Andy Murray is my favorite for the open, even though it's hard to choose a non-slam winner as my pick. Overall his quarter is the toughest, though Soderling's half of Murray's quarter is the real tough patch, with Juan Martin Del Potro, John Isner and Gilles Simon, in addition to the Swede. Whoever wins out of those guys gets to face Murray in the quarterfinals and will have likely survived some tough tests. Still, I expect Murray to take care of business and survive into the semifinals and beyond.
First round matches to watch
The real meat of this quarter happens in the third and fourth round matches, but a couple first round matches might be worth checking out.
John Isner and Marcos Baghdatis
Baghdatis has been very streaky this season and his match against Isner today at Winstom-Salem went to three sets. Interestingly, Marcos seemed to have little trouble returning Isner's serve. Having a rematch so soon makes this interesting. Isner will need a competitive but comfortable win to get him in shape for the rest of his matches, which get tougher very quickly.
Who is Murray's biggest hurdle in his quarter?
If for no other reason, watch this to get a bead on which Donald Young will show up to play this year's U.S. Open.
Matchups we're hoping for
Gilles Simon and Juan Martin Del Potro
This is the first of two potentially great third round matches from this section. Del Potro has had a surprisingly unproductive summer and then drew Federer for his second round in Cincinnati. The lack of match play will hurt him. Simon should have also been doing better than he has, but had a pretty good showing in Cincinnati. Those extra matches may be the deciding factor.
John Isner and Robin Soderling
Isner had a great win against Roddick at the U.S. Open in 2009, but since then he's still been hunting for a statement win at a grand slam. Soderling missed the U.S. Open Series with a wrist injury, which is certainly no small concern for any player, but especially to an aggressive baseliner. He's not only vulnerable to Isner, but might be shaky against veteran American Alex Bogomolov, Jr in the second round.
John Isner and Juan Martin Del Potro
A match of hard hitting and big serving might ultimately be won by which ever man is less spent from previous rounds, and is willing and able to use finesse and slice more. Del Potro's defense has looked a little sharper than usual this year, but Isner has more match play this summer. If Isner gets through to a quarterfinal against that depth of field, he'll gain a ton of grand slam confidence.
Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka
Wawrinka hasn't had a quality hard court win in the U.S. Open Series, which is a huge cause for concern. However, he has had strong performances in the last two hard court slams. If he gets through to a fourth round against Murray, he'll have some good wins under his belt and should be at a higher level than he is at the moment. Murray and Wawrinka both have beautiful backhands, and I've always been a sucker for a battle between a one-hander and a two-hander.