The final Grand Slam of the 2010 tennis season starts on Monday. Unfortunately, 2009 US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro won't be able to defend his title in Flushing Meadows, due to an injury that has sidelined him since the Australian Open in January. Hopefully, he'll recover soon and work his way back to the top of the ATP rankings.
Rafael Nadal, the No. 1 in the world and current holder of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, is trying once again to win the US Open, the only Grand Slam that has eluded him so far. His recent form has been far from impressive, but we all know that Nadal has been targeting the US Open and he is likely to hit top form for the tournament. He faces Teymuraz Gabashvili in the first round and should have no problem advancing. His first test will come in the third round, where he is likely to face Philipp Kohlschreiber, the 29th seed and always a difficult opponent. Still, Rafael Nadal leads their head-to-head 7-0 and has already beaten Kohlschreiber earlier this year at the Australian Open and at the Rogers Cup, so he should be able to advance to the fourth round comfortably. In the fourth round, Ivan Ljubicic and Feliciano Lopez are his possible seeded opponents. Nadal leads the head-to-head against both and shouldn't have many problems advancing to the quarter-finals. In the quarter-finals, he is likely to face (finally) tough opposition:
Fernando Verdasco, Ernest Gulbis and David Nalbandian are his possible seeded opponents. Gulbis is as talented as he is inconsistent but he has the fire power to hurt Nadal, even though Nadal leads their head-to-head 3-0. David Nalbandian has been in great form lately and, despite his recurrent injuries, he is a fabulous player. Their head-to-head is 2-2 and, on his day, Nalbandian has the baseline weapons to defeat Nadal. As for Verdasco, he has a negative 0-10 head-to-head record against Nadal. There's a first time for everyhting, but it seems like Nadal shouldn't be too worried if he ends up facing Verdasco in the quarters. On paper, Nadal shouldn't have many problems getting out of his section of the draw and reaching the semifinals. Nalbandian on form might be the dark horse of this section.
Andy Murray, the number 4 in the world, looking for his first taste of Grand Slam glory, has a more difficult draw. He should advance to the third round at ease and face Stanislas Wawrinka, a player who shouldn't cause too many problems to Andy Murray (Murray leads their head-to-head 5-3). In the fourth round, Sam Querrey and Nicolas Almagro are the possible opponents. Unless they serve absolutely perfectly on the day, they have no chance of eliminating Andy Murray, who has been on a superb run of form lately, having beaten Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to capture the Rogers Cup. In the quarter-finals, Murray is likely to face a very, very tough challenge from Tomas Berdych, who has been in great form this year (semi-finals in the French Open and final in Wimbledon, beating Federer on the way) and has defeated Murray earlier this year at Roland Garros.
Murray and Berdych are the favorites to reach the semifinals on this sections. It's a tough call, but I would go with Berdych. He has been nothing short of brilliant this season.
Whoever he faces in the semifinals, Nadal should advance to the final. He is the current best player in the world and it's really difficult to defeat him in a best-of-five match. If he is in his best shape, Nadal will probably be in the final.
Novak Djokovic's section of the draw seems to be the most difficult one. The number 3 in the world will face Victor Troicki in the first round and can then face Philipp Petzschner in the second round and either James Blake or Juan Monaco in the third round. Very tough early rounds for Nole. Should he advance to the fourth round (as expected), he is likely to face Mardy Fish, a player who has been in superb form lately. After Fish, it's either Andy Roddick or Nikolay Davydenko. Despite the very difficult draw, I believe that Djokovic can reach the quarter-finals and face Roddick, in a rematch of the 2008 quarter-finals, won by Djokovic in a dramatic way.
I'll go with Andy Roddick, who is going to give everything he has to have another shot at Grand Slam glory. Novak Djokovic, and even Mardy Fish, also have good chances, though.
In the last section of the draw, a rematch between Roger Federer and Robin Soderling seems likely. Roger Federer will have to get past Lleyton Hewitt and either Jurgen Melzer or Juan Carlos Ferrero. He should be able to do so with relative ease. As for Robin Soderling, he has Fernando Gonzalez and Marin Cilic as the toughest opponents.
If there's any logic, Federer and Soderling will face in the quarter-finals, just like last year. My money is on the Swede: he has beaten Federer in Roland Garros and can do it again here. Roger Federer is one of the best players in the history of the game but he seems to be losing his edge. However, no one can rule Federer out. He is one of the top candidates for the US Open.
I predict a Roddick vs Soderling in the semis, with Roddick advancing to the final and beating Nadal. It would undoubtedly be a fair reward for Andy Roddick, who already deserved a second Grand Slam trophy.
Despite my predictions (which, like any predictions, are very subjective), Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling and Andy Murray (at least) also have what it takes to go all the way.
Let the games begin and may the best man win!