Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My preview of the 2014 men's US Open

The field at this year's men's US Open may seem weak. Rafael Nadal is injured and aside. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic underperformed in the two pre-US Open Masters events in Toronto and Cincinnati. Roger Federer had great success in Toronto and Cincinnati, yet isn't playing his best game. Andy Murray is having a difficult season and hasn't won any titles or even achieved finals. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the Toronto Masters but lost on the first round of the the Cincinnati Masters. The Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka has been very inconsistent this year and anything between a title and a first-round loss is possible. David Ferrer and Milos Raonic have been having good runs in the previous weeks, yet they seem unable to win big matches.

Then again, the struggles of big names make this US Open maybe the most unpredictable Grand Slam tournament in years. None of Djokovic, Federer, and Murray are unbeatable, so this is a big chance to get a non-Big Four Grand Slam champion. If Tsonga can bring his form from Toronto, he is in the contention, and Wawrinka showed in Australia he can win a slam. And unless the big names improve their games, there will be more players who could beat them.

Roger Federer has obviously been in the best form in recent weeks. A final on Wimbledon's grass, then a final in Toronto and a title in Cincinnati in Masters events on DecoTurf. But he isn't way above the field, as shown by his loss to Tsonga in the Toronto final as well as by some tight matches in the recent weeks. We have seen this year that he isn't unbeatable. Then again, his performances in Toronto and Cincinnati show he can win the US Open.

Novak Djokovic hasn't been too impressive after winning Wimbledon. Both Toronto and Cincinnati ended with a round-of-16 loss, to Tsonga and Robredo. I think it all comes down to if he can find his best level; if he can, he is the favorite as he is the most consistent player on the top. But if he can't find his best level, there will be players with the abilities to beat him.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the Masters event in Toronto but lost on the first round in the Masters event in Cincinnati the following week. The title in Toronto showed he can still succeed, something one could doubt after his poor first half of the season. When he is playing his best tennis, he can beat anybody on the tour. He definitely has a chance to win the US Open. Then again, he isn't the most consistent player on the tour so we must see if he can bring his best game. Also, he still lacks a Grand Slam title, so winning the US Open might be a big task mentally.

Stan Wawrinka has been very inconsistent this year. After his Australian Open title, he had difficult tournaments before winning the Masters event of Monte Carlo, propelling him to the top of the Race to London. After that, he has been unable to win titles and the French Open was a huge disappointment with a first-round loss. At Wimbledon, he made the quarterfinals, which was his career-best result there. His performances in Toronto and Cincinnati were mediocre, round of 16 and quarterfinals. He needs to play better at the US Open if he wants to win there. If he could bring his best game, then he would be one of the biggest favorites to win the title; he has been great in the hardcourt slams in the last two seasons. And the Australian Open and Monte Carlo titles show he has the mental abilities to win big titles.

A few words about Andy Murray. His level after the back surgery hasn't been on the level it used to be. His best performance so far has been the semifinal at the French Open. I believe he will go through the early rounds with his consistency but at some point in the second week, he will face a player who is better than him. Let's face it, he is only ninth in the rankings, there are players who are playing better than him. I just can't see him winning the US Open.

David Ferrer made the final in Cincinnati. With the big names underperforming, Ferrer might have a chance to win a slam at the US Open. Unfortunately, he seems to lack the ability, or maybe just the faith, to win big matches against big names. Of the nine significant finals he has played in his career, he has won only one, the only one without a Big Four opponent. I wouldn't be surprised if he made the final in New York but I would be (very positively) surprised if he won the title.

Milos Raonic has been playing a solid season. Then again, he seems to be able to make the most of his draws but is unable to beat the best players. That's why I think he isn't ready to win a slam. Grigor Dimitrov is another youngster who has made the top 10 this season, yet also he doesn't seem able to beat the best players yet. Besides, Dimitrov has been more inconsistent, so a first-week exit by Dimitrov wouldn't be as much of an upset as by Raonic.

A player who might have abilities to trouble big names is Marin Cilic. His current ranking of 16 means harder draws for him, though, as seen recently. He lost on the round of 16 in Toronto to Federer and in Cincinnati to Wawrinka. Both times he lost in three sets. In the Wimbledon quarterfinals, he lost in five to Djokovic. Also at the French Open, his tournament ended against Djokovic; four-set loss on the round of 32. Cilic might have the skills and the form to succeed at the US Open but the question is if he has the mentality. He is still to prove he has the mental abilities to win big matches. That is what he needs to do if he is to win the US Open. Plus he may have a tough draw.

So, I think Federer and Djokovic are the favourites at the US Open. Tsonga and Wawrinka are the players who have the abilities to challenge and even outplay them; then again they may underperform badly. And if Federer and Djokovic underperform, there are lots of players with a chance to win the title.

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