The Ocho v.4

Ocho

This is my weekly look at the top eight players and/or doubles teams that you need to know about based on last week’s action. Be sure to catch the list every Monday and throw in your two cents on Twitter!

1. Mirza Basic
The 26-year old Bosnian won his first ATP title in Sofia as a qualifier. The win moves him inside the top 100 in the rankings for the first time in his career. Basic moves up 52 spots to #77. His biggest wins of the week came against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Stan Wawrinka. In 2018 in the two tournaments from which he has qualified, Basic has a title and a quarterfinal showing from the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. So if you see Basic qualifying for the main draw this year, watch out!

BASIC

2. Roberto Carballes Baena
Another first time title winner at the ATP level, this 24-year old Spaniard took home the crowd at the Quito Open in Ecuador. He beat fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Baena also got a big boost for his ranking as a result, rising 31 spots and slotting just in front of Basic at #76 overall. RCB also came through qualifying in Ecuador to claim his title.

3. Robin Haase-Matwe Middelkoop
The Dutch duo won their second title of 2018, taking home the doubles titles in Sofia over Alexander Peya and Nikola Mektic in a super tie break 5-7, 6-4, 10-4. Haase-Middelkoop also won the doubles titles in Pune, Indian to kick off 2018. For Middelkoop, it’s his second Sofia title as he also won there with Wesley Koolhoff in 2016. The Dutch pair remain 6th in latest doubles rankings. Haase-Middelkoop took a wildcard entry into doubles this week in Rotterdam, where they open against another Dutch wildcard entry in Jesse Timmermans and Jasper Smit.

4. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga is in “The Ocho” for the wrong reasons. After missing Davis Cup play due to a knee strain, Tsonga returned to tour play at the Open Sud de France. He looked locked in for a spot in the final as he was dominating second seed Lucas Pouille in the semifinals 6-1 and 5-4. That is when Tsonga apparently tore his left hamstring. He was broken in his service game to go to 5-5 and forced to retire from the match. It’s the second tournament already where an injury has limited Tsonga with a knee issue also hindering him in his loss to Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open.

None of this is good news for the 32-year-old who was forced to skip the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, where he was set to defend the title. Tsonga has admitted that he is going to have to start making a schedule that will allow his body to hold together better, although over play was not the case in Montpellier.

5. The Skupski Brothers
The British brothers, Ken (34) and Neal (28) won their first ATP doubles titles together in Montpellier as they made their first appearance in an ATP level final since 2013. They beat the team of Ben McLachlan and Hugo Nys. It was Ken’s fourth ATP title overall and the first for Neal. The Skupskis are in good form right now as they came to Montpellier off of winning the Quimper Challenger doubles titles. Their title victory puts them at 14th in the doubles rankings

TENNIS : Open Sud de France 2018 - Montpellier - Finale Doube - 11/02/2018

6. Maximillian Marterer
Not a lot of people have noticed the 22 year old German and his finish in Sofia last week. He made his first ATP quarterfinal, which came on the heels of Marterer making the 3rd round at the Australian Open. He was 0-14 in ATP matches before this season, but now has four wins in six matches in 2018. Marterer is now at a career best 78th in the latest rankings. He’s sinking back to the Challenger level this week as the second seed in Cherbourg.

7. Stan Wawrinka
There wasn’t anything special about Wawrinka’s showing in Sofia, but it was a promising bounce back effort from The Stanimal after he looked not ready for action really in Melbourne. In Sofia, he scored a pair of wins before losing to the eventual champion, Mirza Basic, in the semifinals. Considering he took a late entry after Grigor Dimitrov pulled out due to injury, the Swiss was pleased with his performance.

Wawrinka said after the tournament that he’s still not near his best, but it was good to get in match play. He played back-to-back-to-back days in a tournament for the first time since undergoing knee surgery last year. He’s in Rotterdam this week and probably not expecting much again, but there are at least some positive signs for him to build on. Match toughness and fitness will be the thing that really helps boost his play and he’ll only get that from more matches played.

8. Amadine Hesse-Kristina Mladenovic
The French duo delivered a quarterfinal win in Fed Cup play for France over Belgian tandem of Elise Mertens and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. Mladenovic is now 10-2 in Fed Cup doubles and also was responsible for both singles wins for France this weekend. France next plays the United States in the semifinals in April.

