With Rafael Nadal out of the draw at this Slam, the big question became which of the top 2 would draw Murray in the semifinals. David Ferrer is no pushover, but he is definitely a class below the top 3 seeds here. And Federer clearly drew the tougher semifinal. With all due respect to Ferrer, Murray is just a tougher opponent than he is. We all saw what Murray did to Federer in the Gold Medal Match at the Olympics less than a month ago. And that match will sit in everyone’s minds-most of all Federer’s-now that Federer and Murray are in the same half of the draw. Federer might be just a little intimidated by how much he was outplayed, but he also relishes the opportunities to get revenge and prove the world wrong. Djokovic, meanwhile, drew Ferrer as his semifinal opponent but there are really a ton of players who could come out of that quarter.
As always, we will rank the four quarters of the draw from toughest to easiest. We will determine how tough each quarter is by how tough the most likely matches will be for that quarter’s top seed in each round. Also, several times throughout the article we will refer back to our US Open preview. So if you haven’t seen that yet, you might want to check it out here. Also, the qualifiers haven’t been placed in the draw. In fact, the second round of qualifying isn’t even completed yet, let alone the third. So we won’t even really have an idea of who the qualifiers will be until Friday afternoon.
Andy Murray’s Quarter:
It’s hard to draw up a tougher quarter than the one that Andy Murray got. It’s possible, yes, but this quarter will be trouble for Murray. His first-round opponent, Alex Bogomolov, Jr, actually beat Murray during his post-Australian Open slump last year. Of course, Murray won their last two meetings with relative ease (and Murray also lost to Donald Young during that slump), but that match could be tricky. Then, in the second round, Murray will probably meet Ivan Dodig, who actually beat Nadal on this surface last summer. Murray’s third-round opponent won’t be a pushover either, and will most likely be either Thomaz Bellucci or Feliciano Lopez. Both of those players are in a bit of a slump right now, but Murray would definitely rather face Lopez. He is 6-0 against Feliciano (but don’t tell Andy’s mother that) but lost his only meeting against Bellucci.
In the fourth round, Murray will probably face big-serving Milos Raonic. Murray usually does well against players like that, but Raonic has played very well this summer. Raonic’s section of the draw is actually pretty open, and Paul-Henri Mathieu has a chance to pull off a surprise fourth-round showing here if he can play well and upset Milos. The other half of Murray’s quarter will be filled with qualifiers and not-so-great players, which means that whoever meets Murray in the quarterfinals probably won’t have had such a hard time getting there. Look for Kei Nishikori or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to be that opponent, both of whom can definitely cause Murray trouble. The Frenchman, especially, can cause some serious trouble on this surface if he plays well.
Roger Federer’s Quarter:
Federer’s draw is interesting. He got a pretty easy first 3 rounds, but after that it gets pretty dicey. Donald Young in the first round is just about as much of a free win as exists on tour today. Young has won 1 out of his last 19 matches and that win wasn’t very pretty at all. The second round isn’t so much tougher as it will be against either Bjorn Phau or a qualifier. And Fernando Verdasco is the only player even close to a threat in the third round, but right now he is far from the high level that made him a top 10 player a few years ago.
The fourth round contains some tough opponents though. Federer will likely face either Mardy Fish or Gilles Simon. Fish is a good player and this is his best surface. Fish has only beaten Federer once out of 9 tries, but their matches are usually tight and Mardy’s serve is tough for anyone to break. Simon is also just a bad matchup for Federer. Something about his style just gets to Fed and their matches are always long and hard-fought. Their head-to-head is tied 2-2, but their only match that didn’t go the distance was one in which Simon was clearly injured and retired after just 3 games. And the quarterfinal opponent will probably be Tomas Berdych. Berdych is not quite the toughest of the 5-8 seeds but he always plays Federer tough and beat him in 4 sets at Wimbledon two years ago. Nicolas Almagro or Sam Querrey could also come out of that section, but neither of those would probably trouble Fed very much.
Novak Djokovic’s Quarter:
Djokovic’s draw is not too tough, though there are some potentially tricky areas in there. Paolo Lorenzi should not be too much trouble in the first round. He has played 1 inspired match at a top 10 level in his career (against Nadal in Rome last year) but other than that hasn’t shown anything that says that he could pose a threat to Novak. And there is not much to be scared of facing either Rogerio Dutra Silva or a qualifier in the second round. Julien Bennetteau has played some of the best tennis of his career recently, but he probably won’t give Djokovic much of a challenge if they meet in the third round either. Wawrinka and Dolgopolov have both been playing well recently and either of those could be a tough opponent in the fourth round.
