As the fourth and final grand slam of the year US open is now less than one week away from getting started, I thought of just writing a preview of the 2010 US open. We would look at the contenders as well as players, who have the ability to cause some major upsets in the tournament.
It is unfortunate that during this year's open, we won't see the gentle giant from Argentina Del Petro as he is still battling with a wrist injury. We do hope that he has a speedy recovery as tennis needs young stars like him. Other notable absentees include the 2008 Australian open finalist Tsonga, who has pulled out of the tournament citing a knee injury and the tall Croat Karlovic, who has been troubled by the achilles injury.
Anyway, now let us look at the contenders for this year's US open
Federer- Fed has been in news for knocking the bottle of a crew member's head in a commercial, though it is likely a camera trick. Anyway, coming back to his chances at the US open, it can be said that Fed has lost his number one ranking, lost in the quarterfinals at French and Wimby, but by reaching the final at Rogers cup and his victory at Cincinnati shows that Fedex maybe back on track on his favourite surface, the hardcourts. I still think that he is the favourite to win the US open as he has won it six times and his victory at Cincinnati would have given him confidence.
One of the major problems for Fed in recent times has been his inability to consistently come up with winners on his forehand side. Once his main weapon, has become more erratic as nowadays, he makes more unforced errors on his forehand side. He is now working with his new coach Annacone, so let us wait and see whether it benefits Fed at the fag end of his career.
Murray- Every-time Murray plays, he is expected to break the jinx of no British player winning a slam for the last 74 years. The last player to do it, was the great Fred Perry way back in 1936. So, can Murray win a slam?
I have said it before that I don't expect Muzza to win four, or five majors, but I certainly think that he can win one, or maybe two majors in his career. He is a fine baseline player, who can easily wrong foot his opposite number. Murray can also play some delightful drop shots. The worry with Murray is, in a best of five set match, he can get passive and try too many drop shots. His second serve can also be suspect. In the recent past, players like Gonzo, Verdasco, Cilic, Tsonga and of course, top players like Nadal and Fed have taken advantage of him playing passive tennis in the middle of a match and have beaten him in a major.
Murray has been in good form on the hard-courts as he won the Rogers cup and en-route to that victory, he defeated the red hot Nalbandian, Nadal and Fed, but I see that he has lost in a gruelling three setter to the serve and volley specialist Fish at Cincinnati. So, can Murray win this year's US open? I think he certainly has a good chance as his game is well suited to hard-courts, but if he doesn't win it this year, I have a gut feeling that he may never win a major!
Nadal- After a sluggish start to the season, Nadal has been in great form as he won the Wimbledon and the French on his favourite surface the clay, but in the past, he has struggled a bit on the hard-courts at the US open. Infact, the hard-courts at US open has no doubt been an achilles heel for him. Unlike others, I think he has the game to win at the US open, but as his game is built on great court coverage and as a result his knees take a pounding, when he plays on those hard-courts.
Nadal's recent results too haven't been encouraging as he lost rather tamely to Muzza at the Rogers cup and was shown the exit door by the Cypriot Baghdatis at Cincinnati. I could also notice that his first serve percentages were down and he was making lots of short returns which becomes an easy meat for big hitters going around in the tennis circuit. For Rafa to have any chance of winning this year, he needs to have a few easy matches in the first few rounds which would help him to stay fresh for the big battles in the second week.
Players, who can make the second week
Now, let us have a look at players, who may not have much of a chance to win the US open yet, not many would bet against them reaching the later stages of the tournament.
Djokovic- The 2008 Australian open champion is a fine player, who doesn't seem to have a huge weakness in his game. The problem though with him is, he doesn't have any real weapon that can hurt his opponents. He always seem to me as a jack of all trades but master of none!
His recent results too haven't been great as he lost in the semifinal at the Rogers cup and was routed by his bogeyman Roddick at Cincinnati. Most though, would tip the consistent Djokovic to make the second week of the tournament. Actually, since winning the Aussie open in 2008, he has reached quarterfinals or better in 8 of his last 10 slams.
Roddick- The veteran American hasn't been in good form this year and even saw his ranking drop out of top 10 for the first time since 2006. The American though, showed a bit of fight by reaching the semifinals at Cincinnati by defeating both Soderling and Dojokovic.
Roddick depends on his serve which is a huge weapon for him. If not aces, he gets lots of free points with his unreturnable serves. It should serve him well at the hard-courts of US open.
