Flushing Meadows incapsulates the best things about tennis. The final tennis slam of the year may not have the whites of the All-England Club or the sun-dappled splendor of the clay at Roland Garros. The U.S. Open is tennis with an American flavor: big, chaotic and brash. With the draws posted and the first round looming, here are three major storylines to focus on as New York becomes a playground for some of the greats of the game.
Will Federer make history? It is the question on the mind of every tennis fan. Federer could make history in multiple ways with a victorious U.S. Open performance. A win would give him 20 Grand Slam Titles, cementing his legacy as the Greatest tennis player to ever walk the face of the earth. Nadal is the closest to Federer with 15. However, Nadal’s extremely demanding style of play and age (31) make it unlikely that Federer will be eclipsed. The attractiveness of twenty over nineteen notwithstanding, Federer would also have the most U.S. Open Titles in the modern era with six if he triumphs in New York.
While Federer has played with aplomb throughout the year, this will not be a march to the title. A Third Round matchup with Verdasco could give him difficulties. And of course, Nadal looms in the semifinals. They have played just about everywhere, but have not met at Flushing Meadows. Even if Fed can navigate his side of the draw, one must wonder: what will the great, but aging champion have left in the tank if he reach the finals?
II. Where Did All the Stars Go?
Injury woes have plagued the tour. Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic battled in the finals last year. They both have withdrawn from this year’s Open due to injury. Joining them are Andy Murray (the two seed), Milos Ranoic, and Kei Nishikori. The incredible physical demands of top level tennis have come under immense scrutiny. The hard court season is particularly demanding.
Professional Tennis is a 12-month endeavor. It has led to an injury epidemic that is unprecedented. Will the ATP make changes? What will the implications be for warm up tournaments like Cincinnati? Does more need to be done to ensure that the best players are the major fields and, as possible, playing injury-free tennis.
III. After the Big Four…
Given the injury epidemic, this year’s tournament will be prime for young stars looking to make an impact. Names like Cincinnati, Sock, and Shapovalov will be tossed around as dark horses to watch as the second week begins. The big name to watch may be: Zervev. While it is hard to call a number 4 seed a dark horse, he certainly isn’t dominating the pre-tournament storylines. He brings huge shots to the table. At 6’6, his serve can reach speeds of 135 mph. His two-handed backhand is his best shot. If he continues to move well, there is no one the 20 year-old should fear in the draw.
The magic of New York will be on full display this September. Let’s hope for a memorable U.S Open. And of course, for those of us that love Federer, that the great champion has the opportunity to lift the trophy one last time.