ATP 2015 US Open Tournament Preview

by TennisPig on August 30, 2015

The men’s draw has been released as the talk now centers around the match-ups and no longer just the hypotheticals. The top four seeds are Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and 2014 runner-up Kei NIshikori. Djokovic is the top seed for the fourth time in the last five years. Federer heads to his 16th U.S. Open seeded 2nd for the fifth time in his career. He has only won the tournament once from this seeding position in 2008 when he beat Andy Murray in straight sets. Murray is seed third for the third time. That spot gained him his first Grand Slam win in 2012 and a quarterfinal finish in 2013. Nishikori enters with his highest seeding ever at the U.S. Open. He was seeded tenth last year when he made his magical run to the final knocking off both the top seed Djokovic and the three seed Stan Wawrinka en route.

In this era of the “Big Four” of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, the top four seeds have normally come directly into play in deciding the business end of the U.S. Open. Here is a look at the 32 seeds and how they have fared over the past five years of this Grand Slam.

seed resultsThe top four seeds rarely miss out on the latter stages of the tournament. Since 2003, only two players seeded outside the top three have taken home the title. Juan Martin Del Potro did it as the sixth seed in 2009 and Marin Cilic of course did it last year as the 14th seed. Semifinalists come from a fairly narrow pool also. There has not been an unseeded semifinalist in New York since 2006 when Mikhail Youzhny crashed the party. Over the last five years, the majority of those four slots in the semis come from players seeded inside the top ten. Quarterfinalists branch out a little more, but still feature more top ten seeds than not. There have not been any unseeded quarterfinalists since 2008 when Mardy Fish and qualifier Gilles Muller made it.

As always, we want to know how seeds fare early in tournaments. Those early upsets are the ones that capture headlines and make for the stories of the first week. Last year, only four seeds out of 32 dropped their first matches. That was a stark contrast to the 2013 when ten seeds were taken out in the opening round. From 2012 to 2010, there were six, four and eight seeded upsets in the first round. 2014 also marked the first time since 2010 that a top 12 seed did not fall in the opening round. This year has seen its share of upsets from week to week. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the seeded players who may be headed home early at the U.S. Open. Let’s start to identify one of the top 12 seeds that could be in for a big shock.

(7) David Ferrer v. Radu Albot
David FerrerThis is less of a vote for Radu Albot being able to pull this off and more of a vote for David Ferrer still not being fully fit and prepared for the grind of a best of five. That’s tough to say about one of the current era’s best grinders and perhaps one of the top ten or so all-time to ever lace up a pair of tennis shoes. Ferrer is known for his fighting spirit. He is a guy without the massive ground strokes. There is no big serve. What there is though is a work ethic and willingness not to quit that few have shown in the past few decades. What there also is bound to be is rust. Ferrer has been sidelined for over two months with tendinitis in his right elbow that caused him to miss Wimbledon and the entire hard court swing in North America. He has been training for most of the month of August, so it really comes down to just how well the elbow is feeling. That is a question no one will know until Ferrer plays a match.

When healthy, Ferrer has done some damage at the U.S. Open, making the fourth round or better in four of the last five years. Albot will be in just his second main draw at this event and just his second main draw Grand Slam match. Last year, he lost his opening round match to Gilles Simon after working through USO qualifying. Simon would turn around and beat Ferrer two rounds later. Albot’s only hard court prep work came in playing qualifying last week at Winston-Salem. He won a match and then lost to American phenom Frances Tiafoe in failing to make the main draw. The Moldovan has played decently at-times on this surface at the Challenger level, but never translated that to the ATP level. If Ferrer’s elbow holds up, one would think he will avoid the upset. Still with the question marks surrounding Ferrer this might wind up being an interesting match.

(8) Rafael Nadal v. Borna Coric
Rafael NadalThis one is two-fold. Nadal of course is still a bit nervy on this surface and his summer results have continued his run of so-so tennis on hard courts. He made the quarters in Montreal, but was soundly beaten by Kei Nishikori. Then in Cincinnati, he lost his second match to Feliciano Lopez in three sets. Rafa was not that displeased in Cincy saying that he thought he played well, but got beat by someone who played better.The second part is the opponent. Borna Coric stunned Nadal last Fall on an indoor surface in Basel 6-2, 7-6 (4). Admittedly, Nadal was not 100 percent with his wrist still bothering him and he made 37 unforced errors in the match. Still, it was an elite result for Coric that can breed confidence for this return match-up.

