We’re getting deeper into the tournament now, as the women began third-round play today and the men settled out their field for the third round. The doubles tournaments are all coming up on their Round 0f 16, things settling out quickly with the smaller fields (64 teams in the men’s and women’s draws, 32 for the mixed pairs) and working toward a frenzied second week.
So let’s do something a little different today. Before the tournament began I predicted what the late rounds might look like (from the third round on for the men’s and women’s singles, later for the doubles). Let’s see who’s still alive, which upsets I’ve bombed on so far and which favorites let me down. Half the fun of predictions, after all, is seeing how massively they’ve been shattered.
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I’ll be using a couple of different colors to denote when players went out of the tournament. Red represents an opening-round loss; blue will represent a second-round ouster. And as I’m sure to do this at least once or twice more during the U.S. Open fortnight, more colors will become applicable in due time. So let’s have a little fun, take the time to laugh at this Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America, and get ready for the first weekend of play at Flushing Meadows… and since this is just for fun, I’m going to stick to singles draws for now. It’s getting late, the day job looms and more tennis awaits yet. This will surely get more marked up as the tournament continues…
So I predicted 23 of the 32 third-round participants correctly. There were a few surprises that we had to nab in the predictions along the way to get there. Thiemo de Bakker, the young Dutchman, has really been pulling out some great performances so far and could give #5 Robin Soderling troubles in their next match. James Blake has had a resurgent tournament after a couple down years. He gets #3 Novak Djokovic in the next round and will likely get countryman and #19 seed Mardy Fish in the fourth should he advance. With the crowd behind him anything is possible. Sergei Stakhovsky has been as good as I expected, and Tommy Robredo came through when it mattered most.
Of course, that is the pat-your-back moment of the review. The true fun is in just how badly my bracket is already busted before the tournament really gets warmed up. Sure, Federer and Nadal bookend the bracket and are on pace to at least make my finals predictions come true. But I’ve already lost one of the four semifinalists from my selections when Andy Roddick had his meltdown, and he was among three of eight quarterfinalists who failed to fulfill my expectations.
#11 Marin Cilic lost focus and lost hope in the final set of his five-setter against Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the second round. After losing the fourth-set tiebreak that would’ve sealed the match, the Croat seemed to withdraw himself as though he wanted to beat the traffic out of the stadium and back to his hotel. Once the tiebreak was lost, it was all over for Cilic. The last of the three seeds gone from the quarterfinal prognostications? #7 Tomas Berdych, the Czech who was in the final four at Roland Garros and at Wimbledon, ended his streak of semifinals appearances with a disappointing opening-round rout at the hands of Michael Llodra. All things told, I’ve been as good at predicting as ever. Batting three-of-four for me is far more than could usually be expected in that realm…
I did even worse on the women’s side, apparently, because eleven of my 32 selections to this point are now on vacation through the fortnight. A semifinalist pick, #10 Victoria Azarenka, was on pace to get there until a mild concussion caused her to pass out on the court. Other than that freakish incident, the initial picks might be diminished but I’m better-loaded on the back end to be right from there. My Sharapova-Clijsters finals prediction remains as possible as ever, and only #30 Yaroslava Shvedova joined Azarenka as an early casualty amongst my projected quarterfinalists.
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All things told, I haven’t done that bad. Ana Ivanovic was the right former #1 to pick as a darkhorse; Dinara Safina was as wrong a choice as ever to reach even the third round. The same oversight can be said about both Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens and Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
But when you get down to it, you win some and you lose some. To have been this on the ball so far is gold, but it’s how you finish that matters most. So consider this my full disclosure going forward, and we’ll see how the picks hold up from here. For now, enjoy weekend play!