1. Novak Djokovic
7. Marin Cilic
9. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
13. Richard Gasquet
20. John Isner
23. Kevin Anderson
26. Jack Sock
28. Martin Klizan
There was a time when Djokovic’s opener against Jerzy Janowicz would have been a potential highlight match of a tournament. Those days faded fast for Janowicz who is just getting going on tour again after missing most of the season due to injury. In his few matches back, his serve looks like it’s still lacking consistency and that should play right into Djokovic’s hands. The top seed probably would have preferred someone though with less potential than Janowicz for his first round match. Still, Janowicz has not been able to turn the clock back to 2913 when he was most relevant. Barring Djokovic’s wrist still being a major bother, expect the Serb to get through round one, but with perhaps a hiccup of losing a set.
Djokovoc should otherwise be relatively pleased with his early draw. In his half, Gasquet, Isner and Klizan are the seeds. None will invoke fear in the defending champ. Klizan in particular could be a round one upset victim. Mikhail Youzhny is the opponent and the Russian has been playing fairly consistently again on this surface this summer. Klizan’s lack of hard court playing time could be a major issue if Youzhny starts fast. Gasquet flashed enough in Winston-Salem to believe he could be the fourth round date for Djokovic. The Isner-Tiafoe match in round one in this portion of the draw could be interesting, but Tiafoe still lacks the finishing/winning touch at this level.
I can see seeds holding here for Djokovic-Gasquet fourth round battle. The Serb holds a slight 12-1 edge over the 13th seed in their careers. Again if health holds up, Djokovic really should not see much trouble getting to the quarterfinals – but health is a legit question.
KEEP AN EYE ON
American Ernesto Escobedo who has a winnable opener against Lukas Lacko. The 20-year-old won the Lexington Challenger this summer and has played some tough tennis against lower tier opponents like Lacko. This is a great shot for him to get Grand Slam win #1.
Cilic will come in with confidence after winning the title in Cincinnati. With Tsonga, Anderson and Sock as the seeds in this half – he should feel reaonsably good about a quarterfinal run. Sock once again draws Taylor Fritz in the opening round of a slam. He survived in Australia in five sets. Fritz hasn’t done much to inspire confidence of late, but playing a familiar opponent can help. Fritz definitely has a shot to push Sock, but he’ll need to find his A game. Anderson should be able to get off to a winning start against Yoshihito Nishioka who usually has a tough time matching up with big servers. Anderson could definitely use a straight forward win to get going after an injury plagued and inconsistent 2016 so far.
In spite of Tsonga’s recent poor play, he’s got a nice draw that should see him with a legit shot to get to round three. He opens against Guido Andreozzi and then has James Duckworth or Robin Haase. It looks like Tsonga-Anderson third round clash is in the cards here unless Vasek Pospisil gets the losing stick that has been shoved up his rear end in 2016, but that seems unlikely at least enough to win more than a match. If it is Tsonga-Anderson in round three, the Frenchman has won both career meetings. The last came in Shanghai last year, but both were very tight with tiebreakers playing a prominent role.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …
Djokovic will be very keen to reestablish himself as the King after the disappointment of Rio. From all accounts, it was tough on him mentally, but he’s had time to regroup and there are few in the game who carry a grudge better than the Serb. As a top seed, you often need to find some outlying extra to give yourself some motivation at-times and Djokovic should have plenty of that due to Wimbledon and Rio. The big question of course is whether his wrist will hold up.
Cilic is the obvious dark horse here and with a final and semifinal at the U.S. Open in the last two years, he should have a chance to at least play for a spot in the semis. Cilic has a pretty good route to getting there, having beaten Tsonga four times in a row and Anderson in five of six career meetings if either is in his way. The Croat got crushed by Djokovic last year in the semis and is 0-14 against him. Still with the current version of Djokovic, this could more resemble their five set battle at Wimbledon a few years back.
The uncertainty surrounding Djokovic has me looking to Cilic, but of course there will be no shock if Djokovic comes through here with flying colors.