Coric is still learning how to craft his game to outdoor hard courts. He has played the North American swing with mixed results, winning three and losing three. He got some match play against solid players like Tsonga and Wawrinka that should help him in the long run. Coric got his debut win at the U.S. Open over Lukas Rosol last year after working through qualis and then got beat in the second round by Victor Estrella-Burgos. I do expect a big effort from Rafa here after having missed the U.S. Open last year due to injury. This will be a popular upset pick because of the past result by Coric over Nadal. I think Coric can make this competitive and there is always a chance that Rafa has one of those days where he cannot find the measure of his game. However, Coric may have some expectation placed on him here which could make him more nervous than Nadal and that may allow for the Spaniard to pass through to round two.

(12) Richard Gasquet v. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Richard GasquetThis is the most intriguing one among the Top 12 seeds for me. These two just played in Cincinnati where Gasquet beat the Aussie 7-6, 6-2. Gasquet was able to control the match with his serve, winning 70 percent of the service points. That included 81 percent on first serve. Kokkinakis won just 60 percent of his service points. He showed much more of what could be a dominant serve in Winston-Salem this past week and that is the one he will need to channel if he’s to pull off an upset here. Gasquet for his part has been consistent at the U.S. Open. The last time he lost in the opening round was 2009 and that was due to a difficult draw that pitted him against Nadal who was seeded third that year.

Kokkinakis plays in his first USO main draw, but he has shown this year that he is adapting quickly to full-time tour duty and playing Grand Slams. He scored his second straight first round win at the Australian Open to start the year with a five set comeback against Ernests Gulbis. He made the third round at the French Open and got his first taste of Wimbledon with a tough three set first round exit to Leonardo Mayer 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. The big thing for Kokkinakis will be consistency in everything he does, both mentally and physically. He had a tendency to check out in some sets when fatigue took its toll on his serve, but he has shown a resiliency more times than not to battle back the next set. Against a player of Gasquet’s caliber though, that is something he will not want to engage in. He needs to thump in his first serves and show no fear in the biggest points of the match. The prep of seeing Gasquet just a few weeks ago should be a boon to his chances. If a Top 12 seed goes down this year, this is definitely a spot where it could happen.

As far as the rest of the seeds go, here are some others than could be walking that tightrope to a quick trip out of town. You’ll note a few of these match-ups are seeds vs. qualifiers. Qualifiers have scored at least one seeded first round upset in three of the last five U.S. Opens with two qualifiers doing it in both 2013 and 2010.

(14) David Goffin v. Simone Bolelli
David GoffinThis is a very tricky first round match for Goffin. These two have already played twice in 2015 with Bolelli winning in straight sets on this surface in Sydney. Goffin beat Bolelli in three sets 7-6, 6-7, 6-1 in Munich on clay in April. Goffin did show reasonably good form in playing both the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Masters where he made the third round in each. He basically beat the players he should beat and lost to the ones, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori, who you would expect to beat him. The Italian got in his first licks on a hard surface since March by playing Winston-Salem. He beat Delbonis and Sam Querrey before losing in three to Pablo Carreno-Busta. Bolelli’s track record at the U.S. Open is tame to say the least at 3-7 for his career, but he did beat Vasek Pospisil here last year and lost a five set grinder to Tommy Robredo after leading two sets to love. Goffin is playing his second USO since his surge. He made the third round last year, losing to Grigor Dimitrov. The two years prior, he lost in round one. Goffin is one of those sorts who relies on great returning and defense. His weapons, especially on hard courts, are somewhat limited so a player who gets hot on serve and puts pressure on Goffin to match can

(18) Feliciano Lopez v. (Q) Nicoloz Basilashvili
Feliciano LopezA replay of their second round Wimbledon match that saw the Georgian shock Lopez in a five set thrill ride 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Seeing as grass had been a pretty good surface for the Spaniard in his career, Basilashvili will be confident of having another legitimate shot to shock. After a slow start to the summer, Lopez scored some solid wins in Cincinnati to make the quarterfinals. He has been a solid performer at the U.S. Open with five straight years of at least making the third round. The last time he lost his opening round match was 2009 against Taylor Dent. It has been a year of firsts for Basilashvili with the Georgian making his first two Grand Slam main draws at the French Open and Wimbledon. This is his first main draw at the U.S. Open. It is hard to know if Basilashvili simply has something in his game that will bother Lopez again or not since they have played just once. Still, due to the Wimbledon upset, you have to say that the qualifier will have a shot if he doesn’t come in overconfident.

