2017 US Open: Men Draw Preview

Tennis Player Holds Racquet

Our tennis writer takes a look at the Men's draw for the 2017 US Open which finishes on Sunday 9 September. 

John McEnroe recently came out with a scathing critique of the ATP Tour schedule, lambasting the heavily congested build up to the year’s final Grand Slam. With 5 of the world’s top 11 players not in attendance, one can see the old rapscallion’s point. Andy Murray’s late withdrawal due to a hip injury has done one of 2 things. It has helped to further perpetuate the notion that we could be in for a hostile takeover in the guise of a ‘next gen’ player winning in the ‘Big Apple’.

But having made the decision to withdraw after the draw was decided, the Scot has scuppered the fairy-tale prospect of a Nadal-Federer final, with both players seeded to meet in the semi-finals. Nice one Andy. Regardless, this promises to be one of the most open Slams in recent memory.

2017 US Open | Men’s Draw | Monday 28 August - Sunday 3 September | Flushing Meadows

Past Winners
2016: Stan Wawrinka
2015: Novak Djokovic
2014: Marin Cilic
2013: Rafael Nadal
2012: Andy Murray

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The Absentees
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka is set to miss out through injury, meaning that the indomitable Roger Federer will represent Switzerland’s greatest hope of lifting the trophy. Novak Djokovic’s decision to skip the end of the season really got the ball rolling for the mass exodus ahead of New York. Former Wimbledon finalist Raonic and former Flushing Meadows finalist Kei Nishikori will also miss out.

And Andy Murray’s withdrawal means that the event will lack the presence of Murray, Djokovic and Wawrinka, who share a combined total of 18 Grand Slams. This will embolden not only the rising stars of world tennis, but the likes of Del Potro and Cilic- both former champions eager to recapture the glories of times gone past.

The Favourites- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
This one is really a no-brainer. The greatest rivals in tennis history have been conducting their own version of Back to the Future this year, dominating men’s tennis and having utter hegemony over the Slams. Add to that the fact that they have picked up 4 of the 6 Masters 1000 Series titles and you get some impression of how immense these 2 legends have been. Rafa Nadal’s French Open victory- otherwise known as the Rafael Nadal benefit event- was just the perfect tonic for the Spaniard in the wake of that heart-breaking defeat In Melbourne. The newly crowned World Number 1 has, however, looked rather ordinary on the American hardcourts. Defeat to Denis Shapovalov in the 3rd round at Montreal was followed by a clinical defeat to Aussie hothead Nick Kyrgios in Cincinnati. Nadal may be the favourite, but I just think there are players with more firepower and form to opt for the man from Mallorca.

And you have the presence of Roger Federer. Federer once dominated in New York, winning the title 5 times between 2004 and 2008. But he hasn’t tasted success here since that sensational final defeat to Del Potro in 2009. But Federer looks a man reborn this year, clearly benefiting from his hiatus and shortened schedule. He also has it over Nadal on the hardcourts this year, winning comfortably in the Miami final after that epic victory in Melbourne. He will feel quietly confident, perhaps even emboldened by the presence of Rafa in his side of the draw. Anecdotally, should Federer win, he will be the oldest person in the Open era- and oldest person since Bill Tilden in 1929- to claim the title.

The Next Gen- Alex Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov
Clearly, Alex Zverev has drawn considerable attention following his remarkable run of form on the American hardcourts. His back-to-back victories in Washington and Montreal were serene, proving that his triumph over Novak Djokovic in Rome was no anomaly. But let’s be frank, he is still yet to go beyond the 4th round of a slam. Some question his durability when confronted with the vagaries of a grueling Grand Slam campaign, and for me a quarter-final appearance will be a good return.

Dominic Thiem continues to impress, with intimidating power off the forehand wing. But someone has to tell the 2 time French Open semi-finalist to pace himself and his career. The sheer quantity of events that the Austrian enters is commendable, but the rigour of his itinerary seems to catch up to him in the post-Roland Garros schedule. He has never made past the final 16 here and shouldn’t pose a huge threat.

The mercurial figure of Nick Kyrgios is really a punter’s nightmare. But his performance in Cincinnati seems to suggest that the volatile Aussie could be ready for a more concerted push for Grand Slam glory. But I still don’t think that he has the temperament to go too deep this year. He’s actually particularly vulnerable in the early rounds. He needs to build up interest before he really commits to an event, and it’s for this reason that I think he will stumble.

My bet for a concerted challenge to the Rafa-Roger supremacy comes in the form of Baby Fed: Grigor Dimitrov. His game just completely clicked into gear in Cincinnati. I really think that he could have beaten any player in the world with that single handed backhand working in such synchronization with that booming forehand. He’s slightly more experienced than the other ingĂ©nues that I have listed, and will realise the massive opportunity that awaits with the injury ravaged field. Even with Nadal in his quarter, I would expect him to really challenge the Spaniard in top form.

The Long Shots- Kevin Anderson and Gilles Muller
Both Muller and Anderson appear in the 3rd quarter of the draw this week, but they would only meet in the 4th Round should they both secure progression. Anderson’s 2 defeats to Zverev earlier this month were really strange. In Washington’s final he served brilliantly, only for his baseline game to be really poor. A week in later in Montreal’s quarter-finals, he managed to go almost toe to toe from the baseline with Zverev, only to serve awfully. Should he serve as he did in Washington and rally as he did in Montreal, he could upset Zverev in a potential 3rd meeting in quick succession in the 3rd round.

Muller plays bad-boy of tennis Bernard Tomic in the first round and would potentially meet Sousa in the 2nd and Sock in the 3rd. While none of those matches look straightforward on paper, should he serve as he has done in the 2nd half of the season- or particularly like he did against Nadal at Wimbledon- he should be a real force this week.

Dark Horse- Marin Cilic
Since that excruciating experience in the Wimbledon final- where he was forced to retire with blisters in the final- Cilic has laid low in preparation for the year ending Grand Slam. That seems to have paid off with an exceptionally favourable 4th quarter draw for the 2014 champion. The erratic Tsonga is the highest seed in his quarter while Federer and Nadal are far off in the distant top half. The likes of Ferrer and Donaldson shouldn’t pose too much of a problem should Cilic play anywhere near his potential on this surface.

Likely Progression

1st Quarter: Nadal and Dimitrov

2nd Quarter: Federer and Del Potro- Del Potro is in Thiem’s side of the draw and he always elevates his game in New York. Bautista-Agut may be his biggest threat.

3rd Quarter: Isner and Anderson- Zverev may struggle with both Anderson and Muller lurking in his quarter.

4th Quarter: Cilic and Carreno-Busta

Decent First Round Bets

Mikhail Kukushkin to beat David Ferrer at 33/10.
This may be a long shot, but Ferrer has had a congested period lately and one will always question his ability to persistently perform in the Slams. He lacks the one huge shot that the likes of Federer and Nadal utilize to shorten games.

Carlos Berlocq to beat Diego Schwartzmann at 32/10
Another piece of fanciful speculation, I watched Schwartzmann playing Thiem a few weeks back and was amazed at his lack of power, despite emerging victorious against a lacklustre Thiem. This looks like a potential banana peel.

Denis Shapovalov to beat Daniel Medvedev at 15/20
This one is [purely based on the excellence of Shapovalov in reaching the finals in Montreal.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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