2009 US Open – Nick’s Picks – Men’s Singles Round 1
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Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Devin Britton (USA)
Federer is back on top of the rankings and is looking for his sixth consecutive US Open title. He is coming off of an impressive run in Cincinnati where he captured the title with wins over David Ferrer, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. He seems as confident as ever and I have to say that he is the favorite right now.
Britton is an 18-year old American who received a wild-card into the tournament. He spent many years training at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy, and then went to college at Ole Miss this year where he won the NCAA singles title as a freshman. He was the runner-up in the 2008 Junior US Open and it is great to see him out on the big stage.
This is the first career meeting between Britton and Federer, and this is really the chance of a lifetime for the young American. He will be out on center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium with the American fans cheering him on. He got to be brave and just focus on his own game. He is a serve-and-volleyer and he will come in towards the net every chance he gets. Federer will definitely not overlook the youngster, and I do expect him to move on. I just believe that for Devin, this is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate his abilities and have some fun!
Nick’s Pick – Federer in 3 sets
Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)
Djokovic reached the finals here in 2007 and is looking to get back to where he feels he belongs. He has won two titles in 2009 (Belgrade and Dubai), and just reached the finals in Cincinnati before falling to Federer in straight sets. He is definitely a threat to win this tournament, he just needs to remain positive and focused.
Ljubicic has fallen back to #50 in the rankings, but has been as high as #3 in the world. He has been to the third round of the US Open twice, but never past that point. He has had good results in the other Grand Slams, as he reached the quarters in Australian and the semis in Paris (both in 2006).
Djokovic 3-1 against Ljubicic and has beaten him twice already this year. These matches are always interesting because you are pitting Serbia versus Croatia and both sets of fans are very passionate and aren’t the best of friends! Ljubicic has a big serve and isn’t afraid to come to the net. He is dangerous for Djokovic because if his serve gets rolling and he can get into a tiebreak he can always win a couple of sets. Djokovic is one of the best all-around players in the game. He has a great return of serve, solid groundstrokes from both sides, and isn’t afraid to attack. He can’t fall asleep in this match, otherwise Ljubicic will be right in it.
Nick’s Pick – Djokovic in 4 sets
Rafael Nadal (USA) vs. Richard Gasquet (FRA)
Nadal is coming off a summer of injuries and has fallen back to #3 in the world. Everyone is going to have their eyes glued to this match to see if the injuries are still effecting him in any way. If his movement is hampered, that could be a big problem for Nadal as the tournament wears on.
Gasquet is coming off of a long layoff due to a drug-related suspension. He’s been to the fourth round here twice, but hasn’t done that since 2006. If Gasquet finds his rhythm he is extremely dangerous, it is just going to be a question of whether or not he is mentally and physically ready to play again.
Nadal is 6-0 against Gasquet, and clearly has the upper-hand against the Frenchman. This is the first round match that everyone is going to be watching. Gasquet was picked at a young age to be one of the best players in the world, but has never lived up to the hype. The French had really high hopes for him, but maybe the pressure was just too much. He needs to put the past behind him and start again right now. He is a brilliant shot-maker, has a fantastic one-handed backhand, and moves well. He doesn’t like to play long points, and when you are playing someone with injuries you have to try and wear them down. This will help Nadal and should make things a little easier on him. We all want to see if Nadal can play the game as physically as he has done in the past. That is the question that we are all asking. I am going to pick Nadal, but I this is going to be a very interesting match for many reasons.
Nick’s Pick – Nadal in 4 sets
Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) vs. Nicolas Massu (CHI)
Gonzalez reached the quarterfinals here back in 2002, but since then he hasn’t gotten past the fourth round. He has had a pretty good summer, reaching the semis at the French Open and Washington DC, but he had to retire in the first round at Cincinnati which is never a good sign.
Massu comes into the tournament ranked #89 in the world and has been to the fourth round here before. He’s mainly been playing Challenger events in 2009, but back in 2004 he won gold at the Athens Olympics in both the singles and doubles competitions!
Gonzalez is 4-1 against Massu, but the two Chileans haven’t faced since 2007. Massu has excellent groundstrokes, moves exceptionally well, but the engine is starting to run out of steam. Gonzalez has a huge forehand, big-time serve, and loves to go for winners. He just needs to keep his nose to the ground and start grinding from the outset. He can’t let things bother him and must stay focused. If he does those things, he will find himself in the second round.
Nick’s Pick – Gonzalez in 4 sets