One of the most anticipated events around any Grand Slam is the unveiling of the draw - picking out exiciting first round matches and looking ahead to potential blockbuster encounters. Will Federer draw Djokovic or Nadal as his projected semi-final opponent? Will any of the top 4 players get the dangerous Juan Martin Del Potro in the third or fourth round? The draw for the 2011 US Open is out and here is a breakdown quarter-by-quarter.
TOP QUARTER -
Two words are suffice to analyse this section of the draw. Novak Djokovic. But for the other 31 players who had the misfortune of being drawn in his quarter, let's go through the motions anyways. Djokovic, 60-2 for the year, opens up against qualifier Conor Niland, a 29 year old Irish qualifer ranked no.
199 who is making history by ensuring that Ireland has two players in the main draw of a Grand Slam event for the first time – that's one more than their illustrous British counterparts. Djokovic is not likely to have many problems until the quarter-finals.
His projected third round opponent could be the 32nd seed Ivan Dodig, winner over Nadal in Montreal, who will first need to get past the slumping Russian Nikolay Davydenko, a former world no. 3 now ranked no. 39 in the world.
The Serb's projected fourth round opponent is the no. 13 seed Richard Gasquet, him of the single-handed backhand and half-mental resolve fame, or the 22nd seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, him of the free-swinging, weilding-racket-like-a-paint-brush fame.
Djokovic's first real test is likely to come in the last eight where he could run into the 7th seed Gael Monfils or the 9th seed Thomas Berdych. Monfils, who at times plays to thrill the crowds rather than to win matches, opens up against the talented Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, a 20 year old ranked 52 in the world, whose Federeresque game has earned him the nickname 'Baby Fed' and a heap of early attention.
Dimitrov will be playing in the main draw in New York for the first time and has won only 2 matches in four other Grand Slam appearances. Spain's Marcel Granollers, seeded 31st, is in Monfils section but the hard-hitting but harder-thinking Serb Janko Tipsarevic, seeded 20th, is likely to play Berdych in the third round.
Potential mouth-watering clashes
2nd round (7) Gael Monfils vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero
2nd round – (13) Richard Gasquet vs. Fernando Gonzalez
2nd round – (22) Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Kei Nishikori Upset Watch - Sergiy Stakhovsky to beat (13) Richard Gasquet in first round Other unseeded player to keep an eye on - Xavier Malisse Projected Quarter-final - Novak Djokovic vs.
Winner – Novak Djokovic SECOND QUARTER -
Roger Federer, at no. 3, is the highest seed in this section which means he is drawn to play Djokovic in the semi-finals, should they both get there. Federer is one of only two players (the other one being Andy Murray) to beat the Serb this year but might face a few difficulties in keeping his appointment with the Serb.
After a relatively straight-forward first round against Colombia's Santiago Giraldo, the 16-time Grand Slam champion could meet a tricky foe in Brazil's Thomas Bellucci in the second. The Brazlian has a wicked forehand which could trouble Fed if the Swiss is off his game.
Federer's scheduled third round opponent is the 27th seed Marin Cilic but the Croatian will first have to negotiate a tough first rounder against 19 year old Ryan Harrison. The American has had some good wins over the summer and is touted to be the future of American tennis.
Last year, Harrison beat the seeded Ivan Ljubicic in the first round before losing in a fifth set tie-breaker in the second to Stakhovsky. Should Cilic manage to defeat the young American, he could face the young Australian Bernard Tomic next.
Tomic was the youngest player in over two decades to reach the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in June and another high-rated prospect in the men's game. The seeds in Federer's sixteen are Serbia's Victor Troicki, seeded 15th, and the 31 year old Radek Stepanek, seeded 23rd – both of whom Federer should have few problems with.
But Federer will have to battle hard in the quarter-finals where he is drawn to meet 8th seed Mardy Fish or the mercurial Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, seeded 11th. Fish, having the summer of his life, will be the top American hope in the men's draw and should easily get past his scheduled third round opponent - 29th seed Michael Llodra while Tsonga, winner over Federer twice in the last three months, should also be able to defeat the struggling Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, now down to no.
