined, Grigor Dimitrov was practically top 10 caliber last year, but he’s failed to win any ATP titles and the 24 year old has been entirely unimpressive on North American hard courts this year. Dimitrov is still fun to watch and has all the shotmaking prowess one needs to be an elite ATP player, but I don’t see him reaching the second week of the US Open, as Marin Cilic will be the favorite in his section, should they meet in the third round. Dimitrov is currently without a coach, and it hasn’t seemed to have helped his results to be flying solo.
3: Milos Raonic
The Manitoba missile has been an entirely different player since foot surgery, and given his game is built around strong play on serve, even the slightest drop in his performance from the service line has resulted in a run of three straight losses, including two on North American hard courts this Summer. Raonic remains one of the most talked about players on tour, and when healthy and in-form he can challenge just about anyone with his powerful game but things aren’t clicking for him right now and Fernando Verdasco in round 2, or more likely Feliciano Lopez in round 3, who beat him in Cincy, should take advantage and secure a win, keeping him from reaching the second week as a #10 seed.
2: Philipp Kohlschreiber
The 31 year old Kohlschreiber has been entirely pedestrian off of clay this season as he’s suffered through his worst season of the last few. Peppo is just 4-8 on hard court surfaces this year and suffered a bad loss to Joao Sousa in hos only warm-up match pre US Open in Cincy. He was once one of the brightest one handed backhand players on tour with a defense to offense style and great use of angles, but he’s not likely to make any news this year at the US Open.
1: Gael Monfils
You never know what you’re going to get with Monfils, who is incredibly talented and fit, but struggles with injuries and at times focus. With that said he’s just 5-4 on the US Open surface this year and went just 1-2 on the US Open series this summer. Monfils is a fan favorite and doesn’t have a difficult draw, but he could be shocked by John Millman in round 2 or more likely fall to his countryman and good friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round 3. Tsonga is 5-2 in the h2h against Monfils and I don’t see Le Monf rising to the occasion this time.
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