Just two weeks from the start of the US Open, what a different landscape men’s tennis is today compared to a year ago. And it continues to change, almost daily. A day after falling in the final of the Canadian Open to wunderkind Alexander Zverev, Roger Federer withdrew from Cincinnati, a tournament he’s won seven times and an eighth would have returned him to the No. 1 ranking.
Instead, the top spot next Monday goes to Rafael Nadal who, of all the top guys this year, has…surprise…been the healthiest!
1. Alex The Great
It’s not news anymore, Alex is already great. And it’s not a question of if, but when, when he’ll win his first Grand Slam and when he becomes No. 1 in the world.
The 20-year-old has firepower all over the court. He still needs to get quicker, get smarter and also become more nimble at the net. He reminds me a lot of Juan Martin Del Potro just with a better backhand and better movement – though Delpo had the bigger forehand.
He’s now equalled Federer with five titles on the season taking the last two Masters events. And he’s not done yet. There will be more.
2. The Federer Back
A smart move for Roger to not play Cincinnati – I don’t know if he would have played had he been healthy and won Montreal.
Sure, the No. 1 ranking is in play, but it’s not going to be won in Cincinnati. Roger knows if he wins the US Open that should do it when you consider the Swiss will have a huge edge anyway over Nadal down the stretch at the indoor events and the ATP Finals.
Again, Federer’s still playing at this age because he’s been smart about his schedule through the years. He’s the “GOAT of Scheduling” and not to push himself when injured.
It’s tempting to take an extra swing at No. 1, but long term taking this week off will pay off.
That said, we just don’t know how bad this injury is. But he’s got two weeks to get ready, and that worked out back in 2012 when he hurt his back in Doha just before reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open. But he is 36 now.
3. The Injured
Unfortunately, this is going to be a story for the rest of the year.
The Federer back, Novak Djokovic done for the year with an elbow, Stan Wawrinka done for year with a knee, Andy Murray a hip. There’s also Marin Cilic with an adductor and Kei Nishikori has a wrist.
So what’s happening? Well, guys are older than ever and bigger than ever. Federer, Djokovic and Murray are all in their 30s.
Today’s Top 5 is all 30-plus, and that’s never happened before until this past May. So naturally, the older you are the more likely you are to be injured. Add to that the physical, punishing nature of the sport and the bigger, stronger players which is much different than it was 25 years ago, and it’s no wonder we see this many wounded and wobbly.
But tennis is going to younger, a lot younger led by Zverev, the Russian kids and even the new Canadian star…
4. Denis Shapovalov Shocker
After his spirited semifinal run in Canadian, you have to put 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov in the mix of future Grand Slam contenders, maybe even a champion.
The Canadian has a wicked lefty serve, a huge forehand and a serviceable backhand. And in the mold of a Lleyton Hewitt, he’s a true warrior. He digs in and doesn’t let go. Fights until the end as we saw in the semifinal against Zverev.
His win over Rafael Nadal Thursday night was incredible. Saving break points in the third, then coming from 3-0 down in the breaker to win 6 of the last 7 points was a breathtaking treat. And then somehow he backed it up beating Adrian Mannarino also from a set down.
His countryman Milos Raonic possesses far more firepower and weaponry, but Shapovalov has the “it” factor and brings real energy and excitement to the game.
He’s gonna be a good one.
5. Rafa’s Second Half Swoon?
It’s not always the case, but more often than not Rafael Nadal’s results tend to wane after Wimbledon. It’s no coincidence either, the tour goes hard. And Nadal hasn’t won a title on the hard stuff since 2014 Doha. A long time ago.
But with the injuries to his peers, that should help his cause these last three months. However, in that loss to Shapovalov we saw some of the old Rafa. Poor misses. Doubts in his game. Short balls.
And after a very strong start to 2017, his last two events have been a fourth round at Wimbledon and third round in Canada.
With all the withdrawals, this is a prime chance for Nadal to finally get another hardcourt win. Will he take advantage?
6. Cincy No Cinch
With just 4 of the Top 10 in Cincinnati, the event is Nadal’s to lose. But he opens against Richard Gasquet, then a potential Wimbledon rematch with Muller before a possible JW Tsonga in the quarters. Then maybe Sam Querrey in the semifinals.
On the other side of the draw, the third quarter is loaded with Raonic, Zverev and John Isner. If Zverev still has gas left in the tank, I think he could run through that section, otherwise maybe Isner emerges.
Unfortunately, in the Federer-vacated bottom quarter Del Potro has to battle Berdych in the first. Otherwise, with Dimitrov the lone Top 9 seed it’s a really open section.
So Rafa has a really tough draw. He’s got No. 1. He sees everyone injured. Does he worry ahead of the US Open or does he go for it?
7. Two Weeks From The US Open
Rafael Nadal will be the top seed. But will Murray return? And if he does, how fit will he be after missing the entire summer hard courts?
Federer is a question mark. Nishikori has a wrist and former champion Cilic is also in doubt.
If Murray plays, he’ll be the two seed, then Federer and probably Zverev. And who knows, if Zverev runs the summer table – like Patrick Rafter, Andy Roddick and I think Del Potro did – maybe he gets in the No. 1 mix.
It sounds crazy, but it’s already been a crazy year.
You Might Like:
Tennis-X Funk/Trunk: Murray, Rafa, Kim-tastic
Roger Federer Withdraws From Cincinnati
The Fed Ex-it
Andy Murray Officially Withdraws From Canadian Open Montreal, Rafael Nadal With No. 1 Shot Next Week
Breaking Down the No. 1 Ranking Between Federer, Nadal