Will Federer and Serena Win Again in New York, or Will Someone Else Prevail? [US Open Preview]
Before the two Masters Series events in Montreal and Cincinnati earlier this month, the question that surrounded Federer was motivation. With the majors record in the bag and his newborn twin girls, would Federer be able to stay motivated? Well, if the Cincinnati tournament was any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. Federer put on a clinic throughout the event, culminating in a 6-1, 7-5 win in the final over Novak Djokovic. If that wasn’t enough, Federer is trying to become the first men’s tennis player in the Open Era to win a tournament six consecutive years. There’s no doubt Fed is the favorite now, and the sentiment has only grown this month.
There are also questions regarding Rafael Nadal, only his are physical, not mental. Nadal is still getting back to full strength from his knee injury that kept him out of Wimbledon. He’s played all of seven matches in 2 ½ months. In addition, Nadal’s US Open record pales in comparison to the other majors, usually because his physical style of play leaves him beat up by this time of year. It being even worse this year can’t help. However, you certainly can’t rule out a player as talented as tenacious as Nadal, especially if he can cruise through the first week to save strength. An as aside, Nadal has a fun first round match against Richard “The cocaine was from kissing a girl” Gasquet.
However, Nadal is no longer even #2 in the world. That distinction belongs to Andy Murray. Nadal’s inactivity obviously contributed to that, but Murray has been playing well this year, backing up his Wimbledon semifinals with a title in the Montreal Masters event. Murray is close to that first Slam, it just feels like a matter of time, especially since he’s played Federer pretty even in his career. He’s probably the second favorite here, but I bet he didn’t want to go into the Open having lost to Federer in the Cincy semifinals.
Novak Djokovic has been mostly invisible this year compared to the rest of the top of the men’s game. He did get to the finals in Cincinnati, only to be blown off the court by Federer, who he would face in the semifinals. You can’t completely discount the world #4, but I’m not really feeling his chances.
Argentine Juan Martin del Potro has continued his rise in the men’s tour. During this year’s hard court season, he won the Washington event and lost to Murray in the finals in Montreal. His play on hard courts is excellent, but there are still concerns about his fitness level. Playing Washington and Montreal back-to-back caused him to run out of gas in the final after taking the first set. He then quickly crashed out of Cincinnati. Seven best-of-five set matches, at times in awful heat, could be too much for him now, but keep an eye on this 21 year old.
Finally, there’s Andy Roddick, returning to the scene of his only Slam victory and finally with the respect of American sports fans after that epic Wimbledon. Roddick had a solid hard court season, but there were disappointments. He lost a tight three set final in Washington to del Potro and then again in the semifinals of Montreal. Still, he has the good omen of having tied or surpassed his best finish in every Slam this year. Doing that here of course means a second title. However, Federer looms in the semifinals if Roddick can get by Djokovic.
Others to Watch: American Sam Querrey looks poised for a breakout after he won the US Open Series on the strength of three finals, a title, and a victory over Roddick in Cincinnati…2000 champion Marat Safin will make his final Grand Slam appearance in New York. He could lose in the first round, go deep, or anything in between…One not to watch: James Blake. He still hasn’t gone deeper than the quarterfinals of a Slam, and he won’t here.