First things first, let's go through the players: Novak Djokovic
: I still think you have to consider Novak the best harddcourt player in the game, despite what Rafa has done over the past two tournaments. I saw Rafa beat Novak in Montreal (on tv), and it was an incredible match and a great win for Rafa, but I'm still not convinced Rafa would have won the match if it were five sets. But the one interesting factor is whether Rafa has officially purchased real estate in Novak's headspace. He has won five out of their last six matches, and he won their last one in a Master's 1000 event on a hardcourt, which is supposed to be Novak's wheelhouse. The reason I think he is still the best hardcourt player in the world is because of what I've seen him do for certain periods of time. He can push anybody around on the hard courts and run them silly -- and this includes Rafa. Back in 2011 he was doing this consistently, his mental game was just so good. His mental game, has taken a hit and he doesn't seem to be able to sustain that top level that we know he has. But he does have that top level -- a sixth gear, if you will -- that even Rafa doesn't have, and why wouldn't he turn it on in the finals of the US Open? He would, but he has to get there first. More to come. Rafael Nadal:
He comes in on a serious hot streak and he is in the process of beating the absolute funk out of poor Ryan Harrison. He has an easier drawn than both Novak and Andy Murray. I'm not sure that he's quite at his 2010 US Open hardcourt form, but he's close to it. One thing I know for sure is that he's not getting knocked off by a no name. Isner could potentially give him trouble in the third round, but we'll first have to see if Isner gets that far. Rafa did himself some serious favors by winning both Montreal and Cincy and getting his ranking, and thus seeding, back up to #2. Andy Murray
: How will Murray react in the major after his biggest triumph as a professional in winning the prestigious SW 19 event and getting the proverbial monkey off his back? I think we can expect a let down. I believe Murray has a few more majors in him -- he's just that good of a player -- but I don't think this particular major will be one of those. First of all, he'll likely have to beat Novak (or Delpo) in the semis and then (likely) Rafa in the final, and I'm just not convinced he can do that. Rafa gives him fits, and if he beats one of those two guys to get to Rafa, methinks he'll be gasssed. Juan Martin Del Potro
: never count out the big Argentine, who went home with the US Open hardware in 2009. If he gets on a roll on the hardcourts, and that cannonball forehand starts landing near lines, he is a seriously tough out. You never know what you're gonna get from Delpo, though. The most consistent player on tour, he certainly is not. But I have a soft spot for the big fella, who I've just always seemed to like, and he has to be considered the fourth favorite, am I right? The Draw Gods did him no favors by placing him in the same quadrant with the flexible Serbian jokester, and then also placing vis a vis Andy Murray in a potential semifinal showdown, but if we assume for the sake of argument that he got past all of the above, he has shown he has the ability to push Rafa around on a hard court like no one else on the tour. Roger Federer
: Does anyone have a fork? Put it in him. If he makes it to the quarterfinals, he gets Rafa. And does anybody think Roger, at this point in his career, can beat Rafael Nadal in a five set match on outdoor courts? I don't think so, but please pretty please speak up if you do see this happening. Thomas Berdych
: Berdych is in Murray's drawn, and his road to the quarterfinals appears to be pretty favorable. Stan The Man Wawrinka could potentially threaten him, but I see Berdych making it to the quarters. If Murray avoids laying an egg and does the same, that will be a potentially interesting quarterfinal match.
Grigor Dimitrov: I've been a big critic of the WTA Heartbreaker who is also know as BabyFed, but he really has started to put his game together. He finds himself in Novak's draw, and he could find himself on the opposite side of the net from Mr. Djokovic as early as the third round. Bummer, dude. Bummer. John Isner
: Don't laugh. The big-serving American comes into this tournament playing some very good tennis. He played Rafa in the finals of Cincy and forced him into two tiebreakers. He tends to give Rafa trouble -- he took him to five sets in the French Open two years ago -- and they will potentially meet in the Round of 16. Rafa would certainly be favored in that match, but it wouldn't be a gimme.
This post was edited on 8/26 at 5:07 pm