This years’ final Grand Slam is upon us and it’s the hot, noisy, bustling hard courts of New York City. The traffic might be a nightmare to get out to Queens but once you’re there immerse yourself in the concrete jungle that is Flushing Meadows.
From Jimmy Connors memorable run to the semis in 1991 at age 39 to Flavia Pannetta and Roberta Vinci turning it into an Italian Open final in 2015 the US Open has shared many memorable moments with tennis fans. So what history will be created this year? Lets as always start with the Ladies.
Its been an interesting Grand Slam year, Serena wins the Australian Open whilst pregnant, like a bolt out of nowhere Jelena Ostapenko wins the French and Garbine Muguruza wins her second Slam by winning Wimbledon.
Additionally the battle for world number one doesn’t involve any of those players with current number one Karolina Pliskova only 15 points ahead of Romanian Simona Halep. Throw in world number 4 Elina Svitolina who won the lead up event in Toronto and Caroline Wozniacki who has climbed back up to number 5 with a fantastic 48/17 match record this season and we have many legitimate contenders for the title.
Lets not forget 37-year-old Venus Williams as well, after almost tasting Grand Slam glory again at Wimbledon this year, the two time US Open Champion would love nothing more than to add another major. Looking at the Aussies, former Champion Sam Stosur is still sidelined with a hand injury, that little battler Ash Barty is having a great season with a 32/12 record which includes 4th round showings at recent events in Toronto and Cincinnati but with a ranking of 42 the 21 year old will miss out on a seeding, though if she can take out a seed in the first few rounds her draw will open up nicely.
Daria Gavrilova will likely come in as the 26th seed but has struggled on the American summer hard courts losing tough 3 setters in the early rounds. The wildcard in all of this is Maria Sharapova who was given a wildcard into the event weeks ago, lack of match play over recent months suggests she won’t go far.
So, who wins the event? I’m picking Garbine Muguruza, after winning Wimbledon there hasn’t been the usual dip in form for the Spaniard, semis in Stanford, Quarters in Toronto and winning Cincinnati has solidified her position amongst the games’ elite and kept the momentum up since July. She will win her first US Open.
Moving across to the Men is like watching an old episode of MASH, everyone seems wounded or like Novak Djokovic not even playing. The Serbian as well as Stan Wawrinka have shut it down for the rest of the year due to injury, which definitely robs the event of some star power. We also have Andy Murray playing but nobody knows how his hip will hold up and Roger Federer had to withdraw from Cincinnati due to back problems aggravated in Montreal but seems certain to play.
At this point new world number one Rafa Nadal is the only top player injury free. Nobody thought Federer at this point in the year would have a chance to win his third Grand Slam of the season but here we are, victories in Melbourne and Wimbledon have been unexpected bonuses which puts him at you would think an unreachable 19 Grand Slams.
There’s been no dominant player regarding the last 5 US Open Champions, Wawrinka, Novak, Cilic, Nadal and Murray, gone are the days when Federer won 5 in a row (04-08), which says to me that players are tired after a bruising season and whoever gets hot, avoids early round 5 setters, rain delays or late night matches has the best chance of winning.
So, who is that likely to be? Nadal has no injury question mark but has a poor record here the last 2 years (4th round, 3rd round), the form players coming in are Montreal winner 20 year old Alexander Zverev and Cincinnati winner Grigor Dmitrov, its tough to pick a player to win a Slam who hasn’t won a Slam before, first time winners are rare the last ten years with Federer, Novak and Nadal winning the vast majority of the Majors.
This Slam is feeling a little different though, no Novak or Stan will leave a gap, the injury clouds over Roger and Murray leaves an opportunity and Nadal’s poor record in New York lately is making me think we could have a first time Grand Slam winner here, the question is who?
Nick Kyrgios did well in Cincinnati making the final, including a win over Nadal but I can’t see him winning 7 matches in a row, he could make a deep run but also just as likely to lose first round. Ok, time for a my pick, let me preface this by saying I have no confidence in this at all but I’ll go with Zverev, he is young enough to not get overawed by the moment (see Ostapenko), is in form and has the power game to beat anybody, now watch him lose 2nd round.