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2018 ASB Classic Semifinals Preview

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(5) Roberto Bautista Agut vs Robin Haase

RBA, the Auckland Annihilator

Roberto Bautista Agut ran his record at the ASB Classic to 11-2 with a quarterfinal win over Jiri Vesely 7-6 (1), 6-2. This is his third semifinal in Auckland in four trips to the main draw. He won the tournament in 2016. RBA tallied the opening break to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set, but was broken back immediately. Vesely stayed on serve to the tiebreak with neither facing a break point the rest of the way. In the breaker, RBA rolled 7-1 and set the stage for a smash and grab job in set two. He would break Vesely twice in the set en route to the win. The fifth seed sported solid numbers overall with win rates at 75 and 83 percent respectively on first and second serves.

Bautista Agut has only really had one bad set this week, his first against Steve Johnson in round two. He dropped that set 6-2, but then crushed the American 6-2, 6-1 in the next two sets. RBA has credited the weather conditions for being perfectly suited to his game this week. The Spaniard has been more aggressive with his forehand consistently and it has paid dividends. He’s been ruthless in converting break chances, taking 12 breaks out of 16 chances for a superb 75 percent cash-in rate on breaks.

Haase Takes Advantage in Weakened Quarter

Veteran Robin Haase has scooted through to the semifinals in a quarter that saw 8th seed Andrey Rublev withdraw before the tournament started. Good fortune continued for Haase when top seed Jack Sock struggled and was one and done via Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets in round two. That has left Haase to qualifier Casper Ruud in round one, lucky loser Lukas Lacko in round two and then Gojo in the quarters. Haase has won six straight sets now after being bageled to start the tournament by Ruud.

It hasn’t all been great tennis for Haase as he didn’t flash his best in the quarters, but had enough to beat Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4. Haase faced ten break points, but saved eight of them. He would win just 63 percent of his first serve points, while winning 59 percent off his second. The first serve numbers were down from his best at 75 percent against Ruud. He also did not get as many freebies against Gojo, tallying just four aces after firing 25 total in the first two rounds. What he has done well, like Bautista Agut, is convert break points. The Dutchman has broken his opponents seven times on ten chances.

The Formula

This will be their second career meeting with Haase winning on clay in Casblanca in three sets back in 2013. Hard courts should favor the more consistent Bautista Agut. As mentioned earlier, RBA has been a bit more aggressive with his forehand this year and it’s working well. He’s not going to wow you with power off either wing, but there is really no weakness between the forehand and backhand. Both are consistent and his game is built on that consistency and ability to make his opponent hit the extra shot.

In rallies, RBA can control the points well if he’s allowed to dictate the action from the baseline. Often against Vesely, he was in a central position on the baseline and was able to breakdown the Czech with superior shot selection. The Spaniard did a good job of mixing in tactics as he was not afraid to move in on occassion to be more aggressive. Often, that came off his forehand. I’d expect him to exploit Haase’s movement by employing that tactic again.

Haase will need to find a way to make RBA move around the court if he’s going to find success. He also must show improvement with his serve. The level he had against Gojo won’t likely cut it against RBA. Bautista Agut isn’t a creative returner, but he’s solid. When he’s getting his racket on his opponent’s serve regularly, he’s usually got himself established in the match and a leg up to start rallies. Haase will need to bring the power he showed in the first two rounds off his serve to push RBA back and get himself the superior position to start ground exchanges, if he’s not getting cheap points with aces.

The Pig-nosticator

This is a tough match-up for Haase in my opinion. RBA is comfortable on these courts and in these conditions. The Spaniard has looked dominant more often than he’s looked vulnerable. If he serves well, Haase will need something special to beat him and I’m not sure he has that in his bag in New Zealand this week. Haase has done some good work in Auckland in the past, making the quarters last year and playing Kevin Anderson tough before going out in round two in 2016. I think he can keep this match tight for a while, if he brings the hammer on serve.

