US Open 2015 — Men's Semifinal Predictions


The semifinals of the US Open feature four players, who all hold at least one grand slam title. The quarterfinals were all matches of high quality, but were tests of different sorts for each man remaining. Djokovic struggled with flat form to overcome the serve-and-volleying Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez. Wawrinka found his best tennis yet in a hard hitting dismissal of a physically drained Kevin Anderson. Cilic played five strong sets full of booming serves and rocket-powered forehands against the equally explosive Frenchman, Jo Wilfried Tsonga who came back from two sets to love down to force a decider. Last but not least, Roger Federer breezed past talented French number two, Richard Gasquet in only 87 minutes. Here is what to expect from these men going forward.

Djokovic Cilic

Novak Djokovic SER [1] vs. Marin Cilic CRO [9]

Head to Head: Djokovic 13 – Cilic 0

Admittedly, I expected Tsonga to be the player facing Djokovic. Though he has never beaten the Serb, Cilic, when he is on his game, has shown that he can trouble any player. Cilic appears to be approaching the kind of tennis that won him his maiden grand slam last year. In his match against Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Cilic mercilessly pounded down forehands, fearlessly stepping far inside the baseline to rip winners past his opponent. Djokovic, for his part, looked listless in his quarterfinal match. Unforced errors creeped into his game and even when he was a break up in the third set (after losing the second) he was yelling to his box “This is a disaster!” in reference to his inability to dictate play. Even a sub-par Djokovic is an opponent few players want to face.

To win, Cilic will need to stay strong on his serve, and keep a positive mental game. If he stays in an aggressive mindset, keeps rallies short, and prevents Djokovic from finding his rhythm on the baseline, he has a chance at the final. Djokovic will need to call on all his abilities as one of the greatest returners in the history of tennis to do what he did so well against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final this year: continually make Cilic hit at least one extra shot to end a rally. Either way, this match has the makings of a blockbuster similar to the five-set Wimbledon quarterfinal these two men contested last year.

Prediction: This match will likely be decided in four or five sets. If Cilic plays lights out, serves well, and stays aggressive, he could eke out a win. More likely Djokovic will remain consistent if not at his unassailable best, and dispatch the defending US Open champion.

Federer Wawrinka

Roger Federer SUI [2] vs Stan Wawrinka SUI [5]

Head to Head: Federer 16 – Wawrinka 3

After two strong quarterfinal showings, an all Swiss semifinal looms. Both men have reason to be confident ahead of their 20th clash on the ATP World Tour. Wawrinka, particularly, is enjoying a late career renaissance that shows no signs of letting up. In addition to winning two of the last six grand slams, he has made a quarterfinal showing or better at five of them. This is after having made only three quarterfinals and a semifinal in his previous 35 grand slam appearances. Wawrinka, whose form has looked suspect thus far at the US Open, uncorked some of his best hitting to prevail over Kevin Anderson who won the pair’s four previous matches. Federer also remains in fine form. His judicious rests throughout this year have kept him looking fresh on court, and he has not lost a set since turning 34 at the beginning of August. That is a run of 25 straight sets. Federer has also only had his serve broken twice and both times by Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 3rd Round of the US Open.

If he wants to have any chance of besting his countryman, Wawrinka will need to hit hard and accurately the way he did in his straight sets victory over Federer at this year’s French Open. The faster hardcourts are not as conducive to Wawrinka’s preferred baseline game so without the slow clay to aid him, he has an uphill battle. It is notable that Wawrinka’s grand slam wins have come on the two slowest surfaces: the French Open and the Australian Open. Slower conditions give Wawrinka time to wind up and unleash his lethal groundstrokes, while the faster courts are less rewarding. For Federer to win, he must stay as strong on serve as he has thus far in the tournament, and continue to be aggressive and creative when returning. Coming to the net and targeting Wawrinka’s still slightly weaker forehand side should also pay dividends. This match, while perhaps not destined to become a classic, should feature strong play from both, and excellent shot-making.

Prediction: Federer should win in three sets, possibly four. Look for him to stay aggressive and keep Wawrinka off balance with judicious net play.

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