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The Top Five Contenders At The U.S. Open

We are into the final Grand Slam and into one of the five most anticipated tournaments of the year. The tennis season will not stop at New York, but it is the final junction that this train will stop on after which it will go through numerous smaller stations that not many would be interested in. The U.S. Open is the tournament which usually salvages a player’s year (think Andre Agassi in ’94, Pete Sampras in ’96, Roger Federer in ’08) or it makes it (Andy Roddick in ’03, Juan Martin del Potro in ’09). So just like things happen at New York, we look into the top five favorites for the title on the men’s and women’s side without wasting any more time (and space).

Men

[2] Novak Djokovic: Yes, Federer beat him at Wimbledon. Yes, Djokovic lost to both Andy Murray and del Potro in the Olympics, and was bageled by Federer again at Cincinnati. But this is hard courts. This is Djokovic’s favorite surface. His offense is well known on asphalt, but it is his defense which achieves new levels here. If I were to pick a player with the best defense ever, it would be a toss up between Rafael Nadal on clay and Djokovic on hard courts. He is a wall. And even though it looks otherwise, he is coming into the Open in great form — a title in Montreal and a finalist in Cincinnati.

[1] Roger Federer: The current form indicates nothing but a Federer victory. And if he does win here, I will probably consider it as his best year ever given his age and the quality of his opponents. But it is also true that he has not won the Open for three years now, and has lost matches from winnable positions. In addition, he potentially faces Murray in the semis who just registered his first best-of-five victory over Federer and will come into the Open with confidence after winning a Gold metal for GBR. And finally, two consecutive best of five matches might be tough on him, regardless of how fresh, fit and motivated he is.

[3] Andy Murray: The victory at Olympics is important for Murray on two counts. One, he finally won a tournament of significance (read: A tournament that casual fans would remember a year later) and registered only his second best-of-five win over the top3, and his first in a semi or a final. However, caveats still remain. You can never be considered a favorite to win a major unless you have won one before. Given his early losses in the summer hard court season, and his early rounds vulnerability at the Open, it will be a tough ask from him.

[7] Juan Martin del Potro: He is proudly amongst the “been there, done that” section of the tour in Grand Slams, and at the Open, by beating both Nadal and Federer. He is on a high after winning a bronze for Argentina and finally registered his first win over the top-4 since his comeback from the wrist injury. Tournament after tournament, he is coming close to finding his form he displayed at the Open in ’09, but his recent wrist injury could be troublesome.

[?] The Dark Horse: Unfortunately, there is no sure shot fifth contender for the title. Tsonga, while explosive, is too erratic. Berdych is out of form. Ferrer can’t win a major without an explosive serve, forehand or a backhand regardless of how great his fitness and work ethic is. And Raonic? It would be a great tournament for him if he can even register his first win over Federer or Djokovic. However, the winner of the dark horse award goes to John Isner, who will not have to face any of the above four players till semifinals, and will have a fighting chance against Ferrer.

Semifinals: Roger Federer d. Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic d. John Isner
Champion: Novak Djokovic

Women

[4] Serena Williams: Serena won her fifth Wimbledon title on grass, flew across continents and dismantled the field on the hard courts of Stanford, and two weeks later went back to grass across continents and ruthlessly demolished the top two ranked women’s tennis players by losing only three and one games respectively, including a bagel set. In addition, she fired the maximum number of aces at Wimbledon across both men and women! She hit 24 aces in a two set match against Victoria Azarenka, one of the game’s best returners. I can go on, but it is clear that there is a big gap between Serena and the field. If Serena is even close to her best, the title is hers. However, she also have had epic meltdowns at the Open in the past two years, although the Serena this year has been really amiable and charming.

[5] Petra Kvitova: Yes, your heard it right. The woman, who was poised to take over the women’s field, and was 10 points away from the world No. 1 at the end of last year, has deteriorated in results. But she also won her first title of the year at Toronto, reached the semis at Cincinnati and won at New Haven, so she comes in with momentum, confidence and victories on her back. It looks like she has found her footing on this surface (she won just one match in the summer hard courts last year), and with Serena not in her half of the draw, can be more than a handful at New York.

[9] Li Na: I repeat, yes, you heard it right. On her day, she is one of the purest hitters of the tennis ball after Serena and Kvitova. She struggles with her temparent, but seems to have found it after hiring Justin Henin’s coach, Carlos Rodrigues, as evident by his finalist run at Toronto and the title at Cincinnati.

[3] Maria Sharapova: She had a banner year after completing her Career Slam and briefly getting to the top of the rankings, but might be low on confidence after a 6-0 6-1 beatdown at the hands of Serena in the Olympics, and has question marks on her fitness given her recent injury woes.

[1] Victoria Azarenka: She had a great start to the season going twenty six and O. She had left all her mental struggles behind during this run, but those flaws slowly creept back to her game through the European clay season, which carried forward to grass. A return to hard courts would be welcome, but she has also not gone past the third round even once since 2007!

Dark Horses: Angelique Kerber (the sixth seed, finalist at Cincinnati, and the defending semi-finalist at the Open, where it all started), Agnieska Radwanska (finalist at Wimbledon, but fatigue is creeping into her game as a result of overplaying), and because she is the defending champion, Samantha Stosur. And before I forget, Kim Clijsters, who has not lost a single match at the Open since 2006.

Semifinals: Petra Kvitova d. Li Na, Serena Williams d. Angelique Kerber
Champion: Serena Williams

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  1. Aug 26, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    1. absolutely – could not agree more on your points about ‘potential’ back to back 3/5’s against Nole and M’Andy – can RF do it at 31 …. ???

    • Aug 26, 2012 at 8:42 PM

      If he can, I will run out of superlatives to describe him.

  2. Aug 26, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    we almost said the same thing about Nole’s defense on hards – i just commented bout the same on mine …

  3. Aug 26, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    its kinda like – ONE MIND. we almost wrote the same article … loved these lines about Da-Veed – Ferrer can’t win a major without an explosive serve, forehand or a backhand regardless of how great his fitness and work ethic is.

    • Aug 26, 2012 at 8:43 PM

      he he, yeah. Liked it that at least someone else thinks that Novak has a better shot at the Open. Otherwise both ESPN and tennis.com have unanimously picked Roger. But my sentimental favorite remain Andy and Won Martin.

  4. Aug 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ However, she also have had epic meltdowns at the Open in the past two years, although the Serena this year has been really amiable and charming.

  5. Rob
    Aug 26, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Brave pick, but I guess it’s logical given Federer’s age and the Super Saturday format. If Murray makes Fed work hard in the semis and Djokovic awaits in the last round we could see a repeat of Federer’s flat form in the final (hey, alliteration) of the Olympics. If that’s not the case, though, and Fed comes into the last round with plenty of gas I have to pick him.

    • Aug 26, 2012 at 8:45 PM

      Yeah, Djokovic has a very straight forward path till the finals with Rafa absent. Murray has the belief that he can now beat Federer after taking a set at Wimbledon and three at Olympics. If Fed v Murray happens, then Novak is almost assured of a title, else it is a toss up.

      • Aug 27, 2012 at 5:11 AM

        straight path – Juan Mar-theen Rajat ? … and he just got a W. in wimbledon as well. I really think he is a genuine dark horse

      • Aug 27, 2012 at 11:58 AM

        Ouch, Won Martin in his half, yeah. Well, not so straight, after all πŸ™‚ Anyway, Martin is not a dark horse in my opinion, he is a contender πŸ™‚

  6. ericaqjjonest
    Sep 19, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    Reblogged this on ericaqjjonest.

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