More often though, Haase struggles to beat better players consistently on this surface and that’s why his win rate on hard courts is below 45 percent for his career. RBA has thrived on hard courts, winning nearly 62 percent of his career matches. Three of his last four titles have come outdoors on hard courts, including the 2016 win here in Auckland. I liked Bautista Agut at the beginning of this tournament to set up for a deep run and I think he goes at least one step farther.

Pig’s Bottom Line: Bautista Agut wins in straight sets

(2) Juan Martin Del Potro vs (7) David Ferrer

Aggressive Ferrer Feeling Fit

David Ferrer says he has felt as good as he has in a long time during his last two wins in Auckland. His latest came via a 6-3, 6-2 win over Hyeon Chung in the quarters. Chung could do little right on serve, winning just under half the points played (23/48). Ferrer was routinely pressuring the 21-year-old, crafting eight breaks chances. He would convert on five of those chances. Ferrer continued his “new” pattern of play which has been to be more aggressive with his ground strokes, instead of engaging in endless and lengthy rallies.

The Spaniard said he had no interest in seeing Chung chase down a bunch of balls as he did in upsetting John Isner in the previous round. More or less, Ferrer did not want to get Ferrer-ed. The 7th seed still has plenty of room to improve after winning just 59 percent of his first serve points against Chung. You can attribute some of that to Chung’s return game, but Ferrer was also at just 66 percent against Chinese teen Yibing Yu in his opener. He bludgeoned Joao Sousa in round two, but the inconsistency will need to be addressed if he has a real shot to beat Del Potro.

Del Potro Healthy, Playing Solid

For Juan Martin Del Potro, it’s a different feeling to be healthy and firing early in a season. it’s been a few years since he has been able to play this Australian swing and perhaps he’s making up for lost time. The 2009 Auckland champ came through a stiff test from Karen Khachanov last round 7-6 (3), 6-3. DelPo did not face a break point as he took 78 percent of the first serve points and 61 percent off his second. He was only able to get the one break off of the Russian on two chances, but it was perfect to help him control the second set. JMDP walloped eleven aces to give him 19 in two matches.

DelPo was perhaps a bit conservative tactically through the opening set against Khachanov as he matched up against the 21-year old for the first time. The Argentine admitted that he took more chances in the tie break, which obviously paid off. He even employed a series of drop shots that too the Russian’s legs. Despite his first serve not having quite the pop on it that he might want, Del Potro has been sharp in not conceding any break chances this week. He only won 69 percent of his first serve points against Denis Shapovalov in round one, but covered that by taking 13 of the 15 points played on his second serve.

First Meeting Since 2016

These two have played ten times at the tour level with Ferrer holding the 6-4 advantage. Their last meeting came in the third round of the 2016 U.S. Open, where Del Potro dismantled Ferrer 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-3. JMDP was dominant with his serve, taking 81 percent of the first serve points. He was on Ferrer’s serve plenty as he saw a dozen break chances, converting on five. Ferrer would win just 63 percent of his first serve points. That win was Del Potro’s second straight over the Spaniard, also beating him at Wimbledon in 2013. Their other eight battles took place between 2008-2012. It’s a vastly different time for both now.

Del Potro has of course suffered through some agonizingly short seasons due to wrist injuries, while Ferrer has begun to show his age the last few years. Those two things have pushed both players to incorporate new tactics into their games. Del Potro had to adopt more of a one handed backhand approach to take some pressure off of his wrists and also to help him get to more forehands. The slice he uses off that backhand side has been a key to his surge over the last year. Ferrer as mentioned, has gone to a more aggressive style of play with shorter points. The one thing they do have in commmon – lengthy trips to the physio in between matches to keep their bodies primed for play.

The Formula

I don’t think there is much mystery to this match-up. Ferrer’s serve is the sticking point. He simply does not have the raw power to match Del Potro blow for blow. Del Potro must be aggressive though in return to make the Spaniard pay for not hitting his spots. If the second seed does not strike the ball clean on return, then Ferrer has the ability to move and employ those aggressive tactics to finish off the points. Where Del Potro has struggled some is protecting the serves out wide, so I would be shocked if the 7th seed didn’t go there plenty in this one.

