By Josh Kramer
All eyes in the tennis world will be focused on the Big Apple starting on Monday. The year’s fourth and final Grand Slam tournament begins with many question marks.
-Can Djokovic continue his remarkable run?
-Does Federer have another Grand Slam in him?
-Can Mardy Fish bring America it’s first Grand Slam title in eight years?
-Without Clijsters in the draw, who is the front-runner?
-Is Maria Sharapova the best player on the WTA tour?
-Men’s tennis has become unpredictable again. There is parity. Great players. No real American stars. And the “Fantastic Four” appear to have lost their invincibility cloak. Though it should be noted that Federer took home five straight titles in Flushing from 2003 to 2008. Then in 2009, Juan Martin del Potro shocked the tennis world, and handled Roger Federer. Since the amazing run in 2009, injuries have never let del Potro live up to the hype. And last year, Rafael Nadal took it home.
Champion: Novak Djokovic
-This guy has been simply sensational all year long. Despite suffering his second defeat of the year in the finals last weekend in Cincinnati, the Serbian phenom has been given a full week to rest. With a 57 and 2 record on the year, it is hard to bet against this guy. Not to mention his best surface is the hard court. After losing in the finals last year, I expect Novak to “Joke” his way to his 4th career Grand Slam title.
Contenders: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray
-It is hard to sway away from the “Fantastic Four” (Nadal, Federer, Murray, and Djokovic). All of the world’s top four players are capable of winning any tournament despite demonstrating vulnerability this summer. If Murray had played in another era, such as the early 2000s, he may have seen much more Grand Slam success. But all three of these guys are capable of turning some heads in Flushing. Federer has won here five times in his illustrious career. Nadal is the defending champion, while Andy Murray has been to the finals here before. It would not surprise me to see any of these three guys dethrone world number one Novak Djokovic.
Dark Horses: Mardy Fish and Juan Martin del Potro
-Mardy Fish has had a fantastic summer, and really the best year of his career. He is the lone American ranked in the top 20 in the world. The hopes of American tennis appear to rest on his racket. Can he bring the United States it’s first Grand Slam title since Roddick won here eight years ago?
-And Juan Martin del Potro seems to have acquired what I like to call the “Marat Safin” syndrome. A guy who can play out of this world tennis and capable of defeating any player on the tour. But also a guy who could lose to the 200th ranked player in the world the next day. This guy (del Potro) destroyed Roger Federer in the 09 final. He is having a solid year (38 and 12 record), yet he has struggled all summer with three straight early exits. Maybe Flushing is just the medicine he needs?
– Go figure in trying to figure out the WTA tour these days. There is no rhyme or reason. No big time stars. Since Wimbledon, the top ranked player (Caroline Wozniacki) has only made it past the second round once (New Haven). Can you say paper champion? The two-time defending champion (Kim Clijsters) has had to pull out due to injury. And only one of the top five seeds has ever won here before (Maria Sharapova, 2006).
Champion: Maria Sharapova
-Sharapova is the only top five seed who has won in Flushing before, and is the most capable to win it this year in my book. Maria is having her best year in a long time. She won the big tune-up in Cincinnati, and just seems poised to win her first Grand Slam title since she won in 2008 Down Under.
Contenders: Serena Williams, Vera Zvonareva
-Sure Serena is seeded just 28th, but she has won 13 Grand Slam titles.. Not to mention she has won in Flushing on two separate occasions. The crowd will be behind her the entire two weeks and Serena has thrived under the bright lights throughout the course of her outstanding career.
-Vera is another star in her own right. Though she has never won a Grand Slam, she currently is the 2nd ranked player in the world, and she went all the way to the finals here last year. Could her experience finally help her get over the hump in a tournament that is missing the two-time defending champion?
Dark Horse: Venus Williams
-Venus Williams is no stranger to Arthur Ashe Stadium. She won this event in both 2000 and 2001. Sure it has been a rough year for the elder Williams as her career appears to be winding down, but there is nothing like winning your country’s marquee event. On the year, Venus is just 7 and 3. This could possibly mean that her legs are fresh, and geared up for a big Grand Slam run. It is hard to say, but it definitely would not be shocking to watch her play deep into the second week.
-The US Open is always a great way to cap off the American portion of both the ATP and WTA tours. The popularity of a sport that usually takes the back seat in the US soars for a little over a month which is always refreshing to see. Arthur Ashe Stadium and the entire facility in Flushing will be rocking for the next two weeks. Make sure to take it in and enjoy the year’s final Grand Slam event.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.