Sunday, August 26, 2007

US OPEN 2007: Men's Top 10 Preview

by Mad Professah

1 Federer, Roger (SUI). The World No. 1 has won two out of the three major championships played this year and been in nine consecutive Grand Slam finals (every major final since Wimbledon 2005!), winning seven of them. Who would bet against him? According to sportbet.com, odds on Federer winning his 4th consecutive US Open title are so great, that if you bet $250, they will only pay you $100! Although some commenters are more than a little suspicious of Federer's draw which protects him from having to play anyone ranked in the Top 100 until the third round at best, most pundits, including Mad Professah believe that he will continue his inexorable march to Greatest Of All Time status by winning the 2007 US Open. He has a rendezvous with 2006 finalist Andy Roddick in this year's quarterfinals according to the draw and has had some surprising losses earlier this year (Canas, twice) as well as some unsurprising losses (Nadal at the French, Djokovic in Montreal) but always brings his best stuff to the biggest stages. And there's none bigger than the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center. Champion.

2 Nadal, Rafael (ESP). The Spanish wunderkind plays so much tennis during the early clay court section of the tennis season that towards the end of the year even the young, supple body of the longtime No. 2 best player in the World starts to break down. He has shown that he can play well on hardcourts by winning the Pacific Life Open earlier in the year, however he has been humbled by players on this surface recently (Djokovic, Youzhny, Berdych). Semifinalist or earlier.

3 Djokovic, Novak (SRB). The New Kid On The Block anounced himself earlier in the year by making two consecitive Masters Series on hard courts and has won two of them this year (Miami and Montreal) beating higher ranked players both times, no mean feat when you are currently No. 3 in the World. When Djokovic beat No. 3 Roddick, No. 2 Nadal and No. 1 Federer two weeks ago in Montreal the world took notice. And he looks pretty good with his shirt off. The Kid has made two consecutive major championship semi-finals, I predict he'll go even further in New York. Finalist.

4 Davydenko, Nikolay (RUS). The perennial Top 5 player never makes much of a splash at the Slams and now has a controversy over betting on his matches over his head. The draw predicts a quarterfinal match with James Blake, who I predict will go further in this tournament than the Russian. Quarterfinalist or earlier.

5 Roddick, Andy (USA). Ahh, the hard court season when American tennis comes alive. Roddick had a decent US Open Series season this year, placing third behind Federer and Blake and just ahead of Djokovic by winning Washington's Legg Mason classic. However, since the rest of his season has not gone as well he finds his ranking down to 5 and in the unenviable position of having to play a quarterfinal against Federer, who he has not defeated in over 10 tries. Although his loss to Richard Gasquet in the Wimbledon quarterfinals was one of the best matches of that tournament (and probably the year) I'm sure it was a mentally devastating loss for Roddick, who was looking forward to his 4th meeting at Wimbledon against Federer. His take-away from that loss should be to play his potential quarterfinal match against Federer as if it were a final, and maybe, just maybe this time he'll come out victorious. Yeah, I don't believe it either. Quarterfinalist or earlier.

6 Blake, James (USA). Interestingly, the other Great American Hope for U.S. Tennis has had an even better US Open Series season, winning Pilot Pen again and getting to the finals of both the Los Angeles' Countrywide Classic and Cincinnati ATP Masters Series final. If it weren't for just a few breakpoints saved by Radek Stepanek, Blake would be in the running for the $1 million bonus in New York as the US Open Series winner. Blake actually has a pretty challenging draw (fellow American journeyman Michael Russell followed by the always wily Fabrice Santoro with dangerous Sam Querrey and Tommy Haas lurking) on his way to meet Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals whom he is 6-0 against head-to-head. So, this really is a moment where Blake has to live up to his book sales and decide whether he will make a breakthrough or a whimper in New York. I'm suspecting it will be the former. Semifinalist or early round loss.

7 Gonzalez, Fernando (CHI). Oh, where oh where has Mr. 2007 Australian Open finalist been all year long? He's in Nadal's quarter of the draw and it's doubtful he'll even make it that far. Quarterfinalist or earlier.

8 Robredo, Tommy (ESP). The best-looking member of the Top 10 is in Djokovic's section of tyhe draw and it's doubtful he'll make it that far. Early Round Loss.

9 Berdych, Tomas (CZE). When Berdych is on, he can defeat anyone in the Top 10, but his curiously flat performance against Nadal in the Wimbledon quarterfinals this year have led me to question whether the Czech player will really ever live up to his potential, despite his hard-hitting ground strokes and go-for-broke style he shares with his girlfriend Lucie Safarova. He does have the possibility of complicating Andy Roddick's move through the draw to meet Federer in the quarters but somehow neither I nor Tomas really believe that will happen. Fourth Round.

