2010 US Open – Nick’s Picks – Men’s Singles Round 1
Dudi Sela (ISR) vs. Xavier Malisse (BEL)
Malisse started the year ranked in the 90’s and has worked extremely hard to get his ranking back inside the top 50 and is now at #49. He’s been training at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy for close to 15 years now and is playing some of the best tennis of his life. I was talking to him the other day and I asked him what the biggest difference in his game was and he said, “I am finally enjoying playing the game.”
Sela comes into the tournament ranked #93 in the world and having just won a challenger in Vancouver on hard courts earlier this month. This is his fourth US Open and he is looking to get out of the first round for the second time in his career.
Sela is 1-0 against Malisse, having beaten him earlier this year in three sets at Los Angeles. Sela is a fighter and absolutely will not give up at any time during this match. He’s scrappy, and at 5’9” he really moves around the court well and does a good job of controlling himself mentally. Xavier has beautiful footwork. The ways he moves around the court, he reminds me of Muhammad Ali out there. He has a big forehand, but it’s very loose. He has a steady backhand, a consistent serve and can volley when needed. He had to retire in his last match in New Haven and if that has any effect on him in this match he will be in trouble. I definitely give Malisse the advantage, but if he is unhealthy in any way he will be in for a battle.
Nick’s Pick – Malisse in 4 sets
Michael Llodra (FRA) vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Llodra has two titles already this year, including a win on grass at Eastbourne before Wimbledon. On the hard courts this summer he has lost twice in the first round (Washington and Cincinnati) and reached the Round of 16 in Canada. He is certainly a dangerous player and will be a tough out.
Since reaching his first career Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, Berdych hasn’t been his best. He lost in the quarters at Washington and Canada and lost in the Round of 16 at Cincinnati. He has never been past the fourth round of the US Open and I am sure he is expecting to better that result this year.
Berdych is 2-1 against Llodra but the two have never faced on hard courts and haven’t played since 2008. It was great to see Berdych mature and reach the finals of Wimbledon. We have talked about him for so long as one of the guys to watch, but until this summer he had yet to make a big impact. It will be interesting to see how he follows that up. Llodra is a tricky lefty with a big-time serve and he isn’t afraid to come into the net and volley. If he has a huge serving day than this match could go either way. I give the edge to Berdych because of his consistent backhand, powerful forehand and big serve, but watch out!
Nick’s Pick – Berdych in 4 sets
Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Troicki comes in ranked #45 in the world, but he hasn’t had a great year (a 22-23 record). He played well at New Haven leading up to the tournament, beating Jarkko Nieminen and Alexandr Dolgopolov. This is his third career US Open main draw appearance and he is looking to reach the second round for the third straight year.
Djokovic has had a solid summer, reaching the semis of Wimbledon, the semis of Canada and the quarters of Cincinnati. Djokovic has run into Roger Federer the last three years and lost each time (finals in 2007, semis in 2008 and 2009). He’s on Federer’s side of the draw this year so if he wants to win this title he is going to have to beat his nemesis.
Djokovic is 4-1 against Troicki and just beat him a couple of weeks ago in straight sets at Cincinnati. Whenever you get two countrymen together it is always interesting. These two know each other’s game extremely well so there will be no surprises. Troicki has a big game from both wings and has a powerful serve. On the other side, Djokovic is one of the best returners in the world and he can hit just about every shot in the book. As long as Djokovic is feeling good and has confidence in his serve he will advance.
Nick’s Pick – Djokovic in 3 sets
Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)
Since winning the title at Halle before Wimbledon (and beating Federer), Hewitt hasn’t played his best tennis. He lost in the fourth round at Wimbledon, didn’t win a match in Atlanta or Washington DC and lost in the second round at Cincinnati. He’s a former US Open champion, but he hasn’t had much success in the past couple of years. Can this be the year where he has resurgence in NYC?
Mathieu comes into the tournament ranked #107 in the world and with a paltry 6-15 record on the year. He is still working his way back from a myriad of injuries and he is a dangerous player to face in any Grand Slam.
Hewitt is 3-0 against Mathieu, but the two haven’t faced since the grass court season of 2008. Mathieu spent several years at the Academy in his early teens and he is a great guy. He has a big forehand, good serve and a steady backhand. Injuries have severely hampered his career, but when he is on he can play with anyone. Hewitt seemed to be playing better tennis earlier this year and perhaps the season is wearing on him. He is still one of the best conditioned players on the tour and I don’t see that being an issue in this match. This is not going to be a quick match as I can see long points and long sets (I would advise brining an extra Gatorade or two!). The longer this match goes, the more it favors Hewitt and I have to give him the advantage.
Nick’s Pick – Hewitt in 4 sets