By Jane Voigt
The draws for the 2014 U.S. Open were released Thursday. These sheets are supposed to reconcile the differences across player fields, introducing luck that players have to accept because they are at its will. It’s not always fair, though.
Both the men’s and women’s singles’ competition seem more wide open than they were, say, last year. Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, the current defending champions, came into the Open then on a roll having won multiple titles. They weren’t done, either.
This year, and with Rafael Nadal out, the crystal ball seems murkier.
Word is the waters have parted for Roger Federer (No.2 seed), giving him a bright outlook to win his 18th Grand Slam as he appears in his 57th consecutive major. He has won the U.S.Open five times, in consecutive years — 2004-2008. However, he has not been to a final since 2009 when he lost to Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine is out this year, as he recovers from wrist surgery.
Serena Williams (No. 1 seed) is still the one to beat and most likely to win her 18th Grand Slam, in her 16th appearance, if only she can keep the form she displayed in her win over Ana Ivanovic in the finals of Rogers Cup. In a slump since losing in the third round of Wimbledon to Alize Cornet, Williams will have to tame her emotions and accept the fact that every woman across the net will try better than their best to beat the legend she is. She is a 5-time champion, as is Federer.
Men’s Singles Draw – First Quarter
Novak Djokovic sits in the top spot. His summer hard court results do not indicate he’s in the best shape, though. He lost in the round of 16 in Toronto at Rogers Cup and in Cincinnati. His loss to Tommy Robredo in Ohio was a dismaying display of lackluster tennis from the reigning Wimbledon Champion. Djokovic looked as if he wasn’t trying, couldn’t move his feet, that his mind had hopped a junket to far away lands. He has said, since, that the interlopers are gone. He is ready to compete. The problem … once opponents sense difficulty from the top guys, their racquets take a more refined aim at dismantling the projected winner.
Andy Murray (No. 8 seed) should be Djokovic’s probable quarterfinal opponent. But the Scot has shown no sign of consistency since his return from back surgery last year. Murray would have to survive Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (No. 9 seed) in the fourth round, to meet up with his friend, Nole. Concurrently, Nole would have to survive John Isner (No. 13 seed) to run into Murray. Although Isner tweaked his ankle at the Winston-Salem Open this week and pulled out to rest, the injuring should not hamper his performance at America’s slam.
Semifinalist — Novak Djokovic
Second Quarter — Men’s Singles Draw
Milos Raonic (No. 5 seed) is trouble. Winner of the U.S.Open Series, the Canadian’s serve and improved movement should overwhelm all comers, even Kei Nishikori the 10th seed. Also in Raonic’s section is Stan Wawrinka (No. 3 seed), the Australian Open champion. Seems, though, that Stan has not warmed to the hard courts of America, given his quarterfinal loss to Julien Benneteau (ranked No. 41) in Cincinnati and his fourth round loss to Kevin Anderson (ranked No. 21) in Toronto. Two tournaments do not make a trend, so look for these two to clash in the quarterfinals.
Semifinalist — Milos Raonic
Third Quarter — Men’s Singles Draw
Probably the toughest section of the draw, the third quarter offers a potpourri of big hitters and servers: Tomas Berdych (No. 6 seed), Ernests Gulbis (No. 11 seed), Marin Cilic (No. 14 seed) and Kevin Anderson (No. 18 seed). And, it is all evened out by the dogged veteran, David Ferrer (No. 4 seed). Hidden and unseeded are possible killjoys Bernard Tomic, in with a wildcard, Jerzy Janowicz, finalist at the Winston-Salem Open, and Feliciano Lopez, the lefty serve-and-volley threat.
Semifinalist — David Ferrer
Fourth Quarter — Men’s Singles Draw
Roger Federer anchors this section. His biggest stumbling block could come in week two against Grigor Dimitrov (No. 7 seed) in the quarterfinals. Although Dimitrov didn’t do as well as expected this summer, his temperament and the keen tutelage of Coach Roger Rasheed direct him to pump it up for the big occasions … Grand Slams. Any touch of the viral infection he suffered before withdrawing from Washington D.C. should be behind him, too.
Semifinalist — Roger Federer
Top-half Finalist — Novak Djokovic
Bottom-half Finalist — Roger Federer
U. S. Open Champion — Roger Federer
Women’s Draw — First Quarter
Serena Williams is normally the overwhelming favorite. She is not this year. Too many signs of emotion and inconsistency. Her section is plump with probable upsets from Samantha Stosur (No. 24 seed), Carla Suarez Navarro (No. 15 seed), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (No. 23 seed) and Ana Ivanovic (No. 8 seed). Plus, Serena faces Wildcard American Taylor Townsend in the first round. Townsend may not be capable of slaying the giant, but she could rattle Williams’ emotions given the fact that Taylor is African American, a strong contender for future tennis stardom, and performed well on the summer hard courts plus Roland Garros. The Chicago native defeated the 20th seed, Alize Cornet in Paris. Cornet went on to defeat Williams at Wimbledon.
Semifinalist — Serena Williams
Women’s Singles Draw — Second Quarter
Petra Kvitova (No. 3 seed), reigning Wimbledon Champion and newly crowned titlest from New Haven, could do damage in this section. However, American teen Madison Keys (No. 27 seed) could upset the apple cart against the Czech champion as early as the third round. Keys loves hard courts. Hits the ball harder than any woman on tour, and will want to avenge her injury induced retirement from Wimbledon. Victoria Azarenka (No. 16 seed) could surely make noise, but her health remains a question. Her foot problem, which kept her sidelined for months, has morphed into a knee problem. Eugenie Bouchard (No. 7 seed) should be Kvitova’s quarterfinal opponent, but trouble in glitter town is apparent. The Canadian’s record at majors this year has been stellar: Australian Open semifinalist, Roland Garros semifinalist, and Wimbledon finalist. However since Wimbledon, the phenom has faltered whether from mental fatigue or strategic gaffes. With a rejuvenated Svetlana Kuznetsova (No. 20 seed) lurking, both possible heavyweights could be stymied.
Semifinalist — Madison Keys
Third Quarter, Women’s Singles Draw
Angelique Kerber (No. 6 seed) and Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 4 seed) bookend this section. Kerber’s memories of New York are good ones. In 2011 the German worked her way to the semifinals ranked 92 in the world. She lost to Samantha Stosur, the eventual champion, but it remains Kerber’s break-out performance. Since, Kerber has not been beyond the fourth round. However, she has lost weight to help stabilize a cranky back issue and retrieves like few others on tour. This quarter, though, is stuffed with potential semifinalists: Sloane Stephens (No. 21 seed), Jelena Jankovic (No. 9 seed) and Lucie Safarova (No. 14 seed).
Semifinalist — Angelique Kerber
Fourth Quarter, Women’s Singles Draw
Definitely the strongest quarter of this year’s women’s draw, it will spit out the toughest competitor poised to battle for a spot in the final. Maria Sharapova (No. 5 seed) is here, plus Caroline Wozniacki (No. 10 seed), Venus Williams (No. 19 seed) and, finally, Simona Halep (No. 2 seed). Additional juggernauts will attempt to pull the rug out from under the front-runners: Sabine Lisicki, Andrea Petkovic, and Garbine Muguruza.
Semifinalist — Simona Halep
Top-half finalist — Serena Williams
Bottom-half finalist — Simona Halep
U. S. Open Champion, Serena Williams