The quarterfinals could be interesting though. Juan Martin Del Potro and Andreas Seppi have both given Djokovic some serious problems recently. Del Potro beat him in the Bronze Medal Match and, while Seppi is 0-9 against Djokovic, he won the first two sets when they met at Roland Garros a few months ago. If Nole’s quarterfinal opponent comes from the other side of that section, though, there isn’t much to worry about. Juan Monaco has been playing amazingly recently but he can’t challenge Djokovic and if Roddick somehow miraculously makes it that far he just isn’t on a level to beat top players anymore. If Roddick comes out firing like he did in Miami this year then maybe there’s a chance he can do something, but he has shown since then that that one match was just an aberration.
David Ferrer’s Quarter:
For the first time since I started doing this column, I have a bit of a dilemma. Until now, the top 4 seeds were all pretty near-impossible to upset in the early rounds. So I could judge the strength of the quarter based on the talent in that quarter and based on the matchups between those players and the top seed. But Ferrer is just much easier to upset than the top 3. He doesn’t have that aura (or history) of invulnerability. So his quarter is by definition the hardest because he is by far the easiest of the top seeds to upset. However, because he is the least likely of the top 4 to reach the semifinals anyway, we’re discussing him last, even though in all honesty the difficulty of his draw should be the second-hardest (between Murray’s and Federer’s).
Ferrer actually has a real chance to lose in the first round. Big-serving Kevin Anderson is never a player you want to meet on a fast surface. If he can concentrate on holding serves and getting himself to tiebreaks, then he has a real chance to do something special with the match (not to mention that Ferrer isn’t exactly known for doing his best in tiebreaks). The second round isn’t so tough, but any of Lleyton Hewitt, Mikhail Youzhny, or Gilles Muller are not exactly players that Ferrer looks forward to meeting in the third round.
Both Tommy Haas and Richard Gasquet have been playing some great tennis recently. Either one of those two could beat Ferrer, and the third-round match between that pair is one that you shouldn’t miss. And a likely meeting with either John Isner, Janko Tipsarevic, or Philipp Kohlschreiber (or even Brian Baker) in the quarterfinals are not exactly good matchups for Ferrer either. This quarter is wide open, and I would honestly be more surprised if Ferrer makes the semifinals than if he doesn’t.
In our preview, we pegged 4 players who aren’t seeded but who could do some serious damage in the draw depending on where they land. Now that the draw is out, we can see where they were placed and what damage they have the potential to do.
1. Marcos Baghdatis- Baghdatis got placed in a tough spot in the draw, but he might be able to grab a few wins here. His first round is against a qualifier, which he should be able to get through. In the second round, he will most likely meet Alexandr Dolgopolov. Dolgo has been playing well recently, though that is an upset that Baghdatis can cause if he finds his form. And the same holds true for the third round against (most likely) Stanislas Wawrinka. But I can’t see Baghdatis beating both Dolgopolov and Wawrinka back-to-back. So it’s most likely a second-round exit for Baghdatis here, with a slight chance of reaching the third.
2. David Nalbandian- Nalbandian was put in a perfect position to cause some trouble. He drew #7 seed Juan Martin Del Potro in the first round. Delpo should be the heavy favorite for this match, but Nalbandian has a good return and this match will play to his strength. If he is healthy and fit enough to play his best for 4 or 5 full sets, expect a very tight match here. And if Nalbandian can get through, his second-round match should be winnable too, though I can’t see him getting past Seppi (or even Kubot) in the third after two tiring matches.
3. Brian Baker- Baker was not put in a good position in the draw to cause trouble. He was, however, put in a great position to do well. Jan Hajek in the first round should be an easy victory and will help build some confidence. Then it’s Janko Tipsarevic in the second round. Tipsarevic is a very good and very solid player, but in all honesty he is not more talented than Baker. If Baker can find his Wimbledon form again, that’s definitely a match he can win. He can probably get through the third round too, but his run will probably stall (if he beats Tipsarevic) against either Isner or Kohlschreiber in the fourth. He is talented enough to beat those guys too (heck, he once beat Isner 6-1 6-0 in a juniors match), but he probably doesn’t have the experience at this level to play well enough for so many matches in a row. I could easily be underestimating though, and a very deep run by Baker in this tournament honestly wouldn’t shock me.
4. Lleyton Hewitt- Hewitt got what should be an easy first-round match, but no matches are easy for Hewitt anymore. And any best-of-5 match will take a lot out of him, even if he wins in straight sets. But if he can get through without expending too much energy, he has a great chance to cause an upset in the second round. Mikhail Youzhny is a good player, but he is not at his best and that is a match that Hewitt can win. If Hewitt meets Ferrer in the third round I can’t see Hewitt winning that match. Playing Ferrer just involves too much scrambling and Lleyton’s body won’t hold up for 3 sets of that. But if someone upsets Ferrer early then I can see Hewitt making a nice little run here.
Main draw action starts on Monday and don’t miss the rest of qualifiers today and Friday. For up-to-the-second thoughts and comments throughout the tournament, follow on Twitter at twitter.com/yesh222TSHQ. (Warning: there will be college football tweets on Saturday nights once the season starts.)