10 Haas, Tommy (GER). Ahh, one of the few players in the draw who really believes he is a better tennis player than Roger Federer. Unfortunately for him, he has a possible 4th Round showdown with the new and improved James Blake. If the German player gets through that match (which is unlikely) then he could complicate life for Federer in the semi-finals. At least 4th Round.

11 comments:

tangerine said...

I just got done reading the Washington Post's latest bash-Roddick/American tennis article "Yesterday's Hope Is Today's Has-Been" and I have come to the realization that many of his critics view Roddick's career as nothing more than just one long funeral procession.

I can't imagine how awful it must be to be a "has been" at the age of 25 but still ranked in the top five. How the heck does Roddick manage this neat trick? He must be the ultimate snakeoil salesman.

Albert said...

Roddick is not yet a "has been", but it has been a long and slow decline since his first and only GS title.

2003 - 1st
2004 - 2nd (and very distant 2nd)
2005 - 3rd (overtaken for good by Rafa)
2006 - 6th behind even Blake and Ljubicic
2007 - 5th at the moment and barring any miracles expected to finish #4-6

Karen said...

Tangi, as I have said previously about Roddick, he needs to take a mental break, a la Serena Williams. He needs to go find his game, whatever that is, and come back new and improved. If he does not, then that music we hear will not be "Serve it up" but a "Bye bye love".

Craig Hickman said...

Tangy, it seems, ironically, that the American tennis establishment wants nothing more than to see Roddick fail. He may just give them what they're looking for at last. I have a tirade coming up about him tomorrow.

Albert, if that is a "long and slow decline", I'll take it. Any top player will take it. For we all know declines usually happen much more quickly. Look at Rainer Schuettler who was in the top 10 in 2004 and who had to qualify for this year's US Open. I thought he had retired, but he's still knocking around the yellow fuzzy ball and trying to get his ranking back up.

And you forgot to list 2002 the year Roddick finished at No. 10 in the world. So, can you name another player other than Roger Federer who will have finished in the Top 10 for 6 consecutive years as Andy is expected to do by your own projection?

Karen said...

Morning All, It is here. The 2007 US Open. Let the games begin!!!!!!

oddman said...

Morning right back atcha, Karen, and everybody! After catching up on all the commentary, I can't say as I'm as excited as you sound. Have the 'games' already begun? Oh, well, it is what it is.

Will be cheering on Frankie-boy as he takes on Marat - a very tough challenge right off the bat. Go, Dancevic! Ya Crazy Canuck, I luv ya!

Craig Hickman said...

oddman, I'm kinda with you. I want to be more excited about this year's Open than I am. I guess injury clouds and weird draws have left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

Mad Professah said...

I agree with Craig that 6 consecutive years finishing in the Top 10 (and roughly half of those in the Top 5) is quite amazing, but Americans have outsized expectations to match their wallets and waists.

Since Sampras was #1 for 5 consecutive years, why can't Roddick do that?

I'm not a big Roddick fan, but the sooner Americans realize that he is a VERY GOOD, but not great player and come to terms with that realization, the happier and more relaxed all of us (including Roddick) will be!

oddman said...

Craig, yup, yup. But, just heard the theme music and my heart started beating just a tiny bit faster. Perhaps there will be something to brighten us up as the last slam of the year begins.

Music - the universal language.

Albert said...

1) Schuettler was a fluke (same as Verkerk and few others)

2) 6 straight years in top 10 is very good and not many have achieved that. However I would be more impressed with only three years in top 10, but with one GS in each of those years...

3) Point I was making is not that Roddick is so bad (he isn't), but that he is not improving any more and therefore slowly, but inevitably loosing ground to other elite players...

Craig Hickman said...

Well, Albert, in four consecutive years, he made a Slam final. Again, only Federer can claim that.

And Federer beat him in the three finals he lost (as well as two other semifinals), so...

You assume that he can only go one way. I disagree. The people ranked beneath him aren't exactly poised to break into the top three anytime soon....

If those above him falter, he's right there.

I may bitch and moan like anybody else about him, but at the end of the day, I'll take what Roddick has given me as a fan of his and a fan of American tennis in general.

And I agree, Mad, Roddick is a very good player (though some of the other players call him great, even Roger does, until he changes his mind at an opportune time, but that's another story...) and it just seems that the American media is interested in knocking him down because he didn't become the next Pete Sampras.

But the part of his game that deserves the most criticism will be discussed tomorrow right here.