Berdych- I surely think Berdych has the game to win the US open championships. He has a big serve, has a huge forehand and when in good form, can occasionally come to the net, but there have been question marks regarding his temperament.
In 2010, he has shown good form as he reached the the semifinal at the French and the final at Wimby, though his results at Rogers cup and Cincinnati haven't been very encouraging.
Soderling- He is another one of those modern prototype tall powerful players, who consistently hit the ball from an aggressive position on the baseline. Soderling has a huge serve, a big winding forehand and has long limbs which helps him to reach out to shots that would be sure winners against others. When in form, his main strength is his serve, as he uses the court well by coming up with different types of serves.
The major worry is, when up against a player who can return well, he looks suspect as against a good returner, he is cramped for room and can't crack those huge forehands. Just watch the match at Rogers cup, when Nalbandian systematically dismantled Soderling's game with his returns. A few experts think that he can one-day win the US open, but I am not sure that Soderling has the ability to win seven matches in a row, though I do expect to see him during the later stages of the tournament.
Davydenko- I was a bit iffy about including Davydenko as he has struggled with injuries and form, but he has been consistently reaching the later stages of majors like the US open, Australian open and the French open, though tends to melt under pressure in the later stages of the tournament. Infact, he can be a boring player to watch as he just likes to play from the baseline and hits it powerfully, but I won't bet against Davy reaching the later stages of yet another major.
Baghdatis- In recent times, the 2006 Australian open finalist was struggling for form and fitness, but seems to have found his form back as he reached the semifinal of the Cincinnati masters by beating players like Berdych and his bogeyman Nadal. I see that he is also doing well at the Pilot Pen open. Momentum is very crucial going into a major tournament like the US open and Baghdatis seems to have found some momentum.
Baghdatis may not be a purists delight, but he fights for every point as though his life is dependent on it. His serve too seems to have improved. So, there is a slight chance that he may reach the later stages of the US open championships.
Now, we would think about those players, who have the ability to cause major upsets during the course of the tournament.
Nalbandian- Nalbandian too has been struggling with his form and fitness, but he too seems to have found his form back as this month, he has notched up impressive victories over players like Baghdatis, Cilic, Ferrer and Soderling. He has a very good service return and when in form, it works well for him as Soderling found out at the Rogers cup. His tendency to melt under pressure and make lots of double faults may not help him though.
Gulbis- He is another of those modern prototype players as he tries to smash the cover off the ball. When in form, he can be a dangerous player as Murray found out at the Cincinnati tournament, but the question mark would be can he sustain his power hitting, when it comes to best of five set matches?
Benneteau- I like the way the Frenchman Benneteau plays, as he is a good mover on the court and shows good anticipation at the net, but for him to cause any upsets in the tournament, he needs to get more first serves in.
Cilic-After he defeated Murray at last year's US open and reached the semifinal of the 2009 Aussie open a lot was expected from him, but in recent times his form seems to have deserted him. The big serving Croat though, can still cause ripples in this year's tournament by causing an upset or two. The major worry with Cilic is, his forehand can be erratic.
Fish- I have always been a fan of Fish as he plays a serve and volley game. Sadly though, not many serve and volleyers are left in the game and it soon would become extinct from the game itself.
Fish found some form last week as he reached the final of the Cincinnati tournament, but it would be difficult for him to keep playing serve and volley against baseliners in best of five set matches.
Sam Querry and Isner- Both are well over six feet and can serve big. I don't think any player would take either of them lightly.
A few others worth watching out for would be, the talented Bellucci, Istomin, (he was said to be lazy but thanks to his mother motivating him has done better this year) Daniel Brands, the hard working Ferrer, the talented but the erratic Monfils (he hasn't been in good form yet can occasionally produce brilliant tennis and cause upsets).
A few may also think of Verdasco, Hewitt, Youzhny, Robredo, Gonzalez, Ljubicic, Kohlschreiber, Stepanak and company, but I just feel that most of them are past their best and with regards to Verdasco, he has played so much tennis this year that he seems to have got tired and has looked a spent force in recent times.
The 2010 US open would be a swan song tournament for Blake as he would likely retire after the US open. Haas too could have played his last US open, but I see that injury prone Haas hasn't yet recovered from his latest injury. I don't know for how long can Haas continue to battle with injuries.
Anyway, I just hope that we would see yet another great tournament with lots of major upsets and edge of the seat nail biting matches.