ANDY RODDICK VS MICHAEL RUSSELL
This is not the old versus the new, this is veteran vs. veteran, one a 29-year-old who won his last major back at the US Open in 2003, and the other who has done all he can to maximize his talents and stick in the top 100 at the age of 31. Roddick has had a very difficult time with injuries this year, which is one of the primary reasons why he has fallen out of the top 20 and doesn't come into the tournament one of the top favorites for the first time since he won the title. Clearly, both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had passed him in stature by 2008, but new No. 1 Novak Djokovic hadn't, nor had No. 4 Andy Murray. But this year, Djokovic has flown past the entire field on every surface, defending champion Nadal still goes deep at most tournaments, and for the most part, so does Federer. Murray has struggled at the majors, although he reached the 2001 Australian Open final, which Roddick did not, and Murray just won Cincinnati.
There will be no magic pill for Roddick at this tournament. He hasn't played enough matches this summer and will have to work his way into the event. He is not going to come out and starting ripping the ball off the ground like many of his fans hope for. He's going to try to serve big and play cagey tennis from the backcourt and hope to out-steady his foes during the first week. If he reaches the second week, he can take a few more risks.
Russell is a great mover, even past the age of 30. He's a strong guy, but he's not that tall and lacks a little pop off the ground. He'll stay with Roddick from the baseline and he'll relish the opportunity of playing on the big stage, but in the end Roddick will score a TKO in four sets.
4- ANDY MURRAY VS SOMDEV DEVVARMAN
I just cannot get my head around what Andy Murray is going to do at this tournament. I know what he is capable of doing - winning it- but he's become such a hard man to read. He is not the complete player that Novak Djokovic is. Murray’s second serve is really lacking in speed, spin and placement, and his forehand, while improved, still isn't that forceful crosscourt or down the line. I've always like how well he reads the court, he has one of the best, if not the best, two-handed backhands in the world, is a terrific returner and competent volleyer, but mentally, he's still suspect.
Devvarman started the year off in fine fashion, but has really slid since the spring. He's a fairly consistent all-around player, but may not have enough overall talent to make it much past the top 65, where he sits now. A former All-American at the University of Virginia, he has made substantial progress since turning pro three years ago, so maybe his upside is greater than I think it is. However, it is rare to see a confident Murray lose to a player on hard courts who cannot blow him off the court, and the Scot seems to be keeping his chin up now. Murray has yet to win a set in the three Grand Slam finals he reached, including his 2008 loss to Roger Federer in New York, but he does just fine getting to those stages and calls the US Open his favorite tournament. Unless he walks on court in a complete fog, he'll come through is straight sets.
28- JOHN ISNER vs. MARCOS BAGHDATIS
Isner finally found his level in a Winston-Salem title run last week where he scored a win over the Bag Man, the same guy he'll face in the first round. It will be no cakewalk for the North Carolinian, but he has grown in confidence again and should be able to numb the Cypriot with a serving barrage. The key for Isner in every match outside of serving big is to work over foes with his forehand, try to keep his much weaker backhand deep and get into the net off of good approach shots. Most importantly, he has to get a lot of returns in a play, a feat that has eluded him much of the year.
Baghdatis is still fairly fast and is a heck of shotmaker, but he seems to be wearing down mentally and is very unpredictable at the majors. He no longer brims with the same enthusiasm that once took him to the Aussie Open final. Isner will get through in five delicious sets.
I have a feeling that 2009 champ JUAN DEL POTRO will show up big this tournament and he'll punch out FILLIPPO VOLANDRI. ROBIN SODERLING has been hurt much of the summer and will be pushed by Irish qualifier LOUK SORENSON, but will survive in four sets. I love watching GILLES SIMON play when he's healthy, gliding about the court and flicking winners. He is too savvy for RICARDO MELLO. US fans know just how much FELICIANO LOPEZ has improved this year and he'll face TATSUMA ITO, an unknown Japanese qualifier. Lopez upset Roddick at Wimbledon and Mardy Fish at Davis Cup behind a sharp serve and volleying attack. One has to think he will pick up steam again and get through here. ROBBY GINEPRI, the 2005 semifinalist, will face young Brazilian qualifier JOAO SOUZA. Ginepri was off for a long stretch due to a severe elbow injury and has yet to regain his stride. He'll give it his all in one of his favorite locales but will go down in five. American ALEX BOGOMOLOV is having the best season of his life and will wear down USC star STEVE JOHNSON.
