Out with the old, in with the new.
The US Open is but a few hours away. The final slam stop of the tennis calendar is Flushing Meadows New York. After almost 8 months on tour, players, fans, coaches and media descend on the City that never sleeps New York for 2 weeks of late summer tennis action. The USTA BJK NTC at Flushing Meadows is a superb facility and one that has a unique personality. The hot dog and beer sellers on the concourses, the loud noisy crowd and the bright lights all make the US Open quite simply unlike any other of the grand slam tournaments. The August sunshine, the humidity, the bright lights of the night session. Champions are made here. All the legends of our game seem to do well at the US Open.
On the mens tour, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have both dominated the big events in 2017. 3 slams played and 3 titles have been won by the Greats Rafa and Roger. Both men are highly fancied to do well in New York. The recently crowned World Number One Rafael Nadal will keen to remind us that his return to the top rung of the rankings is no fluke and will be keen to improve on his 3-2 match record since Wimbledon. Nadal excels under the lights of Arthur Ashe and will certainly delight in his top seeding at the final slam of the year.
Roger Federer also loves New York too. The 5 time champion has had a great 2017 and some expect him to turn up in great form for the US Open too. In January Roger played tennis which was out of this world make his way into the final in Melbourne. He continued in such form at Indian Wells and Miami Masters 1000 events. As he progressed to the grass court season Federer looked good in Stuttgart but rarely reached the heights of Australian Open form. Perhaps he didnt need to play such a level to win his 19th slam title at Wimbledon and has more in the tank. Federer has looked good in Montreal and was clearly hampered in the final against Zverev. Can he attain the level he showed in the early months of the year? Possibly if fully fit.
Maria makes her slam return. The Russian 30 year old will make her Grand Slam return at US Open following a ban for doping. Maria has had a stop start return to the game and been hampered with niggly injuries. She has had to pull out of several events this summer and whilst her return be welcomed especially in New York but her expectations must be realistic given her lack of match time so far. Will she get lucky in 2017? If she were to win a few matches and perhaps get a game on a big show court that could be judged as progress. There remains a possibility that Maria could qualify for the Season Ending WTA Event in Singapore.
In with the new.
For many years us tennis fans have been trying to discover the next big thing on tour. ATP launched the hastag #nextgen for young and up and coming stars that are potentially on the cusp of greatness. In the absence of Serena Williams, Vika Azarenka and lack of form from Sharapova there remains a huge opportunity for young players to break through in the US Open. Garbine Muguruza has all the tools necessary to fill the void. The reigning Wimbledon Champion enjoyed a facile victory over Simona Halep in Cincinnatti and appears in good shape to do well in New York.
Elsewhere world number one Karolina Pliskova seems to be weighed down by the expectations of being the number one player in the world. Her form has been patchy and she has looked like a shadow of the player who did so well in the past 18 months. She can fire in New York,her power game with her serve and forehand suit the fast courts of Flushing Meadows.
Simona Halep can also count herself as a strong contender for this title regardless of her implosion at the hands of Muguruza in Cincy. There can be no doubt that Halep is the best athlete on tour but at times she can become paralized with fear and self doubt in big games. Much was spoken of the opportunity to make the top spot in Cincy if she won the final and sadly this seemed to have affected her greatly. The fast fluid performance we witnessed against Johanna Konta was replaced with a nervy error strewn one. If Simona can curb such performances and work on her mental skills then such big matches will come more naturally to her.
The ATP young guns have until now remained in the shadows of their more illustrious counterparts the big 4 or 5. Much has been hyped about the new guys and their talent but most have been unable to consistently beat the Fed Nadal,Murray and Djokovic monopoly on a regular basis. Guys like Raonic, Cilic and Nishikori have all been touted for greatness but they have one slam between them. Sascha Zverev seems to be the man that is predicted to end the top 4 domination of slams. The tall rangey German has shown in defeating Federer and in his multiple tournament victories in 2017 that he very much has a game that can trouble every opponent on tour.
Grigor Dimitrov has finally come of age in his victory at the Cincy Masters. The flashy Bulgarian didnt create much fuss as he beat Nick Kyrgios to lift his biggest title to date. The flamboyance was still present but without all the fuss. Such workman like performances are what makes tennis champions. Dimitrov can build on this and he and Zverev enter the USO as genuine title contenders. Nick Kyrgios knows how to peak in the biggest matches and he will if fit trouble a big name. The bad boy of tennis is at 22 ready to turn his talent into trophies.
As always much will depend on the draws which are made on Friday. With the absence of Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and now Milos Raonic the draw will lack some star quality but it does offer the opportunity for many unheralded players to make it deep into a slam event. Both events are hugely open and there is no one player who is sticking out from the pack in ladies or mens fields. Rafael Nadal always gets his game in shape for the US Open and it is hard to imagine that he wont make it deep. Muguruza seems the obvious choice in the ladies but many ladies who have a say about that. Let battle commence.