Del Potro needs to bring the bombs with his first serve. You can see it already this week, when that part of his game is on – he physically imposes his will on players. He pushes them back a few steps with his power and has the court position to his favor from that first ball. It also allows Del Potro to use the forehand consistently, which of course is his best shot. I think Ferrer will set up deep, but that’s still going to leave him scrambling if Del Potro is punishing the ball with that first serve.

While Ferrer doesn’t want to play those long rallies, he still will want to move Del Potro around the court. He can do that even in shorter exchanges by moving in and forcing Del Potro to do the same. DelPo has shown good movement still, but says he isn’t great at hitting balls low. That’s a fairly common tactic against taller players, to keep the ball out of their wheel house, and you can expect that Ferrer will try to exploit the angles and low trajectory of the ball to win points.

Both players will stick to the baseline as much as they are allowed and that shouldn’t deter Ferrer from taking that aggressive approach. Shapovalov employed it with some success again in round two by going for big shots from the baseline early in rallies. Ferrer will need to try some of that, but I’m not sure he’s got the power to consistently beat DelPo in that manner. Shapovalov generates a lot of pop with that whipping action on his forehand, whereas Ferrer’s just doesn’t have that same level.

The Pig-nosticator

It’s a different challenge for both players than what they have faced this week. Ferrer has not faced anyone with raw power like DelPo and the Argentine hasn’t faced a wiley veteran like Ferrer. I do think Del Potro needs to find early success with his serve to stave off Ferrer. He hasn’t been pushed much early in matches and that perhaps could be a turning point if Ferrer is to spring a surprise. Ferrer’s best chance I feel is to take that opening set and put pressure on Del Potro to respond.

The gut feeling though is that Ferrer’s faulty serve is not going to allow him to be in a command position early. If the Spaniard is too busy digging out of service games, that is going to leave him with a very small margin to turn the tables on Del Potro. My gut feeling is that is more likely than not. The only thing Del Potro needed to prove this week to be a factor in the business end of the tournament was that he wasn’t going to start flat. He hasn’t and I think he’ll have a shot to win his second title in Auckland by advancing to the final.

Pig’s Bottom Line: Del Potro wins in straight sets

2017 U.S. Open Preview: Quarter #4

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Seeds
Marin Cilic (5)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (8)
Pablo Carreno Busta (12)
Lucas Pouille (16)
David Ferrer (21)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (28)
Diego Schwartzman (29)
Robin Haase (32)

Battle Tested Vets Might Be Shown Up

This final quarter of the draw got a little switcheroo with Andy Murray’s late withdrawal. Marin Cilic now is the lead seed in a quarter and comes to New York with health questions. He’s been out since Wimbledon due to an abductor injury he sustained in London. When healthy, he is an obvious threat at Slams still. Since a subpar Australian Open, Cilic made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and then the final at Wimbledon. The U.S. Open brings back fond memories of course as the site of his lone Grand Slam conquest.

Last year’s third round exit in New York was Cilic’s worse since 2011 and broke a streak of three straight quarterfinal or better finishes. If he proves he is healthy, he is the obvious one to beat here. Tsonga brings no momentum to the proceedings, but a good tradition in New York that includes two straight quarterfinal finishes. He may just need to find some early wins to gain confidene after a poor summer that saw him lose both his hard court tuneups. The vet with the best form shockingly is David Ferrer who had not won more than two matches at a tournament prior to winning the title on clay in Bastard post-Wimbledon.

When the surface switched to hard courts, Ferrer kept going wth a third round run in Montreal followed up with a semifinal trip in Cincinnati. A guy who was an after thought is now one you cannot overlook. The real intrigue could lie with a couple of talented 20-somethings who are mid-seeds in Carreno Busta and Pouille. Pouille, a 2016 quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open, has struggled to follow up his surprising 2016 campaign. Still, he’s got all the game you could want and a fairly workable draw. You also have two unseeded players who look boom or bust in Steve Johnson and Kyle Edmund that I’ll talk about more below.

