The US Open Series is entering its fourth week, but for many tennis fans, they haven’t truly started up until this point. Is there anything organisers could have done to prevent this mindset? Not really, because the casual tennis fan only cares about events Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are playing in, and they only appear at the two big warm-ups in Canada and Cincinnati before heading to Flushing Meadows. Of course when you’re Rafael Nadal, you add a post-Wimbledon clay court event in Europe to your schedule. Much better than going on a road trip, no?
Meanwhile the ladies have had their first major event of the summer over in San Diego last week, where Maria Sharapova played her best tennis of the season to storm through the field. Sharapova was solid from the back court and she looks to have refound the confidence in her serve now that her shoulder isn’t bothering her anymore. There were some slight lapses in her game against Chakvetadze in the semis and in her final against Schnyder, but she should become more consistent by playing more matches. Sharapova will feature in LA this week and then head to Toronto straight after, but don’t count on the Russian to make the trip to Canada if she goes deep this week. She still needs to take it easy on her body.
Unlike 99% of the WTA Tier I events, most of the ATP Masters Series actually feature ALL top players. As is the case in Montreal, where the entire Top 20 is entered in the event.
With the return of the game’s two biggest assets in Federer and Nadal, there are a bunch of questions that have been a hot topic ever since Wimbledon. Will Nadal form a serious threat to Federer over the US summer circuit? How will Federer fare on the hard courts now, after his disappointing spring season at Indian Wells and Miami? Can Novak Djokovic become a real threat for Rafa and Roger? And how succesful will Andy Murray’s return be?
Looking at the draw, we have a potential blockbuster second round coming up in Safin vs. Nadal. Interestingly enough, the two have never met before. Either way, Nadal will get a tough start to the hard court season. If Safin loses his opener, Rafa will face his good friend from Wimbledon, hard-hitting Swede Robin Soderling.
Talking about first time encounters, how’s this for a highly anticipated match-up: Andy Roddick is scheduled to meet Novak Djokovic in the quarters. The Djoker could really position himself as the No.3 player he feels he is with a win here.
Roger Federer will start his campaign against the winner of the serving contest between Max Mirnyi and Ivo Karlovic. I’ll pick Dr.Ivo in two tiebreaks. Should Roger survive the Croatian bombing in the second round, Andy Murray looks to be a lock as his third round opponent, if the Scotsman is indeed fully fit. Federer will be keen on getting back at Murray after his straight set loss to the Briton in Cincinnati last year.
Lleyton Hewitt has already beaten Juan Carlos Ferrero in an entertaining match, and I’m liking his chances to beat Blake next and advance to meet Federer in the quarters.
The second quarter is pretty open with Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Gonzalez, Mikhail Youzhny and Tommy Haas. Not to forget Los Angeles champ Radek Stepanek, who is getting back in form after a lingering back injury.
Still, no matter which player would be in what section of the draw, there will always be two major favorites for the title. In fact, it’s hard to see any other player hold up the trophy on Sunday, other than Federer or Nadal. It’s nice to see them try though.
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