US Open Tennis preview

US Open Tennis

Not too long ago all the talk in men’s tennis was about a new generation of players coming through to challenge, but the old, established order are almost all back in place for the US Open.

Rafael Nadal is the defending champion at Flushing Meadows, but he will have a resurgent Novak Djokovic to fend off, while Roger Federer can never be discounted, despite having been short of his best in recent times.

Nadal rested and ready

Victory at the US Open 12 months ago was a true sign that Nadal was over the injury problems which had kept him out of action for several months.

Not only could he do it on the clay courts of Europe, but he could rule the roost on the hardcourts of North America too.

That impression has been heightened by his triumph at the Rogers Cup in Canada earlier this month, where the Spaniard saw off both Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic on his way to the final, where he brushed aside rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas.

But for the recent revival of Djokovic, Nadal would surely be favourite to retain his US Open title, but at 4.75 he is still one of the market leaders, and rightly so.

Djokovic back with a bang

Novak Djokovic saw elbow problems put his entire career in doubt not to so long ago, but now he has another Wimbledon title in the bag and looks like the man to beat at Flushing Meadows.

The Serb backed that impression up at the Cincinnati Masters, where, before beating Roger Federer 6-4 6-4 in the final, he showed that his famed powers of durability were back, as he outlasted Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic in three successive three-setters.

His defensive prowess and serve return are the best in the game and at 3.50 he is highly fancied to claim a third US Open title.

Time ticking away for Federer

A decade ago Roger Federer was celebrating a fifth straight US Open triumph, but he has not tasted success at Flushing Meadows since then.

He has overcome injury and the passage of time to add three more Grand Slam titles to his name in the last two years, but there were signs at Wimbledon in the summer that his powers may finally be on the wane.

A quarter-final loss to Kevin Anderson came as a major shock, as the Swiss saw a two-set lead melt away, and Federer comes into the US Open at 5.50 to claim the title and justifiably behind Djokovic and Nadal in the pecking order.

Too much to ask of Murray

While Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are the favourites to battle for the title, 2012 champion Andy Murray – at 17.00 to triumph at Flushing Meadows – is a little further down the pecking order.

His long-term hip problems are not yet fully behind him, with the Scot having been forced to miss Wimbledon after admitting that he was not yet ready to challenge at the highest level.

His results since then have done little to suggest that a fourth Grand Slam title is on the near horizon and even making the second week could be seen as progress for Murray.

What of the new breed?

The likes of Dominic Thiem and Alex Zverev have been touted as future Grand Slam champions for some time, but so far they have been unable to deliver that major breakthrough.

Zverev in particular, 10.00 to win the US Open, has struggled badly at the majors – his best at Flushing Meadows was a mere second round spot in both of the last two years.

Victory at the recent Washington Open showed more of what is needed from the giant German, while the hiring of Ivan Lendl as part of his coaching team for the tournament shows just how much Zverev wants to take the next step.

Whether he can do so still remains to be seen.

Former winners could flourish

Marin Cilic (17.00) and Juan Martin del Potro (13.00) have previous triumphs at Flushing Meadows to draw on and both players will be dangerous once again, with their big, flat forehands huge assets on the US hardcourts.

Whether either man has enough to go all the way is doubtful, but runs deep into the second week are strong possibilities.

Women’s draw wide open

Sloane Stephens is the defending women’s singles champion at Flushing Meadows and the home hope has certainly taken a huge slice of confidence from her first Grand Slam victory.

Can she go all the way again? Well that prospect cannot be ruled out and she is among the fancied contenders for the title.

However, should Serena Williams arrive in good shape, then the six-time champion will take most of the spotlight and will be the player to beat in most people’s eyes.

Caroline Wozniacki has twice reached the US Open final and, like Stephens, she now has the tag of being a Grand Slam champion following her success at the Australian Open at the start of the year.

World number one Simona Halep did likewise at the French Open, but the Romanian comes into the final major of 2018 under something of an injury cloud, having been forced to rest up due to an ongoing Achilles problem.

She also needs to show a huge improvement on 12 months ago, when she was beaten in the first round by former champion Maria Sharapova.

2017 runner-up Madison Keys is yet another player to have been boosted by impressing at Flushing Meadows, having gone on to reach the quarter-finals in Australia and the last four at the French Open.

However, she has not reached a final since being overpowered by Stephens last year and will need to find her very best if she is to come close to matching her efforts of 12 months ago.