Cilic’s Half Looks a Three Horse Race

With Cilic, Pouille and Ferrer all in one half of this quarter – they look to be the most probable contenders for quarterfinal spots. Cilic of course must prove his health first and he gets that opportunity in round one against Tennys Sandgren. On his best day, Sandgren might be able to hold serve with Cilic and sneak out a tight set or two. With Cilic fully fit, Cilic should overpower the American and move to round two. You should learn plenty from Cilic as that match wears on, but Sandgren might steal a set early with the Croat rusty. If he is healthy, then his route to the fourth round looks very nice. He has Schwartzman as the seed in his way and not a whole lot more. A fun first rounder in this part of the draw could be Janko Tipsarevic and Thanasi Kokkinakis. The Aussie could score some wins here with Schwartzman as a possible second round opponent, if he beats Carlos Berlocq in round one.

Ferrer and Pouille are the seeds in the other part opposite Cilic. Pouille has a wiley vet in Ruben Bemelmans to open. If he works past the Belgian, he could see American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson opens with Nikoloz Bashilasvhili. Donaldson made waves last year with a run through qualifying at the U.S. Open and a third round finish. He comes in off an unexpected semifinal run in Cincy that should fuel him. Donaldson beat Pouille in an earlier meeting at the Rogers Cup in two tiebreak sets and could be a dark horse in this section. He’s also inconsistent enough to lose in round one.

Ferrer gets Mikhail Kukushkin in round one and he is 7-0 lifetime in that match-up, but will face a stern test. Kukushkin is a veteran player who has made a habit of being a tough out in New York. He beat Dimitrov in 2015 and took Cilic to five sets the next round. He also played Ferrer once here in 2013 and lost in four. I would not be surprised if kukushkin made life tough on ferrer. The survivor looks to be in good shape with Menendez-Maceiras or Donskoy up in round two. Donskoy does have a big ground game, but has really struggled to make much of that at this level on a consistent basis. You have to like a healthy Cilic here and don’t be surprised if Donaldson makes another run at the expense of Pouille.

Tsonga’s Half Looks Prime for Unexpected Results

Tsonga opens with Marius Copil who serves big and hits big. Copil has never matched up well with top tier players though and the 26-year-old has just one Grand Slam win. Still, Tsonga has has had a proclivity for losing to power players like this over the last few months with two losses to Querrey, one to Karlovic and one to Muller. Copil isn’t in that class, but he can certainly bang power for power with Tsonga for a bit. Tsonga will need to be sharp. If he wins, we could get a highly entertaining round two if qualifier Denis Shapovalov can earn his first Slam win in round one against Daniil Medvedev. Medevedev has been off his game of late, so Shappy should have a chance to earn that maiden victory. If it’s Tsonga-Shapovalov in round two, you’ll get two demonstrative players going head-to-head in a match made from heaven for the crowd.

Haase is the seed opposite that part of this section and he has a difficult path in round one against Kyle Edmund. Edmund has been up and down this summer, but has the tools to win on this surface. Outside of Haase’s surprise Rogers Cup run, outdoor hard courts traditionally are not his thing. He is 2-7 lifetime at the U.S. Open and an upset could definitely be in the cards in round one. The winner there sees either Steve Johnson or Nicolas Almagro. Almagro is returning after knee surgery in late May. Johnson has been up an down as we all know with his head swimming still following the passing of his father. I like that spot for him to win and you can bet the crowd will be 100 percent behind him. He could relish a chance to avenge a loss to Edmund last week in Winston-Salem. Don’t be surprised if Johnson is motivated and emotional enough to score some wins.

The other half of this segment is led by two seeded Spaniards in Carreno Busta and Ramos-Vinolas. Neither is the allergic type to hard courts, so they actually have a good opportunity in this part of the draw. Carreno Busta has a smoother path with qualifier Evan King in his opener and then either Cameron Norrie or Dmitry Tursunov. PCB really should make it to round three unless he is an absolute mess. Ramos-Vinolas faces Denis Istomin, which might sound difficult. Looking at Istomin’s 2017 since beating Novak Djokovic in Australia however and it looks easier. Istomin has lost his first match in seven of his last eight tournaments. That should put ARV into round two against Nicolas Mahut or Marton Fucsovics. Fucsovics normally doesn’t win at this level on this surface.

