US Open Tennis 2012: The 10 Best Bets to Win at Flushing Meadows

JA AllenSenior Writer IAugust 17, 2012

US Open Tennis 2012: The 10 Best Bets to Win at Flushing Meadows

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    The U.S. Open has arrived once again to bring down the curtain on major tournament action in 2012.  There will not be another Grand Slam played until the Australian Open in 2013.

    The tennis season has been in full swing for eight full months, so what have we learned thus far?

    We know that Novak Djokovic won the 2012 Australian Open, Rafael Nadal won the French Open and Roger Federer won Wimbledon in 2012. We also know that Victoria Azarenka won the 2012 Australian Open, Maria Sharapova won the French Open and Serena Williams won Wimbledon in 2012.

    The question we ask is—will another player rise from the ranks to win the fourth major, or will one of the three previous 2012 slam winners repeat?

    With Rafael Nadal out of the U.S. Open, sidelined by a knee injury, the odds improve for Federer or Djokovic to repeat as U.S. Open champions.

    His absence, however, enhances Andy Murray’s chances of breaking through to win his first major. Or, we might find that Juan Martin del Potro is strong enough to win the U.S. Open title again.

    Serena Williams, as usual, will be the favorite coming into Flushing Meadows because of her recent successes on tour.

    With the ladies, it is always more difficult to predict who will survive to fight for the title.

    Last year Sam Stosur stood up to Serena in the final to win her first major at the U.S. Open. The chances that the Aussie can repeat that feat are pretty slim—but if not Stosur, who else? 

    These are the top 10 bets to win the 2012 U.S. Open

10. Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

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    WTA Ranking No. 3; Current Season Singles Record 46-12; Titles 3

    After starting the 2012 season losing to Victoria Azarenka six times, Agnieszka Radwanska found herself in the finals at Wimbledon—this time not facing the lady from Belarus. 

    Instead, her opponent was Serena Williams. Radwanska lost that match but managed to make it competitive.

    Starting the year ranked world No. 8, Radwanska has risen to No. 3 with consistent play throughout 2012.

    After the Wimbledon final, however, she lost her opening-round match at the Summer Olympics to German Julia Goerges and lost most recently in Montreal in the quarterfinals to Li Na of China.

    Currently, she is playing in Cincinnati, in anticipation for her play at the upcoming U.S. Open

    Radwanska is a technician on court. She knows how to win and has the stamina to stay in points long enough to do so, but she can be overpowered by big serving and hitting in general. Radwanska could go deep into the draw, depending on her potential opposition.

    Her problem comes when meeting the big servers like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or even Victoria Azarenka. Assuming she faces none of these players, her chances improve exponentially.

    A win by Radwanska is a long shot but considering her rising stock, not a bad bet.

9. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France)

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    ATP Ranking No. 6; Current Season Singles Record 37-15 ; Titles 1.

    After years of waiting for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to live up to his talent, the past two seasons have seen the Frenchman climb into the men’s top 10.

    He started 2011 ranked No. 13 and ended the year ranked No. 6. The 2012 season has found the Frenchman solidly ensconced in the men's top 10.

    His history at the U.S. Open has not been spectacular. After going out in the third round of the U.S. Open in both 2007 and 2008, Tsonga made it to the fourth round in 2009.

    In 2010, the Frenchman advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Roger Federer. Tsonga did not play the U.S. Open in 2011, sidelined because of injury.

    Without Nadal's withdrawal, Tsonga would not be considered one of the top five favorites on the men's side of the draw. But, there is no one on tour with more natural athletic ability than Tsonga.

    He, like the rest of the men's field, will be primed to take advantage of Rafael Nadal’s absence to make a deep run during the 2012 U.S. Open.

    His fire and energy bring life to the game and should energize the New York City crowds who love to get behind a charismatic underdog.

    With his superior movement and top-notch serving, there is every reason to expect Tsonga to make his greatest mark at this year’s U.S. Open.

