We are a little less than 48 hours until the unveiling of the 2012 US Open draws, the final Grand Slam of the tennis season. Even before the draws are made and we know the match-ups and potential later-round pairings, here’s my early rundown of the tournament favorites.
For the men potential winners I go three deep with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
1. Roger Federer
Based on Sunday I moved Roger ahead of Novak. If they meet again that Cincinnati win and bagel Novak ate might be the difference. Even though it was his first hardcourt tournament in four months, Federer looked absolutely sublime all week, and he never dropped serve. He’ll drop a few in New York where the courts are said to be slower, but as of now provided he lands Ferrer in his section (anyone betting he won’t?) he’s my early favorite. Roger, however, hasn’t won the US Open since back in 2008 and if somehow Murray finds his way on the top half then that changes things.
2. Novak Djokovic
Maybe the Serb took a step back on Sunday, maybe he didn’t. I still feel that for a guy with that much game and on such a run – he just won Toronto, hadn’t lost serve all week – he can’t let a rival like Federer bagel him in a final on hardcourts. To me, that signals something just isn’t right somewhere. (Where’s the girlfriend been?) That said, Djokovic is the defending US Open champion and he’s extremely comfortable on the New York courts. Aside from the Federer match he’s been on-song during this shortened summer hardcourt season so I expect him to continue to play well and reach that final weekend.
3. Andy Murray
Murray finally got that big win on a big stage at the Olympics. Finally!! Now back to Grand Slams. With that win over Federer in his cap I think it should help him. Then again maybe it raises those expectations. Who knows. Assuming the knee is okay, Murray’s biggest problem in New York is his seed, because at No. 3 and not No. 2 he’ll likely have to beat both Federer and Djokovic on a hardcourt in best-of-5 on consecutive days (weather permitting) to win his first Slam. Wow. I think he can beat one, but not both. And unfortunately without seeing the draw it’s hard to bet against Federer or Djokovic dropping out before the semifinals.
Next: Del Potro, Tsonga, Isner
As for the women, Serena’s the heavy favorite but I think the list of title contenders goes seven down.
1. Serena Williams
You can write off Serena’s Cincinnati loss to Angelique Kerber. She’s never won that event. She doesn’t seem concerned. Nor should we. It might help the German when they play again down the road but Serena should be fine for the US Open. The only thing that gives me pause is she’s played a lot of tennis and she is injury prone, so might something come up? If she’s stays healthy and motivated she’ll win her second straight Major. Although many of us said that last year and look what happened!
2. Victoria Azarenka
Vika won her first Slam in Australia on her favorite hardcourts where she’s back again. If her knee injury is healed I’m putting her at No. 2. I know she hasn’t played that much but often in Slams because of the schedule you can play your way into form, and here I think the BelaRussian will do just that.
3. Petra Kvitova
The Czech finally got her first title of the year a few weeks ago in Toronto beating Li Na, so I’ll take Petra over the Chinese for the third spot.
4. Li Na
Li Na just collected one of her biggest career titles Sunday in Cincinnati where she enlisted the help of Henin’s former coach Carlos Rodriguez. She’s a solid player, excellent backhand, good power and will be tough to beat. But she also plays a lot of long, rollercoaster matches and often that catches up to you in Majors.
5. Maria Sharapova
We haven’t heard much from Maria since her French Open title unless of course you count that Olympic final shellacking. Maria has won in New York before and if the draw opens up (Serena loses) maybe she can make another run. Just make sure to beat her in straights! You don’t want to play three against the Russian.
6. Angelique Kerber
Kerber been’s a steady surprise on the WTA circuit the last 12 months. After he semifinal in New York a year, she just reached the Wimbledon semifinals and the finals last weekend in Cincinnati where she snapped Serena’s 19-match win streak. With her lack of power and shaky serve she’ll need a lot of help to lift her first Slam title, but stranger things have in women’s tennis.
7. Sam Stosur
I can’t leave out the US Open defending champion, can I? I’ll give Stosur a chance only for that reason. Otherwise she’s been off the radar for much of 2012 perhaps still celebrating from her improbable win over Serena last year.
Next: Radwanska, Venus
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