I’m not big on Tsonga despite his past history here and especially with some of the dangerous young floaters in his segment of the draw. I can see taking advantage here or a feel good story with Steve Johnson.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …

Most of this quarter hinges on the health of Cilic. If he’s healthy and finds his game after the layoff, he certainly has the goods to get through this quarter. If not, then this looks wide open with guys like Carreno Busta and Pouille hopeful among the seeds. However, I could definitely see the unseeded uprising here if the upsets fall early on. Johnson, Shapovalov, Edmund and Medvedev all have possibilities if things fall right. With the way things have gone, it’d be just about right if Ferrer survived here somehow. I look to either a healthy Cilic or Carreno Busta or a resurgent Pouille as the best shots. If the unseeded streak ends, give me Johnson and all the feels.

2017 U.S. Open Seed Report

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I’ve already laid out the wasteland that is the seeded field and the possible contenders this year with so many absentees. In case you’ve been under a rock, last year’s champion Stan Wawrinka is joined by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori as top ten players who will not be present at this year’s U.S. Open. That leaves a lot of wiggle room among the seeded field to jockey for position at the business end of the tournament. The top seed is Rafael Nadal with Roger Federer now a de-factor #2 in the same half of the draw after Murray’s late withdrawal announcement. Marin Cilic will slot into Murray’s spot in the draw and is labelled as the fifth seed. Alexander Zverev has his highest seeding at a Slam as the #4 and the sheik pick to the click if you’re straying from the Nadal-Federer narrative at Grand Slams in 2017.

Being a seed at a Slam is always tricky business and as we like to do before each Slam, let’s take a look at how the seeds have fared over the last six years:

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There wasn’t much straying from the pattern with the four semifinalists coming from the top ten seeds. Only with Marin Cilic’s shock win as the #14 seed in 2014 have we seen a seed outside the top ten involved in the semis. That could definitely change with the turnover at the top this year. Juan Martin Del Potro did make sure that an unseeded player made the quarterfinal field in 2016 for the first time since 2008 when Mardy Fish and Gilles Muller both made it without a number next to their names.

Our other area of pique interest are the first round upsets of seeds and last year saw five, up from just three in 2015. David Goffin (12) was the highest seed to fall in round one a year ago, continuing a trend of top 12 seeds losing in five of the last six years as you look over that chart. With that in mind, we must check out the seeds and the players who could be most prone to being sent home in round one.

Early Bird Specials

8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga went 0-2 in the hard court swing this summer and he has not found much momentum from the French Open through the present time. He is just 3-5 in that stretch. Tsonga has turned up well at the U.S. Open with two straight quarterfinal appearances, but this version of Tsonga doesn’t look to be at that level. His first round foe is Marius Copil who has a big serve and big forehand. If Tsonga is flat, Copil is capable of contending in this match and pushing the Frenchman to turn up his best tennis in months. This again is a lower tier upset alert, but still one that given Tsonga’s play recently …. could happen.

10. John Isner
Isner faces off against Pierre Hugues-Herbert in round one. Isner beat him in their only career meeting at Roland Garros 7-6, 7-6, 7-5. Isner did not look good in Winston-Salem last week, either struggling with low energy or lack of motiviation. That makes it a litte bit dangerous for him, although I would expect him to amp it back up for the Open. Isner hasn’t fallen in round one at this tournament since 2008, but with the way his matches play out, it’s always a possibility to be close and tense. PHH doesn’t figure to be able to contend serve for serve with Isner over the course of five sets, but if he serves well enough – there is always a chance that the sets come down to a key point or two. Keep the upset alarm ready, although probably not as likely as others.

11. Roberto Bautista Agut
RBA is on fire after winning the Winston-Salem Open, but that also brings with it the potential for fatigue. Couple that with a veteran opponent in Andreas Seppi and you see why he’s on this list. RBA has been a pretty consistent performer the last three years at the U.S. Open with no worse than a third round finish. He also did come in last year off losing the Winston-Salem final, but he did have a tough time putting away Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round in four sets that included two tiebreaks. Seppi played his first matches since Wimbledon at Winston-Salem and was strong in making the third round with a 2-1 record. The Italian is only 9-13 in New York, but he also hasn’t lost in round one since 2012 and owns the lone win head-to-head against RBA in Miami way back in 2012. Monitor this one as it could be a lengthy battle with some upset potential.