    Tsonga is another long-shot, but a good bet to do some real damage in this year's U.S. Open.

8. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)

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    WTA Ranking No. 5; Current Season Singles Season Record 34-11; Titles 1

    Petra Kvitova was the surprise winner of the Wimbledon title in 2011 as well as the subsequent winner of 2011 WTA Year-End Championships in Turkey.

    So far, however, 2012 has been a bit of a disappointment for the Czech—until recently.

    Kvitova just won her first title of the season at the tournament in Montreal, defeating Li Na of China in the final.

    Montreal was the first leg of the USA Summer Hard Court season for Kvitova. It presented a chance for her to strengthen her game on hard courts after a long season on grass.

    Playing this week in Cincinnati, Kvitova will be primed to do well at the U.S. Open. The fast courts should enhance the power of Kivitova's big serve and her lethal forehand.

    The true on-court battle for the Czech is mental. Kvitova needs to believe she can win in order to do well.

    Her success in Canada will add considerably to her confidence level.

    Always dangerous, the big-serving Kvitova should definitely be a factor in this year’s U.S. Open.

    The odds on her being a finalist look extremely good at the moment, depending on her draw at the upcoming U.S. Open.

7. Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina)

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    ATP Ranking No. 9; Current Season Singles Record 45-12: Titles 2

    Juan Martin del Potro won the U.S. Open in 2009 to the shock and dismay of the tennis world. He upset Roger Federer in the final, winning the Open at 20 years of age.

    After suffering a wrist injury that required surgery, Del Potro was sidelined for several months starting in May of 2010.

    Once the Argentine resumed his career full-time in 2011, it took him until now to return fully to form.

    During majors, Del Potro reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 Australian Open, losing to Roger Federer.  He lost during the quarterfinals of this year's French Open, again to Federer.

    At the recent Summer Olympics held at Wimbledon, Del Potro reached the semifinals where he and Federer played the longest three set match in the history of the Games—lasting four and a half hours.

    Still the Argentine came up short, losing once more to Federer.

    Regardless of his defeats, Del Potro's game is back. That is evident on court, as his serve, ground strokes and movement are back to pre-injury levels.

    Del Portro has a perfect opportunity to shine again at Flushing Meadows—just as he did in 2009. He knows exactly what it takes to win on Arthur Ashe stadium.

    It would not be a huge surprise to see the Argentine in the finals in 2012. Del Potro can no longer be considered a long-shot to win this year's U.S. Open.

    He has become one of the top picks of the odds-makers to win it all.

6. Maria Sharapova (Russia)

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    WTA Ranking 2; Current Season Singles Record 44-7; Titles 3

    The last time Maria Sharapova won the U.S. Open was in 2006—six years ago.

    After enjoying a break-out 2012 clay court season, which included winning her first French Open title, Sharapova was disappointed at Wimbledon, falling in the fourth round to Sabine Lisicki.

    Then she lost to Serena Williams in the gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics. 

    Not playing in Cincinnati because of a stomach ailment, expect Sharapova to be fit and ready to compete in New York City when action gets underway.

    You can never discount Sharapova, who lives to play for the big events on the tennis calendar—especially the Grand Slam tournaments.

    Her strengths, besides her steely resolve, are her big serve and powerful ground strokes.

    Sharapova's weaknesses remain her second serve plus her movement on court.

    Much will depend on her draw and her ability to win without adequate preparation for the hard courts in Flushing Meadows.

    Sharapova can definitely win the U.S. Open if her serve is clicking and her ground strokes are pin-point accurate.

    She remains one of the early favorites to win the title.

5. Andy Murray (Scotland)

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    ATP Ranking No. 4; Current Season Singles Record 39-10; Titles 2

    Will this be the year and the Grand Slam tournament when Andy Murray finally breaks through to win his first major?

    It seems we ask the same question at the beginning of each major tournament regardless of the surface.

    Certainly, Murray should be brimming with confidence after winning Olympic gold at the Summer Games. 

