2012 US Open: Who Are the Top 5 Favorites for This Year's Title?
On July 8, Federer ruined the Scots' plans to become the first British man to capture Wimbledon since 1936 with an impressive display and a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 win, capturing his seventh title at the SW19 and his 17th major overall. This win helped the current World No. 1 that he could still compete with the young athletes of today's game.
Less than one month later on August 5, Murray captured a meaningful title in front of his home crowd-- the Olympic Gold Medal. Federer, arguably the greatest player of all-time was keen to capture the one big title that had eluded him so far.
However, the Swiss Maestro, exhausted from a demanding semi-final, succumbed to a brilliant Murray, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
With both having the most successful summers of any player on tour, all eyes will be on them as we shift into the summer hardcourt season.
There is an absence of top talent during the Rogers Cup in Toronto, and perhaps the Cincinnati Masters as well, but the next major on the tennis calendar in the U.S. Open.
The favorites for the U.S. Open are the usual suspects, Federer, Murray and Novak Djokovic. Of course, if present we can never count out Olympic absentee and World No. 3 Rafael Nadal. Players who excel on hardcourts and have been playing well lately, such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych, can be considered as contenders.
This years' dark horses include Mardy Fish, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Tommy Haas, Sam Querrey and Milos Raonic.
However, we all know that the true contenders are this summers' big three, plus possibly Nadal. Tsonga is probably the biggest threat to end to "Big Four" stronghold on Grand Slams. These are the five players that will mainly be talked about in this article.
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Federer, who re-took the No. 1 ranking after more than two years looking up, is having a re-birth since late 2011.
After a stunning, devastating five-set loss to Novak Djokovic (he led two sets to love and had two match points in the fifth set) at the 2011 U.S. Open, Federer has looked almost as good as ever.
He won titles in Basel, Paris and London to close 2011, then opened 2012 with a loss at the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal.
Back in the world of best-of-three matches, the Swiss raced to titles in Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells, Madrid, and finally, after 30 months of waiting, got back in the winners' circle at a Grand Slam tournament with a brilliant display of tennis, as he dispatched both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for his record-tying seventh Wimbledon crown.
Despite a shellacking at the hands of Murray in the Olympic Gold Medal Game, Federer has been in a groove this summer.
The courts in Flushing Meadows play a little bit faster than they do at Wimbledon, which benefits Federer.
His serve and powerful forehand will serve him just as well in New York as they did in London.
With a bitter taste in his mouth from two consecutive shocking losses at the U.S. Open to Novak Djokovic, Federer, full of confidence, will enter the tournament rested and as one of the top favorites without any doubt.
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Andy Murray's summer just keeps on getting better. After a rough clay-court season, in which he injured his back and struggled to make it deep into tournaments, the grass led the Brit to greener pastures in his homeland.
At Wimbledon, the World No. 4 benefited from Rafael Nadal's early loss. The Spaniard had dropped the Scot in two consecutive Wimbledon semis. Murray, the three-time semifinalist, finally made a final, but he lost to an impenetrable Roger Federer despite playing a good match.
At the 2012 Olympics, also played at Wimbledon's hallowed grounds, Murray once again stormed into the final, and would once again faced Federer. This time, the script was reversed, and Murray brought home Olympic Gold for his most important title to date.
As his attention turns to hard-court, usually Andy's best surface, he can hope that a first Grand Slam title follows his Olympic triumph.
The biggest change from years past is that Murray's serve has developed into a force, and with his return game always solid, he is tough to beat.
It's been rare for Murray's name to be mentioned in the same breath as Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in Grand Slams past, but as his game improves and Nadal's body and Djokovic's game seem a bit below par, he has pushed himself into the top chalk status in New York.
It will be interesting to see if Murray can handle more pressure than he is accustomed to in the USA's Slam.
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2011 was the year of Novak Djokovic. The Serb won 10 titles, including three of the years' four majors. He won the U.S. Open with a stunning fifth-set comeback against Roger Federer in the semifinals, and then a physical four-set final over Rafael Nadal.
This year has been a little less kind to the current World No. 2. He has not won a title since Miami, and his past three tournaments have ended in semifinal defeats, below Djokovic's usual expectations.