13. Jack Sock
Sock’s summer was mediocre to poor if you throw out his semifinal showing at the Citi Open. Outside of that result, Sock went 2-3 with disheartening losses to Kyle Edmund, David Ferrer and Yuichi Sugita. Sock did make the fourth round for the first time last year at the U.S. Open, but arrives with out much to show since March. He opens against Jordan Thompson who can be dangerous on this surface. The Aussie made two Challenger finals on hard courts this summer and took Sascha Zverev to a third set tiebreak in D.C. before losing in round two. Thompson is only 2-9 at Slams, but with Sock’s recent run of mediocrity, this could be a tough first one test for the American.

17. Sam Querrey
Querrey draws Gilles Simon to start with the Frenchman having beaten him four out of the six times that they have met. That is the bad news. The good news is that Simon is in the midst of a putrid year with a 12-18 overall record. Querrey had a good summer, winning the Los Cabos title and going 3-2 between Montreal and Cincinnati. Simon has lost his opening match in six of his last eight tournaments, so that should be a boost to Querrey’s confidence. The American somewhat surprisingly has never done much at the U.S. Open and will head to this year’s version looking to end a two year streak of losing in the opening round. Despite Simon’s struggles that makes this a mental spot for Querrey and that could be a hazardous situation if Simon is getting enough balls back in play.

18. Gael Monfils
La Monf is in that prototypical boom or bust spot he always seems to be in at Grand Slams. He pulled out of Cincinnati with an illness, but physically we believe that he isn’t carrying an injury into New York. Still, he draws Jeremy Chardy in round one and his fellow Frenchman beat him the last time they played at Wimbledon in 2016. Chardy won an up and down five setter in that one. The plus for Monfils is that Chardy hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon this season. Still, being a veteran player who is going up against a familiar foe makes this a potentially tricky match between the two. Keep Monfils on upset alert as he’ll need to get going early to avoid being sent packing.

25. Karen Khachanov
This is new territory for the 21-year-old from Russia. Khachanov is seeded at a Slam for the first time and will have some slight expectation on him. He faces a veteran in Yen-Hsun Lu who got hot on the Challenger circuit in the last month and will provide a stern test in round one. Khachanov is making just his second appearance at the U.S. Open with a 1-1 career mark. He was 2-2 in hard court tuneups with losses to Sugita and Carreno Busta. Lu hasn’t done much in main draws this year and is only 2-10 in New York. Still, being a veteran against an inexperienced youngster – there is a slight chance or a struggle here for the Russian.

27. Pablo Cuevas
Cuevas is just 4-8 all-time as the U.S. Open, but has avoided the first round upset bug the last two years. He goes up against a form player in round one through in Damir Dzumhur. Dzumhur made an unexpected trip to the Winston-Salem Open final, where he lost 6-4, 6-4 to Bautista Agut. He also made the semis in Los Cabos earlier in the summer, so his hard court prowess is showing. Going up against someone like Cuevas who isn’t a world beater on hard courts makes this a popular upset selection – but Dzumhur will have to overcome a long week in Winston-Salem and a quick turnaround. That gives Cuevas a shot.

29. Diego Schwartzman
It’s an all-Argentine first rounder with Schwartzman taking on Carlos Berlocq. Schwartzman is 1-3 all-time at the Open with Berlocq just 2-7. Berlocq has lost his opener three of the last four times he’s been to New York, but this match feels like it will be competitive. Neither is generally at home on hard courts, so that makes this feel like a 50-50 call.

30. Adrian Mannarino
The Frenchman is in a tight spot in his opener against Ricardas Berankis. Berankis has never lived up to the hype that followed him earlier in his career after he won the juniors title at the U.S. Open a decade ago. He has however played Mannarino well with two wins in three career matches. That included a three set win last year indoors in St.Petersburg. Mannarino has a couple of third round finishes in his career here, but lost his opener last year to Ryan Harrison. He did play well on the summer swing, making the quarters in Los Cabos and Montreal, but this match-up smells a bit dangerous for him.

