Tuesday, September 3, 2013

US Open Men's Round of 16 Top Half preview

After the bottom half of the men's draw served up some exciting round of 16 matches, including Tommy Robredo's upset of Roger Federer, I preview the round's top half matches.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Marcel Granollers
English: Novak Djokovic celebrating his 2011 A...
 Novak Djokovic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Djokovic has been imperious in New York this year, hardly breaking a sweat on his way to the fourth round. As Djokovic himself admitted, the only area he is looking to further improve upon, is to be ruthless on his serve when he is in the lead, but even that concern can be filed under nitpicking. The world number one is looking resolute in his focus to win another grand slam to add to his Australian Open success at the beginning of the year, and the wily Granollers is not likely to be an obstacle on his way to the quarterfinals. The Spaniard likes to mix it up by chipping and charging and has good touch at net, but is completely outmatched in every other department resulting in another straight sets victory for Djokovic.

Mikhail Youzhny (21) vs. Lleyton Hewitt

A battle between two veterans who have done extremely well to get to this stage. Youzhny played exceptionally to beat Tommy Haas in the previous round, displaying good variety on his serve and choosing the right moments to hit winners from the baseline. Hewitt followed up his upset of Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round with a typically solid win over Evgeny Donskoy in the last round. Hewitt is managing to get a lot of free points on his serve in this tournament so far, and it will once again be a crucial weapon in a match that is going to feature lots of long baseline rallies.

Hewitt is at his best when he counterpunches, however Youzhny is not a player who relies excessively on power, and it could prompt a different game plan from the Australian. The match is simply too close to call, but with the 2001 champion now a crowd favourite as he nears the end of his career, Hewitt might just sneak past Youzhny due to his unwavering spirit and desire to make the quarterfinals of a grand slam again.

Andy Murray (3) vs. Denis Istomin

If the defending champion were to be honest with himself, Andy Murray would say he hasn't been at his best during this hard court summer. However, the ultimate proof that Murray is now dining at the top table, is that he can ride the rough patches to still win grand slam matches easily. With his confidence surging on the back of his historic Wimbledon triumph, the Scotsman is playing with a swagger that should be too much for the big hitting Denis Istomin. Istomin is one of the streakier players on tour, with his combination of big serving and heavy hitting making him a difficult opponent. However, the Uzbek struggles to maintain his accuracy over a long stretch of play, especially against top tier opponents. Expect a tie break, but with one of the best returns in the game negating Istomin's biggest strength, not to mention the fact he will probably tire his opponent by dragging him all over the court, Murray should make it to the quarterfinals in serene fashion.

Stanislas Wawrinka (9) vs. Tomas Berdych (6)

The match of the day as far as the men's draw is concerned, this contest has the potential to go the full distance. Berdych barely broke a sweat in his victory over Julien Benneteau in the last round, while Wawrinka came through a tough four-setter against Marcos Baghdatis. Wawrinka leads the head-to-head 6-5, with four wins out of the last five meetings between the pair. However, Berdych's sole victory came on a hard court in a tough Davis Cup match earlier this year. I think Wawrinka has the craft to trouble Berdych, especially if he can entice his opponent to come forward, a zone that the Czech is not entirely comfortable in. In Berdych's favour though is the physical edge, especially if the conditions are humid as they have been for most of the Open this year. Matches between these two are never straightforward, and it might just come down to who wants it more.
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