This years final Grand Slam is just days away, and as if Davis Cup dramas, on-court serve clocks, the re-awakening of Djokovic and Ivan Lendl jumping back into the coaching ranks aren’t enough storylines I’m sure the next two weeks in New York will keep us entertained.
As always lets start with the Ladies, the previous seven Slams have produced seven different winners, which suggest this tournament is really up for grabs.
Last years Champion Sloane Stephens has had a solid year, winning Miami and Finalist at Roland Garros and Montreal, you never quite know what you’ll get with Sloane but if she’s dialed in look for a big run.
World number 1 Simona Halep is having a great year with a 46/8 record which includes winning a first Slam at Roland Garros, the Romanian has also had a lot of matches coming into New York, winning Montreal and losing in the final at Cincinnati to Kiki Bertens after having a match point, she’ll look to go further than a 1stround exit last year in New York.
The 17thseed Serena Williams will always be in the conversation but hasn’t played many matches this year with a 12/5 record and it’s been a strange summer for the 36 year old, losing 6-0,6-1 in Silicon Valley to Jo Konta, apparently after learning just minutes before the match the man who murdered her half sister had been given parole.
In Cincinnati Serena lost a long three set battle with Petra Kvitova in the second round, which was very high quality. If she makes it to the second week and holds her nerve she could match Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slams.
It will be interesting to see Wimbledon Champion Angelique Kerber perform, the German has done nothing during the American summer circuit, losing 2ndround in Montreal and 3rdround in Cincinnati, I wonder if there’s some kind of Wimbledon hangover, could be a first week upset special brewing.
Ash Barty will be seeded 18thwhich could mean a 3rdround battle against a top seed, the Aussie has had a very good summer, making the semis in Montreal, but she’ll have to turn around an average Grand Slam record, never making it beyond the 3rdround at any Slam, also keep an eye out for 25thseed Daria Gavrilova.
There’s a host of other contenders who could be there on finals weekend, Australian Open Champ Wozniacki, Venus, Madison Keys, Kvitova, Cincinnati winner Kiki Bertens, Muguruza and Ostapenko. The draw will be released on Saturday Australian time and match ups will be important, Mats Wilander always said never pick a Slam winner unless they’ve already won a Slam, so I’m going with that, I’m picking Serena.
The three set battle with Kvitova in Cincinnati was a great test and if the court is playing quick that will prevent extended rallies, with the New York crowd behind her Serena will match Margaret’s 24 Slams.
Let’s move over to the men, the main talking point these past few months has been the resurrection of Novak Djokovic, who won Wimbledon during the Euro summer and Cincinnati last week in a lopsided 6-4, 6-4 final over Federer.
The Serbian has moved through his two-year slump, caused by a lack of motivation and a pesky elbow injury that required surgery, he is now the bookies favorite to win the event at $3.25, Nadal at $4.50, Federer $6.50.
Rafa Nadal has had a great year with a 40-3 record including another Roland Garros title, the Spainard also winning two weeks ago in Toronto over Greek wunderkid Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 7-6. Nadal won this event last year defeating Kevin Anderson in the final; I’d be shocked if he didn’t at least make the semis.
As for Federer I predicted he was vulnerable at Wimbledon, and he was losing to Kevin Anderson in the Quarters. It’s been a solid year for Federer, winning the Australian Open, Rotterdam and Stuttgart but after watching him last week in Cincinatti he again looks vulnerable, he was below par against Djokovic, missed a lot of service returns and groundstrokes were shaky, I’m not saying he’s on a first week upset alert but if he draws a dangerous player in the 1st/2ndor 3rdround that could spell trouble.
Two other players to look out for are the remaining members of the ‘big 5’, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, both players on their way back from injury, in fact there is speculation Murray could pull out before the tournament starts, as he is still slowly coming back from major hip surgery, if he does play it will be his first Grand Slam best of 5 set match in 14 months.
Stan could be dangerous, he will be unseeded and no seeded player will want to see him in week one, he pushed Federer all the way last week in a Cincinnati QF and pushed Nadal in Toronto, peak Stan could actually make a deep run.
As for the Aussies Nick Kyrgios will come in as the 30thseed, the 24 year old having a tough summer, losing 3 setters to Wawrinka in Toronto and Del Potro in Cincinatti, the Del Potro match turning into quite the circus, with Kyrgios tanking whole games and telling the umpire to ‘shut up’, even his Mum weighed in on Twitter after Del Potro took a 9 minute toilet break after losing the second set, either way Kyrgios could make it to second week or go out first round, who knows?
So now for a prediction. It’s very hard to see anybody outside of Novak, Rafa or Roger winning, there will be dangerous players sprinkled throughout the draw, Del Potro, Stan, Zverev, Kevin Anderson and Marin Cilic but if the ‘big 3’ play to their potential they’ll be there on finals weekend.
If the court is playing on the slow side I’m picking Rafa, he has timed his run perfectly, played five tough matches in Toronto, took time off to prepare for New York, it’s Rafa who will win his 18thGrand Slam.