The major tourney season is coming to a close *cries* and it's the last chance for the boys to grasp at glory and make their mark on the 2009 season.
Who are top faves for the US Open title? Let’s take a look:
From where he started this year (think: Oz Open tearfest) it seemed Roger Federer was a broken baller. But in a display of impressive determination, he turned the season on its head grabbing a Career Slam by taking his first Roland Garros title, breaking Pete Sampras’ record of major wins by winning a sixth Wimbledon Championship and 15th Grand Slam (holds 3 outta the 4 majors now) and returning to the top spot. Of course, the Swiss maestro’s personal life has gained almost as much attention with his marriage to Mirka Vavrinec and subsequent births of his twin mangoes. So with all of these happenings you’d think he’d be slightly distracted and less motivated, right? Wrong-o. He capped off his US Open Series effort by snapping a 4-match losing streak to Andy Murray in Cincinnati on his way to snapping a 2-match losing streak to Novak Djokovic in the final, winning his 16th Masters 1000 shield (one behind all-time leader Andre Agassi.) Fed has an astounding 45-4 record at Flushing Meadow and hasn’t lost a match there since 2003 so he’ll be feeling good about his chances for a sixth consecutive title.
He’s the highest ranked baller from his country ever sitting at World No. 2 and becoming the first man not named Federer or Nadal to hold the 1-2 ranking since 2005. Unfortunately Andy Murray has fallen short at each of the Grand Slams this year including a fourth round loss in Oz, a quarterfinal exit in Paris, and a semifinal defeat at Wimby. But outdoor hard-courts are where this Brit baller shows his best counter-punching stuff as evidenced by wins at Doha, Miami, and Montreal, three of his five titles this season. Most pundits and fans agree it’s just a matter of time before Muzz wins his maiden major and most feel Flushing Meadow, where he won the US Open junior title and reached his first Grand Slam final last year, is his best chance.
After his devastating loss to Fed in their monstrous Wimby final battle, no one was sure how Andy Roddick would recover. Would he retreat into a defensive posture or become even more motivated to earn a second major title? The answer isn’t completely clear yet but the former US Open champ made a strong statement to the latter by reaching the final in Washington, DC and the semifinals in Montreal losing both times to Juan Martin del Potro. And even though he lost to a streaking Sam Querrey in his opening round match at Cincy, his physical and mental games have looked solid. If he can ride the waves of the New York crowd’s boisterous support, A-Rod could make his third trip to the final Sunday.
Novak Djokovic has been an enigma the entire season. At times the Serb seemed to be hitting his stride and at other times he seemed downright indifferent. Check this stat: he’s reached seven finals already this season but has lost five including four losses in Masters Series 1000 tourneys. Ouch. But Nole’s a former finalist in The Big Apple and enjoys the raucous atmosphere at Arthur Ashe Stadium (when he’s not getting booed that is), a quality important in winning the US Open. Plus, the 22-year old will be toting around another former finalist, Todd Martin, in his coaching back pocket so maybe, just maybe, he’ll find his form again.
It seemed 2009 was going to be his for the taking, no? Rafael Nadal began the season as the world’s top baller and solidified that status by winning his first Oz Open title and sixth career major. He continued with wins at Indian Wells and his usual domination of the clay-court circuit until Madrid where, after winning an exhausting 4-plus hour semifinal against Nole, he was defeated by Fed snapping his 5-match winning streak against the Swiss and 33-match win streak on the slippery stuff. The biggest shocks were still to come as he suffered his first ever loss at Roland Garros to Robin Soderling in the fourth round and withdrew from the defense of his Wimby crown due to knee tendinitis. His return to the ATP World Tour has shown improvement with each week but he’ll need to be at his best form to reach his first final at Flushing Meadow and complete a possible Career Slam.
ON THE RADAR:
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO – He’s on the cusp of being a top contender but hasn’t reached a major final….yet. The hard-courts are the Argentine’s fave surface, though, having grabbed the biggest scalp of his career in Miami defeating then top baller Rafa in Miami while also earning titles in Auckland and Washington, DC on this surface. It was at Flushing Meadow last season where Delpo reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal so he’ll have good motivation to take it further.
SAM QUERREY – It seems Sam Querrey is becoming more comfortable with the mantle of "Next Best American Baller". The 21-year old went on an absolute tear post-Wimby reaching three straight finals (winning the last one in LA), grabbing the aforementioned win over A-Rod in Cincy, and ending as the US Open Series champ. Sam may not be quite ready to steal the top prize in Flushing Meadow but a second week appearance should be for the taking.
JO-WILFRIED TSONGA – The Frenchie made one of the most riveting comebacks in recent memory recovering from 1-5 down in the decider to defeat Rog at the Montreal Masters. It was his best win since defeating Rafa in the '08 Oz Open semifinals. His high-flying, athletic game and infectious personality should play well with the appreciative New York crowd so if he can gain their backing while playing with controlled aggression Jo-Willy could make a deep run here.
Also make sure to check out which ladies I think will make some NYC noise here!
(images via getty, ap)