Who will take home the titles at Flushing? [US Open Preview]
Let's start with the men's draw, where there are 3 big favorites. Yes, I meant to say 3, not 4. Those three favorites are the three you would except, the three that already have Slam victories this season: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray. At first glance, the favorite should be Murray. He's the defending champion and is coming off his historic Wimbledon victory. A case could also be for Djokovic, who remains the #1 ranked player in the world and won the other hard court Slam this year in Australia. However, the one playing the best right now is Nadal.
Yes, Nadal. Yes, he lost early at Wimbledon again. Since then though, he's been fantastic, winning both hard court Masters events this summer in Canada and Cincinnati. In fact, Nadal has yet to lose a match on hard courts this season. While Nadal was winning those two tournaments, the only two the top players usually play between Wimbledon and the US Open, Djokovic was losing to Nadal in the semis in Canada, then the quarters in Cincinnati. Murray fared even worse, winning just three matches in the two tournaments combined. Thus, Nadal comes into the tournament playing the best, but it's anyone guess which of the three will emerge victorious. One advantage Nadal has is that third seeded Murray was placed into Djokovic's half of the draw, meaning those two could beat each other up in the semifinals. All three should get at least that far, even those they all have a potentially tricky quarterfinal match. It would be a shock if anyone else won the tournament.
What about Roger Federer though? The first indication that things aren't going well for Fed is his ranking, which has fallen all the way to 7th. It's been a quixotic few weeks for Federer after his own shocking loss at Wimbledon. He changed rackets and broke them in at two clay tournaments in Europe. He lost to guys ranked 114th and 55th. He then skipped Canada, then lost in the quarters in Cincinnati to Nadal. It was a three set loss though, which is encouraging. Right now it doesn't look like Fed is a title contender, as much as most hope he's got another in him. His biggest problem might be his draw. He's slated to play Nadal in the quarterfinals.
If anyone other than the Big Three plus Federer is going to win, it's Juan Martin del Potro. The 2009 US Open champion (still the only non-Big Four Slam champion since 2005) is finally looking like his old self after dealing with a long-term wrist injury. He's up to 6th in the world and at the last Slam, came very close to knocking off Djokovic in the Wimbledon semis. If the draw holds, he'll get another chance at Djokovic, this time in the quarters. Also worthy of dark horse note is 5th seeded Tomas Berdych. He's enigmatic to say the least, but is capable of a deep run. He's Andy Murray's potentially tricky quarterfinal opponent.
The last quarter is where a surprise semifinalist could show up. Fourth seeded David Ferrer has the respect of everyone for how he always fights and gets everything from his talent, but he just doesn't have the power to challenge the top guys. This quarter might see Richard Gasquet finally get out of the fourth round (he's a ridiculous 1-15 in Slam fourth round matches), but more likely it sets up for Milos Raonic's Slam breakthrough. The Canadian has a wicked serve and has had a nice summer, including runner-up on home soil.
As for the Americans? For the men, it's ugly, there's no way around it. With Andy Roddick yukking it up on Fox Sports Live, John Isner inherits the standard bearer title. He's up to 14th in the world after a nice summer, including runner-up at Cincinnati. However, his style tends to produce long matches that are taxing on the body. It makes deep Slam runs very difficult. Isner will have to avoid the first week marathon, and that's just to get the fourth round, where'd he likely face...Nadal. Of other Americans, Sam Querrey is good enough to be seeded and not much else, Ryan Harrison's career has stalled (and the draw gods spit on him again, he drew Nadal in round one), and Jack Sock has talent but is still establishing himself. The hand wringing columns about American men's tennis can basically write itself. However, there are still the Bryan brothers in doubles. They are trying to complete a season Grand Slam at New York, which would be a capstone on a fine career and possibly clinch them the title of Best Doubles Team Ever. Give them a watch at some point.
Turn to the next page for a look at the women's tournament.