31. Feliciano Lopez
It’s been a very blase for the Spaniard who is 21-18 on the season. Lopez is just 2-3 in the hard court swing this summer and he has lost his opener in nine tournaments this season, including three of his last five. The lefty has also dropped his opener in two of the three Grand Slams this year. He has a tough match-up to start against Andrey Kuznetsov. Lopez does own two wins in two tries against the Russian, but it has been nearly two years since they last met. Kuznetsov isn’t in great form, but he’s competent on these courts with two consecutive third round appearances. Those both happened to include wins over lefties from Spain in Fernando Verdasco in 2014 and Albert Ramos-Vinolas last year.

32. Robin Haase
Haase had one stellar tournament this summer with a surprise run to the Rogers Cup semifinals. He lost his only other match on hard courts in Cincinnati to Mannarino. He will face off against Kyle Edmund to start and that is a tough one, potentially one of the most competitive first round matches this year at the Open. Edmund book-ended his summer with semifinal showings in Atlanta and Winston-Salem. In between, he lost first-up matches in Montreal and Cincinnati. Haase is 2-7 at the Open for his career, while Edmund put forth his best Slam result of his young career here last year by making round four. This has definite upset potential for Edmund.

Keep following @tennispig for a ton of U.S. Open preview material as well as live tweets during the Open + match previews as the tournament advances.

2017 Rogers Cup SF Preview: Roger Federer vs Robin Haase

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Roger Federer is one win away from his first Rogers Cup final since 2014. Federer takes on Robin Haase, who is playing in his third semifinal of the season.

(2) Roger Federer vs Robin Haase

Federer looked much better in the quarterfinals as he came in off a somewhat shaky performance at-times against David Ferrer. In the quarters, he took down another Spaniard in Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4. Federer’s serve was improved, taking 81 percent of the points off the first and 73 percent off the second. The Swiss was broken once on three chances. That was a big area of improvement after Ferrer saw 13 break chances against Fed and converted three of them.

Haase won in three sets for the second straight round as he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Diego Schwartzman. Haase’s first serve was lethal, winning 84 percent of the points. That helped him overcome a large struggle on second serve, where the Dutchman won just 11 of 35 points played. That was in line with his opponent with Schwartzman also unable to find the range with his second serve with Haase taking 23 of 36 points played. Haase broke the Argentine six times on 14 chances, while saving three of seven break points against his serve.

First Meeting Since 2012

Federer and Haase have met just once and it came in Davis Cup play five years ago on clay. Federer won 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Obviously in this spot, Federer is the heavy favorite. Give Haase credit this week for putting together a nice stretch on a surface that traditionally has not been too kind to him. Haase’s serve has been an unexpected helper en route to the semifinals with 39 aces through four rounds. He has been broken seven times overall.

Federer had two Fed-like wins over Peter Polansky in his opener and then against Bautista Agut in the quarters. Sandwiched in between was what looks like an anomaly with the poor showing against Ferrer. His serve was not effective consistently in that one and the bigger issue was an error-prone ground game that plagued him in key moments. That allowed Ferrer to take the opening set before Federer found better over the last two sets. Perhaps it gives the field some hope that the Swiss is still human if nothing else.

Match Tactics

For Haase to have any chance to contend well against Federer, he’s got to flash that big first serve that has led him to this point. Aces will be welcomed. The Dutchman is adequate off the ground with a decent forehand and two-hander off the backhand side. Of the few times I have seen him, Haase doesn’t seem to have a great variety from either wing. He does hit the ball solid though and he will stay in rallies. I think he’ll want to test the Federer backhand as most try and see how solid it is on Saturday. Any time Haase can get the Swiss into extended rallies will be a bonus, especially with Fed doing everything he can to keep points short and sweet.

For Federer, if his serve is solid, he’s difficult to break down. If he is hitting his serve with power and precision, he’s putting his opponent into poor positions on return. That in turn will set him up to move to net and finish off points quickly and more often than not, effectively. Haase isn’t bad at the net, so Federer will need to make sure he’s choosing wisely or the Dutchman does have the volley skills to respond. As usual, expect Federet to get around to the forehand as much as possible in longer rallies where he is most comfortable.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Federer finds himself in the pole position with the slew of upsets this week and I would bet he’ll be very focused in this match with the prospects of Alexander Zverev being his likely finals opponent. As long as Fed doesn’t come out of the gates slow or nervy, it’s difficult to see Haase troubling the Swiss in the end.

Prediction: Federer wins in straight sets