Nadal, Federer, Murray: A Lot on the Line at the 2010 US Open
I will get right to it and give a player by player break down of what various top contenders could achieve at the 2010 US Open.
Rafael Nadal is clearly number 1 in the world. A title in New York would give him a career Grand Slam, nine major titles, and a chance to win four consecutive majors. Since Rod Laver won all four majors in 1969, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are the only two men to win three consecutive majors. Sampras won the 1993 Wimbledon and US Open titles as well as the 1994 Australian Open title. Federer won the 2005 Wimbledon and US Open titles along with the 2006 Australian Open title and repeated this sequence with 2006 titles in London and New York and followed by a 2007 title down under. Nadal would be the first man to win three majors consecutively on three quite different surfaces. A U.S. Open title would place his career at a new level. With a soft draw, healthy (enough) knees and no Juan Martin del Potro, I would not bet against him.
Roger Federer has a chance to keep all of those good things from happening to rival numero uno. He also could win a 6th U.S. Open title and break a tie with Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras for the most decorated U.S. Open champion (emphasis on Open). Federer could cement the solid base he established in Canada and Cincinnati and give himself a great opportunity to reclaim the #1 ranking sometime between now and the close of Wimbledon 2011. This too would mean making history.
Andy Murray can validate all of the hope and hype associated with his career. Few players carry the burden Andy Murray does. His home country both cares about tennis and has been hapless at producing tennis champions. If Murray were a Cypriot, he’d already be celebrated. If Murray were a Spaniard, he’d have some anonymity while chasing big titles. Instead, he gets the glare of big expectations. Murray could also begin an assault on the #1 ranking if he wins in New York.
Novak Djokovic had chances to win the U.S. Open in 2007. In 2008, he leveled his semifinal match with Federer at 1 set all, but lost a tight third set and did not compete well in the 4th set. In 2009, Novak had a break lead in the first set vs. Federer only to let Roger break back immediately. Novak will need to show greater mental toughness to win this event. If Novak ever clears that mental hurdle, he can become a great champion, but the odds of this happening seem much further away than they did at Indian Wells in 2008.
Andy Roddick set himself up as a sentimental pick to win a second major after the 2009 Wimbledon Championships. This sentiment became credible after Miami 2010. Since Miami, Roddick has been absent or underwhelming. A win would likely cap his career.
Thomas Berdych and Robin Soderling would each move into a new spot on tour with a major title. Right now each man is a dangerous top 10 player, but either one could fill the vacuum Juan Martin del Potro left with a win in New York.
Mardy Fish could win the US Open. I don’t think it is likely, but he has a chance. Normally, miracle runs at Grand Slam titles hurt the long term narrative of the tours (see Francesca Schiavone). Federer and Nadal have won 24 of the previous 29 majors. Continuity is in full force. A surprise titlist winning a major in his home country would be a big jolt to the U.S. Open.
I think Nadal (25%) is the slight favorite with Federer (23%) and Murray (22%) also having solid chances at a title. The other players I listed probably soak up most of the remaining chances at victory.
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