Week Two is underway, and it's time to reassess the men's field -- where it stands, what happened in Week One, and what's likely to happen going forward. (For a report on the women's field, go to The women: Resetting the stage for Week Two.
The main favorites are still alive and looking good. Yet the big question remains: Can anyone stop Novak Djokovic, derail his impeccable season and prevent him from winning his third major in 2011? Through three rounds, Djoker has been on cruise control: He hasn’t come close to losing a set, and there are no signs of fatigue or the shoulder injury that caused him to retire in Cincinnati. He looks every bit as relaxed and confident as he has all year. Djokovic has been in the US Open final two of the last four years but is yet to walk away with the crown.
Last year’s champion Rafael Nadal came into the US Open with real questions about his game, his health and most of all, his confidence. Nadal has lost five straight finals to Djokovic and even admitted that the Serb has taken up residence in his head. The Spaniard looked a little shaky in his first round and played too defensively, but since then Nadal has steadily improved, and he played his best match of the tournament in defeating the always-tough David Nalbandian in straights.
Can Roger Federer, a five-time champ here, do it again at age 30? Last year he narrowly lost in the semis to Djokovic, whom the Swiss beat at this year’s French Open (for one of the Serb’s only two losses in 2011). Federer isn’t as imperious as he once was, of course, but he has looked good, dropping just one set to Marin Cilic. The main questions are whether he’s lost a step and whether he could pull out the very difficult Saturday semi and Sunday final (a back-to-back scheduling nightmare for the fittest of players, unique to the US Open).
Andy Murray, the fourth favorite, is still waiting to make that breakthrough and win a major. The US Open figures to be his best shot; he loves New York and fast hard courts. But Murray narrowly escaped defeat in the second round, pulling out a wild five-setter, coming back from two sets down to beat Robin Haase. Next to Djokovic, who looks like he has a cakewalk to the semis, Murray has the least problematic draw of the favorites.
Juan Martín del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion coming back from injury after missing last year’s Open – the most dangerous dark horse in the draw – is gone. The other dark horses have onerous draws. The American Mardy Fish has his highest seed ever here (at No. 8), and he’s looked superb (even if his previous match against Kevin Anderson was a three-set struggle). Fish’s attacking game works well on the hard courts, but he faces another monster dark horse, the Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. If Tsonga puts together a run, as he did at the Australian Open in 2008 (where he defeated Nadal and reached the final), he’s definitely got the innate talent and massive, flashy game to take down Fish and potentially Federer. Were he to do that, his reward would likely be Djokovic in the semis. The speedy, indefatigable David Ferrer has quietly worked his way through the draw. He is the only player to defeat Rafael Nadal in a major after Nadal won the first set, and that occurred at the 2007 US Open (when Ferrer reached the semifinal). Ferrer shouldn’t be taken lightly, even by his compatriot Nadal, whom he should meet in the quarterfinal. John Isner, the towering American, is a handful for anyone on a fast court. He benefits from del Potro’s absence; if he gets to the quarters, serves big and smothers the net, he might give Andy Murray fits.
Everyone left in Djokovic’s quarter of the draw is a surprise. Juan Carlos Ferrero, at 31, the oldest player left in the draw, upset No. 7 seed Gael Monfils in an epic five-setter. You might think it’s a surprise that Andy Roddick, the 2003 US Open champion, was saddled with his lowest seed ever here (No. 21). But after a poor year and injuries, it’s actually a surprise that he’s played as well as he has and gotten through the early rounds unscathed. Still, few give him a chance to go deep, and he next plays Ferrer. The wild card and perennial ne’er-do-well Donald Young, no longer a teen (notwithstanding the juvenile tilted cap), has surprised even himself by going farther than ever before in a major, upsetting the No. 14 seed Stan Wawrinka and then No. 24 Juan Ignacio Chela. Young has real talent, but his long-awaited run should come to an end against Murray.