19 in the seedings. Other first round matches to watch out for -
(11) Jo-Wilfred Tsonga vs. Yen Hsun-Lu
(23) Radek Stepanek vs. Philip Kohlschreiber Upset Watch – Ryan Harrison to beat (27) Marin Cilic Other unseeded players to keep an eye on - Tommy Haas, Kevin Anderson and Jarko Niemenin Projected Quarter-final - Roger Federer vs.
Winner – Mardy Fish THIRD QUARTER -
Andy Murray, riding high after winning the Cincinnati Masters, is the top dog in this section. After opening against India's Somdev Devvarman, who Murray should beat easily, the Brit could run into Dutchman Robin Hasse, capable of playing breathtaking power tennis when his game is on, in the second round and then meet Feliciano Lopez, seeded 25th in a third round match that could test the loyalities of mother, Judy Murray, once again.
(For the uninformed, Judy drooled over the Spainiard during Wimbledon calling him 'Deliciano' and then had to watch Andy beat Deliciano in the quarters there). Murray's scheduled fourth-round opponent is the 14th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, if the Swiss reaches there.
Wawrinka's seciton also includes the 24th seed Jaun Ignacio Chela, Russian Dimitry Tursunov and 22 year old Donald Young, looking for redemption from home fans. Murray's drawn quarter-final opponent is the 6th seed Robin Soderling.
The Swede has missed the entire summer hardcourt stretch due to injury and could be marked out for an early upset. American John Isner, seeded 28th, would love to take advantage of Soderling's lack of preparedness and reach the second week.
But Isner will have a tough opponent straight off the blocks in Marcos Baghdatis, who the American has beaten in all three of their previous encounters. If Isner hopes to reach his first Slam quarter-final, his most dangerous opponent will be the 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro.
The 18th seeded Argentine was unable to defend his title last year and has returned to the top 20 following months away due to wrist surgery. Also in this section is the 12th seed Giles Simon, of France. Potential mouth-watering clashes
2nd round – (28) John Isner vs.
Robby Ginepri Upset Watch - None Other unseeded players to keep an eye on - Alex Bogomolov Jr., Projected Quarter-final - Andy Murray vs. Juan Martin Del Potro
Winner – Andy Murray FOURTH QUARTER -
Defending champion Rafael Nadal heads this section where he opens up against Kazakh Andrey Golubev, who only recently ended an 18 match losing streak on the ATP tour.
Nadal's scheduled third round opponent is the veteran Ivan Ljubicic, seeded 30th or the unseeded David Nalbandain, capable of alternating brilliant with forgetful tennis. The seeds in Nadal's sixteen include No. 16 Mikhail Youzhny and No.
17 Jurgen Melzer – both of whom the Spaniard should be able to beat even with a half-burnt right hand. Nadal's projected quarter-final opponent is compatriot David Ferrer, who knocked off an injured Nadal out of Melbourne.
5th seeded Ferrer's potential second round against popular American James Blake, possibly playing his last US Open, could be a thriller – the winner of that match should be the favourite against 26th seed Florian Mayer.
Nicholas Almagro is the 10th seed in this section and could face former champion Andy Roddick in the third round. The American. down to no. 21 in the seedings after an injury plagued couple of years, will be hoping for a good run in his home Slam to redeem his season but will need to be wary of a second round clash against Jack Sock – an 18 year old American who is considered by many to be a potential future star of the game.
Other first round matches to watch out for -
(5) David Ferrer vs. Igor Andreev Upset Watch – Julien Benneteau to beat (10) Nicholas Almagro
Ernests Gulbis to beat (16) Mikhail Youzhny Other unseeded players to keep an eye on - Nicholas Mahut Projected Quarter-final - Rafael Nadal vs.
Winner – Rafael Nadal SEMI-FINALS
Djokovic beats Fish
Murray beats Nadal FINAL
Murray beat Djokovic