August 31, 2016
Are Andy Murray and Serena Williams favourites to add to their Wimbledon triumphs in New York?
It would be hard to argue against that theory, although Serena’s shoulder injury remains a concern.
Nevertheless she looked impressive as she defeated the dangerous Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-3 in her tricky opener.
Meanwhile Andy Murray was never under serious threat as he saw off Lukas Rosol 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in a useful loosener at a tournament he has won before.
Williams will be desperate to erase the memory of last year’s failure to complete the Calendar Slam at Flushing Meadows, where she was a surprise casualty in the semi-finals.
The entire tennis world expected her to win her fourth Slam of 2015 – but the pressure told in the end.
This year, Serena isn’t quite so hotly tipped, though the expectation surrounding the world number one is still very much there.
One more Slam title will take her clear of Steffi Graf and make Williams the most decorated women’s champion of the Open era outright, leaving her just one behind Margaret Court’s all-time tennis total of 24.
Perhaps her own physical fitness is Serena’s biggest concern this time. And she is clearly keen to approach this campaign with step-by-step caution, as she nurses that troubled shoulder through what could be another historic fortnight.
‘Every day, I’ll just see how it goes,’ Williams said wisely. However, that’s the way she spoke last year, in an effort to ease the pressure.
This year she has to mean what she says and really think and feel it too, if she is to succeed through psychological serenity.
That involves not just saying that she is going to stay in the moment. She has to do just that, play it match by match, instead of allowing herself to look too far ahead.
As for Andy Murray, there is another chance to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the physical and mental condition of Novak Djokovic.
Having lost so many times to Djokovic when it mattered, the Scot would dearly love to add to his recent Wimbledon and Olympic titles.
Much will depend on whether he can continue to serve so assuredly when he is put under more pressure.
After the Rosol match, he pointed out:’I don’t think I had any break points against me, which is very good.’
How will his second serve hold up if Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafa Nadal or indeed Djokovic start turning the screw?
Time will tell, though Murray’s confidence is sky-high and there is no obvious reason why he shouldn’t secure a second US Open title.