2013 US Open: Men’s singles preview

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The 2013 US Open final Grand Slam tournament is now just one week away and after what has been an interesting and intriguing season, the US Open could be anyone’s to win.

As with Wimbledon, I feel that the field for this year’s tournament is as open as ever, given the continuing dominance of Rafael Nadal, the impressive Grand Slam resurgence of Andy Murray, who has added two Majors to his resume in the last 12 months, and the continuing reign at the top of Novak Djokovic.

Roger Federer should not be counted out, but having fallen to world number seven, one must think about the chances he has of ever adding to his Grand Slam tally of 17 before he retires in the near future.

So, without further ado, here is the preview of the men’s contenders for the US Open.

Rafael Nadal – Current world ranking: 2
Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Did not play
French Open: Won
Wimbledon: First round

US Open history
Best result: Won (2010)
Last year: Did not play

Titles this year to date: Brasil, Acapulco, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, French Open, Toronto, Cincinnati

What can you say about Rafael Nadal at the moment?

Without doubt, the Spaniard has proven to be the man to beat this year, having captured nine titles and sweeping all but three different opponents (Horacio Zeballos, Novak Djokovic and Steve Darcis) on his way to reclaiming the World No. 2 ranking from Andy Murray.

Nadal has proven to be the form player of the year, and there is little doubt that he will continue his rampaging form into the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, which he won in 2010 to complete a Career Golden Slam.

There is every chance that the Spaniard can reclaim the World No. 1 ranking after this tournament – for that to happen, he would have to ultimately triumph for a second time in New York, and hope that Novak Djokovic fails to reach the final.

From there he can then set his sights on winning the ATP World Tour Finals for the first time, after previously being denied by Roger Federer in 2010.

Prediction: Champion

Novak Djokovic – Current world ranking: 1
Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Won
French Open: Semi-finals
Wimbledon: Final

US Open history
Best result: Won (2011)
Last year: Final

Titles this year to date: Australian Open, Dubai, Monte Carlo

Whilst Novak Djokovic is still the best player in the world, as determined by the rankings, his mantle as the top men’s player in the game could come under threat at the US Open.

The Serbian hasn’t had a good year so far, although he did successfully defend his Australian Open title earlier in the year and also picked up the biggest clay title of his career at the Monte Carlo Masters in April.

But when it comes to Grand Slams, he is always up to the task.

Djokovic is on a streak of 13 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals dating back to Wimbledon in 2010. There’s every chance that he may extend this to 14, but with Roger Federer drawn to face one of the top four in the quarter-finals, that’s where the biggest danger could lurk.

To protect his world number one ranking, the Serb must reach the final or hope that Rafael Nadal does not win the title – even a Djokovic vs. Nadal final could be enough for the Serb to keep his top ranking as the season winds down in September.

But I expect the Djoker to do well – without being triumphant.

Prediction: Final

Andy Murray – Current world ranking: 3

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Final
French Open: Did not play
Wimbledon: Won

US Open history
Best result: Won (2012)
Last year: Won

Titles this year to date: Brisbane, Miami, Queen’s, Wimbledon

Whilst all the attention has been turned on Rafael Nadal throughout the year, the second biggest story this year has been all about Andy Murray and his ability to overcome his nerves in big finals.

His show of strength was there for all to see when he defeated Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon last month – erasing the demons of last year’s painful loss to Roger Federer where his emotions got the better of him in the post-match.

His reign as the world’s second best player in the world may have ended just recently, but with maximum points to defend and with Nadal defending nothing for the remainder of the year, it’s certain the Scot may have to settle for third at season’s end.

Last year’s US Open was where Murray finally made his breakthrough – after four losses in his first four Grand Slam finals, he didn’t want to become the first man to lose his first five – that’s what triggered the performance of a lifetime from Murray, a classic, brutal five-set win over Djokovic in the championship match.

With maximum points to defend at a Grand Slam for the first time, how will he be able to handle the pressure?

Prediction: Semi-finals

David Ferrer – Current world ranking: 4

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Semi-finals
French Open: Final
Wimbledon: Quarter-finals

US Open history
Best result: Semi-finals (2007, 2012)
Last year: Semi-finals

Titles this year to date
Auckland, Buenos Aires

Another player who has had his breakthrough this year is David Ferrer.

Normally, the tennis careers of players aged 30 or over would start to wind down by dwindling performances at big tournaments, but Ferrer is one man who has been able to prove anything but.

