This to me is the most mouth-watering quarter of the draw if you like open competition and the air of uncertainty. That is what you’re going to find here. The quarter is void of a dominant force with David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych as the top seeds. Ferrer, seeded 4th, will again be the guy no one wants to play in a best of five. The Spaniard has also found some form to finish the Summer prep with a Finals appearance in Cincinnati. Ferrer has found NY pretty pleasant with a 27-11 record during his career. That includes two semifinals, the last of which came in 2012. He has made at least the 4th round in four straight years at the USO. To me, this is the typical set-up for Ferrer to be there at the end with a chance to make another Grand Slam semifinal. No one will talk about him much amid the question marks with Djokovic and Murray and the resurgent season of Federer. But Ferrer generally is always there near the end. He has two Slam quarters under his belt this season and his draw, while not easy, does lend itself to him having a chance.
In recent times, this quarter would be one that Tomas Berdych would likely be carrying the label of favorite in. However, Berdych’s 2014 season has been a rollercoaster ride with more dips than rises. Berdych carries a 24-11 record at the USO into this year’s tournament, but he’s had somewhat of a rougher time than the record indicates. He made the semis in 2012 and lost in the 4th round to Wawrinka last year. Before that though, Berdych went four years without making it past the third round. That disappointment could be on tap again as Berdych has won just two matches since Wimbledon with suspect losses to Yen Hsen-Lu in Cincinati and Vasek Pospisil in Toronto. He’ll be up against Lleyton Hewitt first which will require a hard hat and lunch pail to persevere to the 2nd round. Darcis or Klizan in round two won’t be a cake walk either. While a third round reprieve would be likely, the 4th round could feature a seeded player in either Lopez or Gulbis. I don’t fancy Berdych turning around his poor form of late and getting together a run in NY.
Of the other seeds, there’s danger lurking in Gulbis, Cilic, Anderson and Lopez. Gulbis has had the worst Summer of that quartet, but remains a mercurial talent capable of flipping the switch at any time. His pedestrian 6-7 mark at the USO though makes him the longest shot of these four to bust out. That and really a rather blah slate of form since his semifinal surprise at Roland Garros. Since then, it’s been more of the Bad Gulbis people expect.
Cilic will have to be on alert from the opening bell with Marcos Baghdatis as his 1st round opponent. While Baghdatis has had a poor run of form for most of a year and a few months, he has put together some wins on the Challenger level in recent weeks that could change his mindset and courage. Upset alter right off the bat. If Cilic survives, things progress easier to a third round encounter with Jerzy Janowicz or Kevin Anderson most likely. Anderson has that tougher road with Janowicz possible in the 2nd round. 19th seed Felciano Lopez does have a tough path with Dodig to open and then maybe American Steve Johnson all before getting to a possible third rounder with Gulbis. Lopez though had some form this Summer in Toronto with a semifinal run there before tiring in Cincinnati in the 1st round. For me if Berdych fails and Gulbis keeps in his current form, Lopez could sneak into the quarterfinal mix.
There are a few non-seeds that could open some eyes in this wide open quarter. American Steve Johnson scored a couple nice scalps this Summer, beating Isner in DC and Gulbis in Cincinatti. He narrowly lost in three sets in a third set tie breaker to Milos Raonic in Cincy as well. Johnson will look to rebound from a disappointing opening round loss to Tobias Kamke at the USO in 2013. He draws Ito to open, a very winnable match and then faces Lopez or Dodig. His game matches either guy, it’s not hard to see him making the 3rd round with a good run of play.
Janowicz will be back in the spotlight after a nice week in Winston-Salem where he made the Final before losing in three tight sets to Lukas Rosol. Janowicz has been desperately void of form for most of 2014, so the question will be whether or not he can carry that into the next week or two. His opener against Lajovic should be expected as a winner, but his stay could be short with Kevin Anderson likely as a 2nd round opponent. That however could come down to tie breaks and you never know when it gets to that point. As mentioned before, Baghdatis bears watching. His confidence has to be boosted by finding some form albeit in Challengers. A win over Cilic to open though would really boost that sky-high and maybe give the Cypriot a chance to truly be relevant again.
4th Round Predictions
Berdych vs. Lopez
Baghdatis vs. Ferrer
No one could fault a person for picking any of the seeded players in this quarter as a potential semifinalist. It does appear that wide open. Historically though, that has always seemed to be the time that David Ferrer has defied the perceived odds and worked his way through a draw to a deep run at a Grand Slam. With the lack of form from Berdych and more question marks than answers for a lot in this quarter, I’m not going to bet against the ultimate grinder to do his thing here and be the last man standing from this quarter.