(22) Viktor Troicki v. Frances Tiafoe
Viktor TroickiAn easy one to include here as Troicki seems a total mess since his Davis Cup choke against Federeico Delbonis where he blew a two sets to love lead. Since then, Troicki is 0-4 in hard court prep for the Open. That includes losses to Mikhail Youzhny, Mardy Fish on his farewell tour and Malek Jaziri. Frances Tiafoe meanwhile comes to New York with some swagger after scoring his first ATP main draw win in Winston-Salem over James Duckworth. He nearly followed that up with another as he lost to Thomaz Bellucci in a third set tie break in the second round. Still, there should be a definite confidence boost from the play and poise he showed this past week. Before the question was IF he could win at this level yet as a 17-year old, now the question is WHEN will he score his next win? It could be this opener against Troicki. Big Foe may be playing his first Grand Slam, but Troicki has lost his first rounder here the last three times he played in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The American will have plenty of crowd support here and could truly announce his presence with a win.

(23) Roberto Bautista-Agut v Pierre Hugues Herbert
Roberto Bautista-AgutThe only draw back here is that the French Challenger played a long week in Winston-Salem that could sap him of some energy for this match. It should also bring with him some added bravado in this match-up. Herbert earned his maiden Slam win at Wimbledon this summer, so the stage won’t affect him in this one. Bautista-Agut has been mired in a mediocre season that continued this summer with a 2-2 mark in Montreal and Cincinnati combined. He scored wins over Cuevas and Tipsarevic, while losing to Tsonga and Federer. That’s not exactly a sin, but he still has left something to be desired for most of the season. Last year was RBA’s best U.S. Open as he made the fourth round, but he was put to the test in round when Adrian Haider-Maurer pushed him to five sets.

This will only be RBA’s third year in the main draw, so it’s not as if this is his best Slam by any means. For Herbert, it is about harnessing the positive energy from Winston-Salem into this match. Pounding in first serves for cheap points or setting up cheap points is a must for the Frenchman to pull this one off. That is a legit weapon for him that can help him push Bautista-Agut to the bring. RBA is just a shade above 50 percent (53-49) on this surface for his career and 10-10 this season. He’s definitely beatable if PHH can bring the consistency over the course of a best of five.That is a large question though.

(25) Andreas Seppi v. (Q) Tommy Paul
Andreas SeppiAmerican Tommy Paul has made his first Grand Slam main draw by working through qualifying. Short on experience, Paul did win against a couple of guys in Marco Chiudinelli and Blaz Rola in qualifying who have main draw experience. Seppi of course is the more experienced player here with this being his 12th main draw at the U.S. Open. The Italian has had some issues getting out of the first round with seven exits early in his career. He has shown better here the last two years, but hard courts are not his best surface. Paul won the French Open Juniors this year, so he has some “big” match experience. This one seems a longer shot than most on the list with Paul still learning how his game fits on hard courts, but stranger things have happened.

(29) Philipp Kohlschreiber v. (Q) Alexander Zverev
Philipp KohlschreiberIt’s German vs. German in one of the more intriguing first rounders. Kohlschreiber beat Zverev in Munich on clay back in April 6-2, 6-4. Since then, Zverev has grown in stature as his game seems to be maturing even more on all surfaces. This summer on hard courts, he made an unexpected quarterfinal run in D.C. He beat Kevin Anderson and Alexandr Dolgopolov before losing a tight 7-5, 7-6 match to Marin Cilic. He worked through qualis well and will be a real threat in this one. Kohlschreiber chose to stay on clay most of the summer as he lost his only tune-up mach in Cincinnati to Joao Sousa in three sets. Kohlschreiber has a history of not prepping all that well before the U.S. Open, but he does carry a streak of three straight fourth round finishes here. 2011 was the last time he dropped his first round match at the U.S. Open. I think this will be tight and Zverev has nothing to lose in this one, which makes him an extremely dangerous guy to play.

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