US Open 2015 draw: Can anyone oust Djokovic, Federer and Murray in New York?
Marianne Bevis previews the men's singles draw at the US Open, which gets under way on Monday
Such is the quality of tennis’s elite over the last decade, such their longevity, and such their dominance, that only four men’s names have been added since 2005 to the Grand Slam honours boards who are not called Roger Federer, 17 titles, Rafael Nadal, 14, and Novak Djokovic, nine.
Andy Murray became the first man to persistently knock on the door, reaching four finals until he won the first of two Majors in 2012, the year he also won Olympic gold, and he has not fallen short of the quarter-finals in his last 18 Slams. And in every final, win or lose, he met either Federer or Djokovic.
Later to the top table has come 30-year-old Stan Wawrinka, now also with two titles and at least the quarters in all but one of his last eight Majors. His victories were over Djokovic and Nadal, his two semi-final losses to Djokovic.
Juan Martin del Potro took the first of what many thought would become a string of Majors in 2009, beating Federer in New York, but injury and surgery to both wrists blighted his chances.
Then last year, Marin Cilic finally fulfilled the early promise of his semi run in 2010 to win his first Major, beating Federer in the semis and another new name, Kei Nishikori in the final—who had beaten Djokovic in the semis.
And to show what a rare title line-up that was, only five other active players have even made a Major final since 2005: Lleyton Hewitt—the only other Grand Slam champion in this year’s US draw—Marcos Baghdatis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, and David Ferrer—just once apiece in over 40 finals.
The decade’s theme has endured throughout 2015. Although Nadal has suffered two long absences from the tour since 2012 that have eaten into his title runs, and has this year struggled to find his very best when faced with the very best—he has yet to beat anyone ranked higher than No7 in 2015—the other members of the “big four” have dominated at every turn.
Five out of the six Major finalists have been Djokovic (three appearances), Federer and Murray.
These three have won all seven Masters crowns this year—and in five of them were losing finalists, too.
These three top the title list for the year—Djokovic with six, Federer five, and Murray four—and have won more matches than anyone—barring Nishikori, who has won 46 to Federer’s 45. As a result, they top both the rankings and the race.
And a look at the US Open Series, the set of North American tournaments that ushers in Flushing Meadows’ climax, only reinforces the ceiling. Murray tops the standings after winning Montreal and reaching the Cincinnati semis. Djokovic comes next with two final runs at the same two Masters, and Federer lies third despite not playing in Canada: He won his seventh Cincinnati title.
So the biggest question posed by this season’s stats was whether No3 Murray would fall into Djokovic’s half of the US draw or into Federer’s. It was the latter.
The next question was, where would the lowly-ranked Nadal fall, and it was into Djokovic’s quarter.
Two other quarter-final prospects also captured the attention. Nishikori might face Ferrer, both men contending with injuries ahead of one of the most demanding tests in tennis, and thus a chance for a less expected name to break through.
And in the bottom half, there was the chance of a 15th Murray-Wawrinka face-off in which the Swiss has won the two last matches.
But where did that leave the rest? Where, especially, did it leave the men crowded out of the top 10, which at this year’s US Open boasts six Grand Slam champions, five of them former US Open champions? Is there really any prospect of an upset similar to last year’s final?
Former champions in draw:
Marin Cilic (1), Rafael Nadal (2), Andy Murray (1), Novak Djokovic (1), Roger Federer (5), Lleyton Hewitt (1)
Lleyton Hewitt (retirement year)
Novak Djokovic quarter
R1: No46 Joao Souza.
R2: Vasek Pospisil or Andreas Haider-Maurer.
R3: First seed No25 Andreas Seppi.
R4: David Goffin or Roberto Bautista Agut, though in-form Simone Bolelli is a tricky opener for Goffin and Jerzy Janowicz a dangerous R2 for Bautista Agut.
QF: Milos Raonic should contest the QF place with Nadal, who he beat in Indian Wells this year, but he has tough R2 against either Fernando Verdasco or Tommy Haas, then Feliciano Lopez in R3. Mardy Fish, in his last US Open, is also here. Nadal has a difficult R1 against No35-ranked fast-rising young talent Borna Coric, who beat a sub-par Nadal in Basel 2014. Fabio Fognini lies in R3.
SF: Unless Nadal finds his old form in New York, Djokovic could contest SF place with Raonic.
Matches to catch:
R1 Goffin vs Bolelli
R1 Verdasco vs Haas
R1 Nadal vs Coric
R2 Fish vs Lopez
R3 Lopez vs Raonic
R4 Nadal vs Raonic
Kei Nishikori quarter
R1: Tough opener against No41 Benoit Paire, returning to some form.
R2: Radek Stepanek or Marsel Ilhan
R3: First seed No26 seed Tommy Robredo, though alternative may be Alexandr Dolgopolov who made a strong semi run in Cincinnati.
R4: Tsonga or Monfils contest R4 place in high-octane match.
QF: Ferrer returns to competition for first time since before Wimbledon, so Cilic or Grigor Dimitrov might expect to advance to quarters.
SF: On paper, Nishikori and Cilic set up a repeat of last year’s final, but the former has a fitness question-mark after withdrawing from Cincinnati, and Cilic has carried shoulder problems through much of season. Dimitrov or Monfils are alternatives to reach semis.
Matches to catch:
R1 Nishikori vs Paire
R1 Tsonga vs Nieminen (in final US Open)
R2 Robredo vs Dolgopolov
R3 Cilic vs Dimitrov
R3 Tsonga vs Monfils
Andy Murray quarter
R1: High-profile opener against recently-fined No37 Nick Kyrgios, their third Major meeting this year.
R2: No34 Adrian Mannarino or qualifier.
R3: First seed Thomaz Bellucci (who faces one of three Britons in main draw, James Ward, in opener) won only previous match vs Murray in 2011.
R4: Kevin Anderson or Dominic Thiem, both in good form, should contest chance to meet Murray.
QF: Scheduled opponent is Wawrinka, who won last two matches vs Murray and their 2010 US meeting. Wawrinka may first face Gilles Simon or Viktor Troicki. Second Briton Aljaz Bedene also here, facing unpredictable Ernests Gulbis in R1.
SF: Both Murray and Wawrinka have played well in New York: Wawrinka made semis and quarters in last two years, while Murray has reached at least quarters in last four years, winning in 2012. Murray should edge to semi.
Matches to catch:
R1 Murray vs Kyrgios
R1 Troicki vs Tiafoe
R1 Bedene vs Gulbis
R2 Simon vs Gulbis
R3 Wawrinka vs Sock
Roger Federer quarter
R1: Tough opener against highest-ranked unseeded player, Leonardo Mayer, who failed to convert match points against Federer at Shanghai Masters.
R2: No66 Steve Darcis or No51 Baghdatis, who reached final in Atlanta.
R3: First seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, with Lukas Rosol an alternative.
R4: Survivor of big-serving segment, Ivo Karlovic should face John Isner, with Jiri Vesely also here.
QF: Berdych, with a quarter and a semi US run in last three years, is Federer’s scheduled seed: He beat Federer in only previous New York meeting in 2012. Berdych likely to face tough R4 against in-form Richard Gasquet or Bernard Tomic. Two more Australians contest the place, Hewitt in his last US Open, and talented teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis.
SF: Berdych has just two match-wins since Wimbledon, so Federer may contest semi-final place with Gasquet, or even one of young Australians.
Matches to catch:
R1 Federer vs Mayer
R1 Gasquet vs Kokkinakis
R2 Tomic vs Hewitt
R3 Isner v Karlovic