U.S. Open R1 previews and picks: Blake vs. Karlovic, Dolgopolov vs. Goffin

James Blake will begin the final tournament of his career when he takes the U.S. Open court against Ivo Karlovic on Wednesday. Alexandr Dolgopolov and David Goffin are also in first-round action.

James Blake vs. (Q) Ivo Karlovic

Two days after announcing his impending retirement from professional tennis, Blake will kick off his U.S. Open campaign on Wednesday. The 33-year-old American held a press conference on Monday morning to reveal that this will be the last tournament of his career. Blake owns a 366-255 career record on the ATP Tour, including a 25-12 mark in New York. He has been to the quarterfinals twice–including a memorable run in 2005 when he beat Rafael Nadal before losing to Andre Agassi in an epic five-setter. Blake is just 9-13 this season, but he advanced to the second round in both Cincinnati and Winston-Salem.

Up first for the sentimental favorite is a 10th career meeting with Karlovic. Blake has won only three of their nine previous encounters and Karlovic also leads the head-to-head hard-court series 4-2 (Karlovic is 5-3 overall at the ATP level against Blake, 3-2 at the ATP level on hard courts). They most recently faced each other in the final of the 2011 Sacramento Challenger, with Karlovic prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. The 6’10” Croat has been inconsistent and injury-plagued this year. He won the Bogota title last month and qualified for the U.S. Open main draw, but in between those feats he fell in the Atlanta first round and lost at the qualifying stage in both Montreal and Cincinnati. An inspired Blake should be able to capitalize against a dangerous but vulnerable opponent.

Pick: Blake in 4

David Goffin vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov

Goffin and Dolgopolov will be squaring off for the first time in their careers at the ATP level on Wednesday. They faced each other on the Challenger circuit in 2010, when Dolgopolov earned a victory on the clay courts of Marrakech via a 7-5, 6-3 decision. The 24-year-old Ukrainian peaked as high as No. 13 in the world in January of last season, but he is down at 37th now due a 19-20 record for his 2013 campaign. Dolgopolov at least picked up some much-needed momentum last week in Winston-Salem, where he reached the semis before losing to Gael Monfils.

The 2013 story has been a similar one for Goffin. He got off to a terrible start following a breakout 2012 season, but Goffin has raised his game this summer. The 72nd-ranked Belgian won a Challenger title in Turkey and he successfully qualified in Montreal, Cincinnati, and Winston-Salem–even advancing to the third round of the Cincinnati main draw. With Goffin playing well and Dolgopolov a question mark in part due to Gilbert’s Syndrome that sometimes saps his energy, this could go either way. All things being equal, Dolgopolov should have slightly too much talent in a possible five-setter.

Pick: Dolgopolov in 5

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