Men: Who will win the US Open?

Novak Djokovic

Who will win the crazy tournament in Flushing Meadows?

There have been some wonderful contests, dozens of them, in the past 26 years that I’ve covered the US Open. At the end of August and the beginning in September, it can be super hot, or cool and windy. And rain, too. There were so many perfect days, sunny and bright. Also, at night, playing matches, in the biggest stadiums, or medium sized, the fans were thrilled.

That’s what they will do next week. On words, with the men.  

The No. 1 Novak Djokovic is favored, but perhaps, slightly. He could face the rising Hubert Hurkacz, who just won Winston-Salem, pretty early, but the young players might panic at the US Open. Then Djokovic might play Stan Wawrinka, a great player, but he hasn’t played fantastic this year. Maybe he will rise up, but the Serbian will crack at his forehand and his serve in the third round.

In the quarterfinals, Djokovic must be staring at the fifth-seed Daniil Medvedev, who just won Cincinnati. He knows that Medvedev has improved a tremendous amount over the past month and a half. He is very steady, and even more powerful now. That could go five sets under the lights. Bring it on.

If Djokovic wins, then the very famous person, Roger Federer, could be in the semis. The Swiss has won 20 Grand Slams, but he hasn’t grabbed it in New York since 2009. Now it has been a relatively long time ago for Federer. Yes, he is very smart, and he can hit the balls upwards and backwards, but that doesn’t mean that the 38-year-old can seize the night. He just has to find his rhythm in the first week, and then when he gets to the second week, Federer must step on the gas.

He could face David Goffin in the fourth round, and the Belgian is confident again. Yes, he can be fast and has heavy shots from his forehand and backhand, but he has yet to reach the semis at the Slams over the past decade. Goffin just can’t do it.

There are a punch of good people who can go to the second week: Borna Coric, Milos Raonic, the Aussie Alex de Minaur, and San Diego’s Taylor Fritz. All four of them really want to upset Federer. There will be a five setter, for all of them. While Federer will win, that doesn’t mean that he will struggle for hours. Last year in Queens, Federer was sweating all night. And he lost.

On the bottom half, the No. 2 Rafa Nadal is cruising already. He doesn’t have to face Djokovic or Federer until the final, so he has to be relieved. Of course, he can beat them if he is playing 100 percent. Last year, in the semis against Juan Martin del Potro, he got hurt badly. He was angry and then he retired. This time, hopefully, his sore legs will be healthy and happy.

Nadal should crack Fernando Verdasco in the third round, and then in the fourth round, he will have to face American John Isner or Marin Cilic. Both of them hit huge serves, with Isner’s nailing his forehand and Cilic hitting dangerously from both sides. Cilic won the USO before, so he will be very excited on court. Either way, Nadal will move ahead easily.

However, in the quarters, he might face Karen Khachanov, another young Russian, who is ranked No. 9. If he gets there, Khachanov has to bash Nadal’s backhand, and return really well and into the corners.

Here are some other terrific opponent who might face the 18-Grand-Slam champion Nadal: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev (who will play the Greek in the first round,) Nick Kyrgios (who won Washington), Gael Monfils, Denis  Shapovalov  Felix Auger-Aliassime  and Alexander Zverev (who is still slumping).

Nadal’s biggest hurdle could be No. 4. Dominic Thiem, who really relives that he can win a major, somehow, someway. Thiem has reached the final at Roland Garros twice. But, on the hardcourts, he can get frustrated. When he is on, he will jump on the ball. However, I would be surprised that Thiem can reach the semis in New York, because it can be too sticky.

At the US Open, it is August and September, so it is impossible to predict about the weather. And that makes the tennis unpredictable, too.