Editors note: Graeters ice cream from Cincinnati | New York finally made it to Cincy| New York. It’s fantastic ice cream. The players really appreciate your efforts. We @10sBalls do too. Still stuck on cotton candy.
By Ricky Dimon
A most unusual U.S. Open will begin on Monday in New York. There may not be any fans in attendance, but that does not make the schedule of matches any less appealing. Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas are among those in action, as are Alexander Zverev, David Goffin, and John Isner.
Ricky takes a look at three of the most intriguing Day 1 matchups and makes his predictions.
Kevin Anderson vs. (5) Alexander Zverev
Anderson was the runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open and he also accomplished the same feat at Wimbledon in 2018, but due to injuries he is now part of the unseeded contingent at slams in 2020. The 6’8” South African finds himself at No. 124 in the world and he has won only four matches (4-4 record) since Wimbledon last summer. Anderson did well to survive a three-set thriller against Kyle Edmund last week in “Cincinnati,” but he had to play on back-to-back days and promptly got crushed by Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-3.
Thus the 34-year-old remains a question mark from a physical standpoint and a best-of-five situation at the U.S. Open cannot be ideal. His draw is also far from desirable, as Anderson trails the head-to-head series with Zverev 4-0 heading into Monday. They have not faced each other since 2017, when the seventh-ranked German won in Rome, Washington, and Montreal. Zverev is an even bigger favorite now than he was back then, but inconsistency on his serve will probably allow Anderson to snag at least one set.
Pick: Zverev in 4
Reilly Opelka vs. (7) David Goffin
The head-to-head series stands at 1-1 and both previous encounters have gone the distance. Goffin prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in round one of the 2017 U.S. Open before Opelka pulled off a 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-5 upset on the indoor hard courts of Basel in 2019. On paper, this should be competitive. After all, even though Goffin is favored, Opelka is coming off a quarterfinal appearance in “Cincinnati.”
However, the 6’11” American’s knee problem could be the overriding factor here. He retired from his Cincinnati QF match against Tsitsipas, and thus is a major question mark heading into the season’s second Grand Slam. Goffin is one of the best returners on tour and will battle his way into baseline rallies even if Opelka serves well. That is not a good recipe for the big guy–even if he is 100 percent.
Pick: Goffin in 4
Steve Johnson vs. (16) John Isner
It will be an all-American clash when Isner and Johnson square off for the 10th time in their careers on Monday. Johnson leads the head-to-head series 5-4 (4-2 on hard courts) and has won four in a row at Isner’s expense. Four of their nine previous meetings have required final-set tiebreakers in order to be decided, including most recently when Johnson prevailed 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5) on the red clay of Houston in 2018. Two other encounters ended 7-6, 7-6, so another competitive contest with at least a few more ‘breakers should be expected.
This time around, however, Isner is likely to have the edge. The world No. 21 played well enough at the Cincinnati Masters, beating Hubert Hurkacz and John Millman (the latter in a final-set tiebreaker) before falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(2), 7-6(4). Johnson, on the other hand, is struggling at 63rd in the rankings and he suffered a bad loss in Cincinnati qualifying to Pedro Martinez. Conditions at Flushing Meadows generally suit Isner’s game to perfection, so the 16th seed should be able to take care of business.
Pick: Isner in 4