His run to the French Open final in June came at his 42nd consecutive Grand Slam since debut, and at the ripe old age of 31. Although he lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets, reaching the final was a reward for a long decade of hard and dedicated service to the demanding sport of tennis.

Ferrer is now riding a streak of seven consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals, which includes the aforementioned run to the French Open final, plus another three semi-finals, including here in New York last year.

His poor record against the top four could also come into play here. He’s never defeated Federer or Djokovic in Grand Slam play, and has only defeated Murray once (last year’s French Open), but he has beaten Nadal twice (2007 US Open and 2011 Australian Open). Ironically, Ferrer is the last man to beat Nadal before the quarter-finals of a hard court Grand Slam, but the rankings will mean that they cannot meet until at least the semi-finals.

Prediction: Semi-finals

Tomas Berdych – Current world ranking: 5

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Quarter-finals
French Open: First round
Wimbledon: Quarter-finals

US Open history
Best result: Semi-finals (2012)
Last year: Semi-finals

Titles this year to date: None

Now is the time for Tomas Berdych to make a breakthrough.

The ‘Birdman’, who featured in the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup winning team last year, has been known for his wildly inconsistent performances at Grand Slam tournaments – sandwiched in between two quarter-final losses to Novak Djokovic this year was a tough first round loss at the French Open to local favourite Gael Monfils.

Those followed a semi-final appearance at last year’s US Open, where he knocked out Roger Federer in the quarter-finals before being edged out by Andy Murray in the final four.

Reaching the semi-finals in Cincinnati, as well as Roger Federer’s failure to defend the title, has seen him reach a career high ranking of number five, and now it’s time for him to stand up to his higher-ranked rivals.

Berdych is the highest ranked player still without a title this year, having not triumphed since October last year. However, he did reach the finals of the Open 13 and Dubai, losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic respectively.

Can Berdych make a second breakthrough here, or will his inconsistent results come back to haunt him?

Prediction: Quarter-finals

Juan Martin del Potro – Current world ranking: 6

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Third round
French Open: Did not play
Wimbledon: Semi-finals

US Open history
Best result: Won (2009)
Last year: Quarter-finals

Titles this year to date
Rotterdam, Washington

This year has not been a good one for Juan Martin del Potro, but there’s no doubt that with his favourite Grand Slam event just around the corner, the incentive is there for him to start performing.

Champion here in 2009, the Argentinian has had a stop-start season, which was interrupted when he was forced to miss the French Open through illness in May. However, he has won two titles this year as he continues to maintain his top ten ranking after having fallen to 485 in early 2011.

His preparation for the US Open included winning the title in Washington – the previous time he won the tournament, he went on to triumph in New York against Roger Federer, before disaster struck.

It could be another omen for what I expect to be a successful US Open campaign for del Potro. But the challenge will be whether he can take it right up to the top four in the quarter-finals.

Apart from his run to the title in 2009, where he took out both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the semi-finals and final, respectively, del Potro has not beaten the Big Four anywhere else – the closest coming at Wimbledon last month, where he took Novak Djokovic to five sets in a thrilling semi-final.

Prediction: Quarter-finals

Roger Federer – Current world ranking: 7

Grand Slam results so far this year
Australian Open: Semi-finals
French Open: Quarter-finals
Wimbledon: Second round

US Open history
Best result: Won (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Last year: Quarter-finals

If the past eight months has been anything to go by, then this could be the last Grand Slam tournament in which Roger Federer could be considered a contender.

The Swiss Maestro has just turned 32 and it seems age is clearly catching up with him, after so long in the upper echelon of the sport.

Federer, who counts five US Open titles among the 17 Grand Slam titles he has won in his illustrious career, has fallen to World No. 7, his lowest ranking since early 2003, following a trying year which has seen him lose three times to Rafael Nadal (the most against him in a single season since 2006) and lose in the second round of Wimbledon to Sergiy Stakhovsky, ending a streak of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals.

Among all this disappointment, though, is the fact that he has been able to win one title this season – on his favourite surface of grass, where he defeated Mikhail Youzhny to win the title in Halle.

Due to Federer’s ranking, the Swiss could be drawn against one of world number one Novak Djokovic, defending champion Andy Murray or the red hot Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals. That’s where trouble could lurk for Federer, who hasn’t lost before the quarter-finals of a hard-court Grand Slam since the 2003 US Open.

But should be reach the final four, then there is every chance that he could be considered a genuine contender for the title. But I feel that, given the year he’s had, he could be making up the numbers in New York.

Prediction: Quarter-finals

Who do you think will win the US Open? Leave your comments below.

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