With the second North American hard court swing leaving Cincinnati behind in a trail of dust and barrelling down on New York, it’s time we looked at some interesting storylines/questions emerging from the two masters 1000 tournaments played.
Will Federer’s back hold up?
Someone or something was bound to slow down the Fed Express at some point this season. Both connived to deny Federer a first Montreal title, two Sundays ago when a tweaked back and a dialed in Alexander Zverev, combined to defeat the Swiss in straight sets. He would go on to pull out of Cincinnati as a precautionary measure to get himself as ready as he can be for the final grand slam of the year. Federer’s back has been an increasing source of bother since 2013. It is the one vulnerable point in a body that has been otherwise unbreakable. It’ll be one to keep an eye on as Federer tries to win the U.S open for the first time this decade.
Can Nadal solidify his hold on #1?
Nadal’s run to number one is deserving in every way. He’s won a grand slam this year and three masters titles. He practically dominated the clay court swing and despite another disappointing showing at Wimbledon, he was the second-best player on the planet for the spring hard court swing. Yet you cannot deny the fact that he hasn’t done well come the summer/fall hard court swing later in the season and this year has been no different. Rafa is yet to win a title since becoming world number one. If Federer’s back holds up and the Swiss inevitably catches fire through a part of the season that has been historically productive, he will most likely wrestle the top spot from his eternal rival. He might downplay it, but ending the year at number one will be good for Rafa as he ventures further into the twilight zone of his career.
Dimitrov, Zverev, Kyrgios or someone else
This has been the fall of the next gen. Alexander Zverev and Dimitrov combined to sweep the two lead up Masters 1000 events and Nick Kyrgios comported himself well enough in Cincinnati to get people talking about his U.S Open title run chances. If there’s ever been a Grand Slam where the possibility of someone outside of the big four and Stanilas Wawrinka winning was at its highest, this year’s U.S Open is it. Novak Djokovic – a career hard court juggernaut – is missing in action. So is Stanilas Wawrinka. Kei Nishikori, the 2014 finalist in NewYork, is also out. Andy Murray did not play a lead-up tournament and will most likely head to NewYork with minimal expectations. Rafael Nadal hasn’t looked as formidable as he did in the early part of the season and there’s a cloud of doubt hanging over Roger Federer and his niggling back. Whether or not they take the chances presented to them is an entirely different matter. One thing is for sure. This is the biggest noise the fabled next gen has made. We’ll see if and how that translates to Grand Slam success, in a few weeks.
It’s Muguruza’s time
Garbine Muguruza has had a super summer/fall. She captured Wimbledon for her second grand slam title and proved she can win other titles by taking Cincinnati in superior fashion. The women have needed someone other than Serena Williams to step up and I believe Garbine is slowly proving herself to be that person. She’s got a game with a lovely blend of power and tact. One could say she’s a bit of Aga Radwanska, but with a lot more weapons. More importantly, her last three titles to date were on clay, grass and hard courts respectively. Talk about an all surface threat. I don’t see any other clear favorite in NewYork. Do you?
We Miss you, Vika
Remember when Victoria Azarenka won her second grand slam title, essentially playing the anti-hero? Her me against the world attitude has never made her a crowd favorite, but she’s handled it with – gasp – poise, and grace throughout her career. She might not always get the crowd affection but you can’t help but respect her strength of character or her game. It still stings to know that mishandling of personal affairs has made a life-bringing journey, a bit of a nightmare for Victoria with regards to her career. For perhaps the first time ever, the world is right behind Vika.
Starting tomorrow, we’ll begin taking a more in-depth look at the top ten men and women and their chances at the final Grand Slam of the year.