This years US Open is intriguing since both the Mens and Womens draws are more wide open than usual. The Women will be missing the two ladies with the most Grand Slam titles over the past few years, since both Justine Henin and Serena Williams are hurt. On the Mens side everyone is here but all the top contenders have a little bit of vulnerability either at this stage of their career or on this surface.
It should be an exciting two weeks with some surprises and lost of good tennis. There was already a couple of great matches today, especially the Gael Monfils/ Robert Kendrick 5-setter. I will try to give some clarity to this unpredictable tourney by presenting some contenders, longshots, and disappointments that will be a part of the fortnight.
1. 2 Seed Kim Clijsters
The defending champ is the only women playing top notch tennis right now, who has proven she can do it on the big stage. Without Serena or Justine around, she has to be the first choice.
2. 1 Seed Caroline Wozniacki
The Dutch/Polish sensation reached the final in New York last year and comes in this year on a hot streak. She won the Pilot Pen invitational last week and assumes the number one seed with the injury to Serena. She definitely has the game to take the crown, but we still don’t know about her determination.
3. 12 Seed Elena Dementieva
She has been hanging around a Grand Slam title for years, but has never been able to put it all together. She can beat anyone, but rarely has been able to put up 2 or 3 big wins in a row. In this draw she might not have to. It may be her best chance ever to collect the hardware.
4. 10 Seed Victoria Azarenka
The Bulgarian is not one of the first names you think of when you think Womens tennis. She has advanced to the quarterfinals of three majors in the past year, but hasn’t gotten by Serena Williams in the past two. She won’t have to worry about that this time.
5. 7 Seed Vera Zvonareva
The Wimbledon finalist is having a great summer. Of course making the final at Wimbledon will do that all by itself. She didn’t stop there, she also reached the final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, upsetting Clijsters along the way. She can’t be discounted.
14 Seed Maria Sharapova and 23 Seed Maria Kirilenko
Sharapova would not normally be in the longshot category, but through injury and rust she has not had good results lately. In her last 5 majors she hasn’t gotten out of the 4th round, but she has picked it up in the summer circuit. Her second place finish in Cincinnati was eye opening. Kirilenko has a good draw. If she can get by Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 3rd round it could be along run.
3 Seed Venus Williams and unseeded Melanie Oudin
Venus will be a disappointment because the casual fan expects her to win since her sister isn’t there. That won’t happen. We need to remove this notion that the Williams sisters are somehow interchangeable. Serena Williams is one of the greatest womens tennis players ever…. Venus is not. She is very good, but especially off grass courts she has not been dominant. She;s never won the Australian or the French and hasn’t won in NY since 2001. In fact she’s only made one semifinal at the US Open in the past seven years. As for Oudin, I would love for her to repeat her run from last year; but she is ranked 40th for a reason. She has had a tough year and faces a formidable Alona Bondarenko in the next round. If she gets by that it means French champ Schiavone next. It will be difficult for her.
1. 1 Seed Rafael Nadal
He won the French and he won Wimbledon. He is ranked number one in the world. He has to be the favorite. There are some reservations though. He has not shined at the US Open. Other great players such as Bjorn Borg have struggled there. It is clearly his worst surface, and puts the most strain on his balky knees. Yet, he is still Rafael Nadal.
2. 2 Seed Roger Federer
Just like with Nadal, you have to rank him this high because of who he is and what he has done. He has done well in the summer circuit, but it is obvious he is not as dominant as he once was. The Soderling loss in Paris and the Berdych defeat at Wimbledon showed he is vulnerable; but until someone other than these two step up and win they have to be considered one and two.
3. 4 Seed Andy Murray
Murray has the all-around game to excel at the US Open. He reached the final here in 2008 and on hardcourts in Australia made the final this year. He is the best player never to win a major, to borrow a golf cliche. I can’t make him the favorite, but I think it is his time to win one.
4. 6 seed Nikolay Davydenko
He is a very consistent fundamental player. He will give anyone a tough time, if they are even a little off their game. He has shaken off the whole match fixing controversy from a couple of years ago and established himself as a solid top 10 player.
5. 19 seed Mardy Fish
Fish has lost about 35 pounds since last years Open. He is finally taking his tennis life more seriously. He has made 3 finals (winning two) since Wimbledon and is playing the best tennis of his career. He may not really be the fifth choice, but I think he is definitely the American with the best chance to make a run and get the NYC crowd fired up.
31 Seed David Nalbandian and unseeded Sergi Stakhovsky
Many forget that Nalbandian was once rated as high as third in the world. He has taken the better part of two years off and seems refreshed. He rolled to the Legg Mason title here in DC and has a somewhat favorable draw. The seeds he is in line to face early are Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer. Two guys that he has as much talent as, if not more ; especially off clay. Stakhovsky I like just based on seeing him in the Pilot Pen last week. He is a winning streak coming in, only a couple of players can say that. I think he can keep it going a couple of rounds and upset Ivan Ljubicic or Feliciano Lopez.
9 Seed Andy Roddick and 3 Seed Novak Djokovic
Roddick has been sick and hasn’t been playing well. I don’t expect any more than the fourth round from him. On his home surface that will be a disappointment for him as he reaches the back end of his career. Djokovic has as much tennis skill as anyone in the world. Other than the 2008 Australian, he hasn’t been able to live up to that talent. With both Federer and Nadal exhibiting some flaws, this should be his time to excel. Anything less than a final appearance should be disappointing to Novak. I don’t think he is mentally ready to do.
There are my thoughts. Enjoy the next two weeks.