The 5th June seems like a long, long time ago right now. As Djokovic brushed aside Murray at Roland Garros to complete his much coveted career Grand Slam, his ascent to becoming the greatest tennis player of all time looked inevitable. He was just 5 Grand Slam titles behind Federer’s record and few would have bet against a calendar slam for the Serb. Fast forward to early August and we’ve seen him dumped out of Wimbledon by Sam Querrey, exit Rio in tears following a first round loss, and withdraw from Cincinnati, the only masters to elude his expansive trophy cabinet. So just what is up with the world no.1? Is it a wrist injury? Personal problems? Mental or physical fatigue? Whatever his ailment, he doesn’t look invincible right now. With the Serb below par and with the prize money hiked up for 2016, we take a look at the potential candidates to be cashing in at Flushing Meadows this year.
Juan Martin Del Potro:
The resurgent Argentine finally looks to have put his injury woes behind him, and looked as good as ever last week in Rio, smashing past Djokovic and Nadal and testing the red hot Andy Murray in a high octane final. He was 20 years old and already ranked world number 5 when he shocked Federer on Arthur Ashe 7 years ago, ending Roger’s 5-year reign as Champion. A horrible run of injuries since mean his ranking doesn’t mirror his talent, but on his day and in his current form, he should be considered one of the heavyweights in this tournament. His conditioning will be the overwhelming factor at this year’s US Open, can he physically and mentally meet the demands of these grueling 5 set matches against the very best?
The powerful Canadian’s impressive showing at Wimbledon almost made him the first player born in the 90’s to win a Slam. At 25 years old he can no longer be included in the ‘next generation’ of tennis players, and many feel the time is nigh for him to stamp his authority on the game and claim a grand slam title. He has the weapons to beat anyone, but does he have that winning mentality required to become a champion? 2016 has been a great year for Milos, making the SF of the Australian Open and the final of Wimbledon, will he go one better at Flushing Meadows?
The Young Guns:
With Murray and Djokovic leaving their twenties next year to join the likes of Federer, Nadal, and Wawrinka, tennis has been crying out for the next generation of superstars. Cue the emergence of Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz. These exciting talents have been making waves on the ATP tour this year. At 18, Fritz is still perhaps too young and inexperienced for glory in New York this summer, but Americans finally have a lot to look forward to from this exciting prospect. Zverev, at just 19 years of age, has taken some big scalps this year and looks the complete player. He’s yet to claim his first ATP title but one feels it is a matter of when, not if. Despite his ability, a title in NYC might be a bridge too far this year. Kyrgios and Thiem are both in contention. At 21 and 22 years respectively, they have slightly more experience and have taken 6 ATP titles already this year between them. For raw talent and athleticism few come close to the Australian. Many have questioned his temperament but his recent win in Washington suggests signs of maturity and puts him in good stead for a run at the Championship. Similarly Thiem has enjoyed a fine season, but will need a good showing in Cincinnati this week to gain some of the momentum that has been lacking since his semi-final showing at Roland Garros. While it would come as a big surprise for any of these players to triumph this year, no player would look forward to meeting them along the way.
In spite of his humbling exit at the hands of Juan Monaco this week in Cincinnatti, Ivo Karlovic has been on fire these last few weeks, taking 2 titles in Newport and Los Cabos and reaching the final of Washington, all at the ripe old age of 37. The U.S. Open has sprung up a few surprises over the last decade, certainly more so than its Grand Slam counterparts. In 2014 Flushing Meadows produced the first Grand Slam final in the last 10 years not to feature one of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray, with Marin Cilic turning out winner against Japan’s Kei Nishikori .
While his reliance on his big serve (he’s won a modest 93% of his service games in 2016) doesn’t make for scintillating viewing, there’s no denying a run for Cilic’s giant compatriot at the US Open would be something of a fairytale for a man playing some of his finest tennis in the twilight years of his career. Not all fairytales have a happy ending, but while it’s hard to see his sledgehammer of a serve carrying him all the way to glory in Flushing Meadows, sometimes you simply have to dare to dream.
The Usual Suspects:
With Federer already off the grid until next year through injury, the rest of the chasing pack will be looking to capitalise on the Serb’s recent wobble. Nadal is a proven champion and fierce competitor, though his form has been up and down like a yo-yo. Wawrinka often looks like he doesn’t want to be there, but when he does, he can smash anyone off the court with that sizzling backhand. Nishikori will want to make amends for 2 years ago when he fell at the final hurdle, after knocking out Djokovic out in emphatic style in an enthralling semi-final. But for all these great talents, it is hard to look past Andy Murray as Djokovic’s biggest threat at the US Open. Murray has reached the final of every slam this year and was last week crowned Olympic champion. While there is still considerable daylight seperating Andy and Novak in the rankings points, Murray continues to close the gap in the points for the singles race to London 2016, highlighting the Scot’s accomplishments this year. Has the cheese really slipped off Novak’s cracker? While his dominance looks in jeopardy, there won’t be many a shocked face should he claim his 13th Grand Slam title on Arthur Ashe in a couple of weeks time.
Whatever the outcome we’re no doubt in for a fortnight of stellar tennis, and we’ll be covering all the action with pre-off and in-play markets across the board at JABet.com