22-SABINE LISICKI VS VENUS WILLIAMS
I was super impressed by how well Venus played in her opening win over Vesna Dolonts: she served huge and accurately, consistently nailed her forehand and kept her focus despite barely playing over the past 15 months. The 31-year-old defines veteran experience.
But the German Lisicki has been playing excellent yellowball this summer and recently won Dallas. She's one of the few women who can clock serves in the 120s like Venus can. She is not as fast as Venus, although Williams has slowed down a bit. She does not have Williams’ sweet, mostly accurate backhand or her net competence, but she has bigger forehand and is timing the ball more accurately.
The key for Venus in this match is to serve very well because she's going to have a hard time handling Wimbledon semifinalist Lisicki's bombs. She has to work her way into points, which won't be easy because the German is a hit or miss player, and she's been hitting more than missing since the start of the grass court season. If Venus was a little healthier and in rhythm I might pick her to win this match, but she's just coming off a mystery virus and still seems to be wheezing, so I'm doubting that she can hang for three sets. This will be a very hard fought match and Lisicki will come through in three grueling sets.
9-SAMANTHA STOSUR VS COCO VANDEWEGHE
For those of you who have tracked the evolution of the kick serve in the women's game, go and watch this contest between two strong players who produce massive high hoppers. Former French finalist Stosur is legendary for her ability to pound heavy kickers up past her foes' ears, while American teen Vandeweghe can whip her wrist and make her opponents very uncomfortable too, especially into the ad court. The Californian scored her first Grand Slam main draw win on Tuesday over Alberta Brianti and I was very satisfied with how she kept her composure. She has taken steps up and back this year, and is too good of an athlete and is too competitive to find herself out of the top 100. But Vandeweghe’s a bit of late bloomer who still has to fine-tune her game, and while she can wow opponents with her power, there are times when she has trouble keeping the ball in the court.
After a mostly terrific 2010, Stosur slid much of this year but she’s picked up her game as of late and has redeveloped confidence in her powerful, inside-out forehand. Her two- handed backhand is still relatively weak, but she placing it deeper now and returning more intelligently.
Vandeweghe's goal coming into the tournament was to reach the second week - and with a slightly different draw I might be able to see that - but her return of serve is still very much a work in progress and she is going to have a very tough time getting returns in play. She’ll also have trouble responding to Stosur's favored baseline patterns, where she traps opponents with her forehand. I am expecting Vandeweghe to put up a good fight, and since Stosur isn't exactly a mental rock, I could see the Southern Californian sneaking through in three. But to me CoCo is still months away from making a second week Slam change, even if she is happy under her new coach, former top 15 player Jan Michael Gambill. Stosur will come through in three sets.
I am not convinced that VERA ZVONAREVA will ever win a major, but she does consistently tend to go deep and you have to admire her for that. She'll take out KATERYNA BONDARENKO, the same women who reached the quarters here two years ago and sports an eye-catching back tattoo. MARIA SHARAPOVA did not play well for much if her three-set win over heather Watson, so she should be more on top of the ball against ANASTASIYA YAKIMOVA. Sharapova absolutely has to move forward more though. Forget the standard volley - how about her famed swing volleys once in a while? LUCIE SAFAROVA is a tough lefty veteran and a bit of a shotmaker, exactly the kind of foe that baby teen MADISON KEYS does not want to face. Keys has a lot of potential, but is not mature enough to win a set here. If her shoulder stays healthy I'm taking AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA all the way to the quarters and do not see ANGELIQUE KERBER having enough in her arsenal to hurt her. FLAVIA PENNETTA scored a fine win over Aravane Rezai and will wipe out her countrywoman, ROMINA OPRANDI. Here's a very attractive match between Slovak DOMINICA CIBULKOVA and American IRINA FALCONI. I'm expecting the quicker and more powerful Cibulkova to come through, but Falconi is composed and talented to enough to drag this out to three dramatic sets. Popcorn match of the day on court 11? Sure, why not?