August 28, 2015
Could it be Federer or Nishikori? How about Murray or Wawrinka?
Just for once, we go into a Grand Slam with no clear favourite among the men. Feels strange, doesn’t it? And very exciting.
What has caused this shift in the landscape? The indifferent form of Novak Djokovic, at least by his own extraordinary standards.
Usually, you just can’t think beyond Djokovic in the build up to a major event. But recently he has been looking jaded and has lost to both Andy Murray and Roger Federer.
That doesn’t mean the Wimbledon champion and number one seed won’t storm back when it really matters, of course.
But that can’t be predicted with the usual degree of confidence. And the reality is that four or five men have an equal chance of winning the 2015 US Open.
Number two seed Federer may have begun his 35th year recently, but he is in sparkling form and he has a relatively comfortable first-week draw. That could allow him to conserve enough energy to become a serious contender in the final stages.
If Roger reaches the semis, he would be supremely motivated to beat fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka or Andy Murray, especially if Djokovic has looked vulnerable and awaits in the final.
But there are those who are predicting that Kei Nishikori will take down Djokovic in the other semi-final. Remember, Nishikori reached the US Open final last year and will believe he can go one better.
Meanwhile Wawrinka is so unpredictable at Grand Slam events that you can never rule him out, even though he hasn’t exactly set the world alight since his incredible French Open triumph over Djokovic.
And we haven’t even talked about one of the world’s greatest ever players, Rafa Nadal. There hasn’t been too much to suggest that he is ready to win another Slam for now, but a potential quarter-final against Djokovic could be mouth-watering all the same.
And Murray, who has played some wonderful stuff this year, has to fancy his chances of winning a second US Open title, if he can negotiate that tricky first-round draw against Australian hot-head Nick Kyrgios.
So how will the drama unfold? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure. A final between Federer and Nishikori would provide a dream climax for the tennis world. Either a first Slam for the Japanese hero or an 18th for arguably the greatest player of all time. Now that is what you would call a win-win for our wonderful sport.
And if it’s history you’re after, it beckons in New York for one woman in particular, the formidable Serena Williams.
Should she take the title at Flushing Meadows it will complete a Calendar Slam to go with her two Serena Slams (the already-amazing feat of holding all four Slams at the same time).
The pressure on Williams will be huge, and she lost to the talented Belinda Bencic at the Rogers Cup two weeks ago. Young American pretenders such as Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe will queue up for a chance to take Serena down.
But the Queen of Tennis has won the last three US Opens and her fearsome will to win could drive her on to a 22nd Slam. Somehow, it would be tough to see her denied, although that would blow the women’s tournament as wide open as the men’s.
Get ready for one of the greatest tennis shows on earth! It’s going to be quite a ride!
Late-night and even early-morning showdowns, rowdy crowds, all the fun of the fair, and at the end of it all, a worthy winning man and woman, both of whom will have shown themselves to possess more skill stamina, and focus and courage during the fortnight than anyone else.