First Quarter: Novak Djokovic (1)
Djokovic def. F.Lopez
(1) Djokovic vs. (23) Bautista-Agut
(18) F.Lopez vs. (32) Fognini
This quarter saw a couple of upsets in the third round that changed the participants in the fourth round. 8th seed Rafael Nadal was up two sets to love on #32 Fabio Fognini before the Italian crated a remarkable comeback that ended in a break-a-thon in the fifth set with Fognini coming out on top 6-4. The 32nd seed had a remarkable 70 winners in the match. Lopez held to The Pig’s prediction as he took care of 10th seed Milos Raonic and his balky back in straight sets in the third round. Djokovic has played through with few issues, while Bautista-Agut is the beneficiary of a sick 14th seed David Goffn. Goffin had to tap out in the third round due to illness, leading the match two sets to one at the time.
I’m holding firm on the original prediction here. Djokovic has beaten RBA both times they met and I don’t see anything that should change that. Fognini had one of those lightning-in-a-bottle matches where he hit the lines and made some amazing shots down the stretch. It also helped that Nadal could not hold his serve in the final set where one hold likely would have helped the Spaniard avoid collapse. Fognini won’t find that luxury against the usually stout serve of Lopez. Those two have never met before so the first set may be Fognini’s best chance to get into the match early. Overall, I think Lopez serves too well in this one and takes out the Italian in four sets.
Second Quarter: Kei Nishikori (4)
Tsonga def. Cilic
(19) Tsonga vs. Paire
(9) Cilic vs. (27) Chardy
As laid out in the preview, it looked like this quarter was going to prove too much for fourth seeded Kei Nishikori. Indeed it did, although I’ll say I did not see it coming in the opening round to Benoit Paire. Paire has followed that up a four set win over Marsel Ilhan and a straight sets destruction of 26th seed Tommy Robredo. Tsonga has flow under the radar somehow with three straight sets wins over NIeminen, Granollers and Stakhovsky. The Tsonga serve has been outstanding with only two break points handed out and both saved. Cilic, the defending champ, had a tough test in the third round but survived a five set match with Mikhail Kukushkin. Cilic’s struggle in the third round was getting his first serve in. When he got it in, he was winning 84 percent of the points. He’ll need to get more of those in against Chardy. The Frenchman breezed through the first two rounds, but had to fight for every point against 7th seed David Ferrer in the last round. Ferrer was not at his best, but Chardy deserves credit for his fight in that one.
Tsonga leads the head-to-head against Paire 2-0, but both meetings came a while back. Still, Tsonga’s level has been very steady so far and this is the business end of a Grand Slam where his experience should be big. Paire has given out 25 break chances through three rounds, but has managed to save 20 of those. Likely, he will be teetering more of the brink of being broken and if Tsonga can convert well, he should work the win in that one. For Cilic, Chardy will give him a test. They met at Wimbledon last year and Cilic came out on top 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Second serves could be huge in this one with both guys struggling when they get put into serving too many second serves. I’ll stay with the original pick of Cilic and Tsonga advancing, but I do think Chardy has the best shot at an upset of what remains here. Cilic has been good, but not great yet in this tournament and that could get him in trouble.
Third Quarter: Andy Murray (3)
Wawrinka def. Murray
(3) Andy Murray vs. (15) Kevin Anderson
(5) Stan Wawrinka vs. Donald Young
This quarter nearly flipped upside down in round two when Adrian Mannarino took a two sets to love lead on Andy Murray. Murray never panicked and gradually fought back and wore the Frenchman down to win in five sets. Kevin Anderson has been serving missiles through three rounds and will provide another test for Murray. This is Anderson’s first trip to the fourth round at the U.S. Open. The two sets to love hole has been very kind to Donald Young this week. The American had never won a match after going down 0-2 and has now done it twice in three rounds. His third round win over Viktor Troicki was a legendary ending to one of the great courts in tennis as the U.S. Open Grandstand likely saw its final matches today. it will be torn down as part of the renovation of the grounds. Young battled through an early back issue and electrified the crowd for the final three sets. Wawrinka has not looked all that impressive through three rounds, but he has fought through with straight sets wins and a lot of tight sets.
Murray worries me less in this spot than Wawrinka as far as the original prediction. Murray was solid in beating Bellucci in the the third round and has proven time and time again that he can withstand big servers in these best of five settings. Anderson will need some of the massive ground strokes that he produced against Dominic Thiem in round three, but the guess is that the pressure Murray will apply to his serve as the match wears on, will wear Anderson’s ground game down too. Wawrinka would not have expected to see Young here in this spot. The two have met twice with both meetings in 2011. Young beat Stan in a five setter in the second round of the U.S. Open that year. That of course well before Wawrinka became a two-time Grand Slam Champion.
There is a real sense of belief for Young this week, but he’s also been very fortunate to dig out of a pair of 0-2 holes that a player like Wawrinka likely won’t let him crawl out of a third time this tournament. Still, if Young can actually get off to a good start there is a feeling for The Pig that Wawrinka will need to call on an extra gear that may or may not be there. That would be the biggest question as Wawrinka has just kind of moved through his matches without showing much of his best tennis. I will still lean to the Stanimal to get it done here as Young has been flirting too often with danger by falling behind. I will not be completely shocked of an upset though, but do think Young’s run comes to an end.
Where I think things could change over my original pick is the quarterfinals. Unless Wawrinka shows another level, Murray should take advantage of what has looked like some very lackadaisical play from the Swiss this week. It should still be a barn burner of a match though.
Fourth Quarter: Roger Federer (2)
Federer def. Berdych
(2) Roger Federer vs. (13) John Isner
(6) Tomas Berdych vs. (12) Richard Gasquet
This quarter has pretty much gone to plan for the top seeds. Roger Federer has passed all tests with flying colors and was broken just once in three rounds to advance to this spot. He gets John Isner who benefited from a retirement in the third round by Jiri Vesely. The American has been his usual power-serving self with 62 aces in three rounds and he has not been broken. Berdych got through a tougher than expected third round encounter with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four sets. It took the Czech the better part of two sets to really get a foot hold in the match that saw him exchange tie break winning sets with the Spaniard. His level raised the final two sets that saw him close out 6-3, 6-3.
Gasquet has lived a charmed life this week. In round one, Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis cramped up in the third set with a two sets to one lead over Gasquet. He lost that set and then retired. The second round saw a stiff challenge from Robin Haase. Gasquet dropped the opening set before recovering for the win. On Saturday, he took out what appeared to be a gassed Bernard Tomic in straight sets. He can thank Lleyton Hewitt for stretching Tomic to five sets in round two for that.
Federer knew he would be up against one of the big servers in the fourth round most likely. It could have been Ivo Karlovic or John Isner. Against Isner, he gets someone he is 4-1 against lifetime. They have not met since 2012. With Federer’s serve about as good as Isner’s over the last month, this is likely to feature a tie break or two. Isner is not always the most adept tie break player at just 31-25 this season. Federer is 15-10. Isner can take a set, maybe even two with an electric serving day, but Federer should get through that tusssle to the quarters.
Berdych-Gasquet remains a big time toss-up for me. Gasquet has only faced one opponent who appeared to be full strength in Haase and he had to work hard to win. Berdych at times against GGL did not appear to have his best game working. Berdych won both meetings with the Frenchman this year, one on clay and one on a hard court. He has won three straight in the series. Tentatively, I will go with Berdych with the expectation that he will be more engaged with a high profile opponent on tap next. In the end, this still looks like Federer’s quarter to lose.