August 21, 2019
New York beckons with all the glitz and glamour of the US Open.
The noisy, late nights, the endless adrenaline, the incredible energy.
Who doesn’t love Flushing Meadows? The question on everyone’s lips is this: who will emerge triumphant from all the chaotic drama?
Could the Wimbledon champion taste Grand Slam glory again? Maybe so. But the two players in red-hot form are Madison Keys and Daniil Medvedev. Both looked stunning as they took their singles titles in Cincinnati a few days ago.
Medvedev is the talk of tennis. Keys is the great American hope.
He has consistency, because he reached the final of Montreal too. Some of his displays against top ten players have been so convincing that he must feel he is capable of taking a first Slam some time soon. In Cincinnati he beat the great Djokovic on his way to the title. There is no greater scalp than that in tennis right now.
Meanwhile the legendary Roger Federer had already fallen to another Russian, Andrey Rublev. What did that defeat say about Federer? Is time finally catching up on the world’s most graceful and best-loved tennis star? Or did Rublev just catch Federer on an off-night? Roger reckons he will be sharp enough to hit high levels at Flushing Meadows. We all hope and believe that will be so.
But Medvedev is the man everyone now sees as the fastest-growing force in the men’s game. And yet there was an even mightier force missing in Cincinnati. The man who beat Daniil so heavily in Canada. And that man is of course Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard shrewdly skipped Cincinnati to recharge the batteries before the US Open.
After beating Medvedev 6-3, 6-0 to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal, he had certainly earned the right to do as he pleased. Could that count in his favour at the business end of the US Open?
Rafa will be desperate for more Grand Slam glory after being edged out in that wonderful Wimbledon semi-final by the evergreen Federer. If Nadal wins the US Open, he will move to within just one Slam of Federer’s historic twenty. Perhaps only Djokovic can stop Nadal in the Big Apple. Unlikely, you might say, given that Rafa recently thrashed Medvedev and Novak just lost to the same player in three sets.
But Djokovic in a Grand Slam becomes a different, even more dangerous kind of animal. He peaks for the biggest occasions. Probes and gradually dismantles opponents.
He plays the biggest points with a calm defiance and total ruthlessness.
The Serb will feel he has a great chance to add to his 16 majors and stay on course to be regarded as the greatest of all time when the big three have all retired.
So will it be Novak once more in New York, as at Wimbledon? Quite possibly.
Along with Roger and Daniil, Rafa will be gunning for Djokovic once more. And sooner or later, you sense, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev will manage to display their extraordinary talent on the Grand Slam stage.
Flushing Meadows could be just the place for a rising young star to convert showmanship and charisma into silverware at last.
Having said that, the oldies still hold away at the Slams. The young guns haven’t quite moved them aside just yet.
So it could all boil down to the precision of Djokovic against the brutal power of Nadal.
And wouldn’t we all love it if Federer had a big say yet again? The heart might say Roger or Rafa, but the head still says Djokovic. Still, Nadal’s challenge, in particular, promises to be formidable.