However, this week, Novak returns to his surface of choice. Both of his titles this season, and six of his tournament wins in 2011 came on hardcourt.
After tune-ups in Toronto (where he has already reached the final) and Cincinnati, Djokovic will travel to New York, where he will attempt to defend his crown at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic enjoys not only the surface, but also the atmosphere at the U.S. Open. This can be proved by the fact that the Serb has already made three finals in New York.
This year, Nole is making many more errors on rally shots, and being pushed to the limit by players way below his level. He is looking much more like the 2008-2010 Djokovic than last-seasons' version.
A title in the City that Never Sleeps could re-assert Djokovic as the best tennis player on earth. He will be ready and his results on hard court over the past two seasons could very well make him the title favorite.
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After triumphs in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros, many thought that Rafael Nadal was back to his best on the court.
Then came Wimbledon and the stunning second-round loss to Lukas Rosol. Next came the knee injury and the withdrawal from the London Olympics, the Rogers Cup and the Western & Southern Financial Masters.
With the U.S. Open just around the corner, many are now wondering whether or not Rafa will be ready for this year's final major.
Even if he's not 100 percent healthy, Nadal will play. At both the 2009 US Open and the 2010 Australian Open, Nadal was well below his usual physical standard. However, both times he made it to the second week, losing badly once there.
Nadal is one of the most ruthless competitors sport has ever seen, so expect him to be present in New York, but not at his best.
The U.S. Open has always been Nadal's worst Slam (he is still a one-time champion and defending runner-up), and with Djokovic, Federer, and Murray more warmed up and overall looking better right now that Nadal, don't expect a big challenge from the current World No. 3.
When he arrives at Flushing Meadows, he will have not played a meaningful match in more than two months.
If Nadal runs into a big-hitter, he will get bounced early, if not, the Spaniard will get pounded by the first member of the "Big Four" that he encounters.
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The best of the rest is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The eccentric Frenchman is playing the best tennis of his life, having made the semi-finals of Wimbledon, and being one point away from attaining that stage at the French Open.
Tsonga has a huge forehand and serve, as well as great touch around the net. He has performed well at the U.S. Open in the past, including a quarterfinal appearance in 2011.
For a bigger breakdown of Jo-Willy's game and mindset check out this article.
Other potential dark-horses include:
Juan Martin del Potro
The 2009 U.S. Open Champion and recent Olympic Bronze Medalist will look to re-assert himself among the world's best and prove to everyone that he has made a full recovery from his 2010 wrist injury. If at his best, no one will want to have the Big Argentine in their quarter.
The big-serving American will look to please his hometown crowd with a big run. After a spectacular start to 2012, Big John will look to regain that early-season momentum in New York.
The veteran has been re-winding the clock a few years this summer, winning a title in Halle and making finals in Washington and Hamburg. Due to his relatively low seeding, no one will want to run into Haas early in the tournament.
Fish has looked fine since returning from heart surgery in July, and will look to build on that success with a good run at the U.S. Open. Hard is his best surface, and his serve and backhand are very dangerous weapons. His health does remain a slight concern, however.
Ferrer is among the tour's most consistent players, but he is still not primed to win a major. He won't lose to anyone he shouldn't lose to, but, with the Spaniard's style of play, it's tough to envision him beating Federer, Murray or Djokovic at a major.
Raonic serves bombs, and is a hard opponent for anybody. His 25-23 fifth set loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Olympics probably helped him on the mental front, and, if his groundstrokes get more consistent, the Canadian will be playing deep into Slams.
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Andy Murray and Roger Federer have earned the right to be called favorites for the year's final major. However, when it is all said and done, I expect Novak Djokovic to be crowned Champion.
He has made the final of four consecutive hard-court Slams, and on his best surface, he will prove to the world that 2011 was not a fluke.
Also, if del Potro or Tsonga are in Nadal's quarter, I see them taking the Spaniard's spot in the semis.
Murray will beat Federer, and Djoker will beat either Tsonga, DelPo, or Rafa on the other side.
Then, the Serb will edge the Scot in the five-set semi.
(Note: this is assuming that the draw wil shape out this way)
If Novak and Murray are on the same side, the final will feature Djokovic-Federer, and for the third succesive year, the Serb will defeat the Swiss at the US Open.