    He defeated Roger Federer in the gold medal match definitively. It was not even close—so perhaps, Murray now understands what it takes to win the biggest matches. The Scot, along with his team, will certainly hope so.

    Murray has typically done well at the U.S. Open. In 2008, the Scot met Federer in the final, losing that contest to the Swiss 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. In 2011, Murray advanced to the semifinals, losing to Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

    But in his seven tries at Flushing Meadows, Murray has also been surprised early. On Thursday in Cincinnati, moreover, Murray lost 6-4, 6-4 to France's Jeremy Chardy on a hot, blustery day.

    Something in the Scot’s recent demeanor indicates that the he is ready to win his first major. No one, however, will simply give it to him. Murray must get through those early-round matches to give himself a chance to win.

    Murray will have to play his very best to win the U.S. Open in 2012, never doubting his own ability to succeed. 

    The odds for Murray to win in 2012 are more favorable this year than ever before.

4. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)

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    WTA Ranking No. 1; Current Season Singles Record 48-7; Titles 4

    It is the season for hard courts, and Victoria Azarenka plays her best tennis on this surface.

    Earlier this summer on grass, Azarenka lost to Serena Williams at the 2012 Summer Olympics and at Wimbledon, each time during the semifinal round.

    The current world No. 1 prays earnestly that she is on the opposite side of the draw from Williams at the upcoming U.S. Open held at Flushing Meadows.

    After starting the year winning everything, including her first major at the 2012 Australian Open, Azarenka has slowed down, not winning a title since Indian Wells, also played on hard courts.

    So far in August, however, Azarenka retired hurt in Montreal and is not playing in Cincinnati, recovering from her recent injury.

    But she plans to be ready to do battle for the U.S. Open without playing any of the hard court warm-ups that traditionally prepare her for New York.

    If fire and determination are primary factors, then Azarkena has a real opportunity to win her second major.

    The odds are definitely in Azarenka's favor at this year's U.S. Open and rise exponentially if Serena Williams is not standing across the net from her during the final.

3. Roger Federer (Switzerland)

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    ATP Ranking No. 1; Current Season Singles Record 51-7; Titles 5

    After proving he is "back" by winning the Wimbledon final in 2012, Roger Federer prepares to win his sixth U.S. Open championship.

    Federer won five consecutive titles in New York City starting in 2004—ending in 2008. For those years, the Swiss seemed to own Arthur Ashe Stadium.

    After losing the final to Juan Martin del Potro in 2009, Federer has not advanced to another final at Flushing Meadows. He has lost in the semifinals the past two years to Serb Novak Djokovic.

    But this year, Federer is fully fit and playing with his old confidence.

    In fact, Federer’s movement on court seems better than ever.

    The only seed of doubt was planted by Andy Murray when he dismissed Federer during the 2012 Olympic finals concluded on August 5. The Scot never allowed Federer into the match.

    That could be because Federer played a four-and-a-half-hour semifinal against Del Potro prior to his match with Murray.

    More than likely, the ultimate defeat was a combination of Murray’s new-found confidence and Federer’s fatigue.

    Federer, however, will put that defeat aside and be ready to win his sixth title at the upcoming U.S. Open.

    The odds of him succeeding are very great. Federer is a sure bet in 2012.

2. Serena Williams (United States)

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    WTA Ranking No. 4: Current Season Singles Record 44-3; Titles 5

    Having won the Wimbledon Championships and the 2012 Summer Olympics in women’s singles and doubles, Serena Williams comes into the U.S. Open on a real hot streak.

    In fact, she has not lost a match since losing her opening-round contest at the French Open to Virginie Razzano.

    Her rise back to the top of the women's game has been a remarkable story in 2012. She can add a nice finish to her great resurgence by winning the title in New York City.

    A full year after her severe injury and illness, Williams made the U.S. Open finals in 2011, but lost to Samantha Stosur in a stunning upset.

    This year, however, Serena seems mentally and physically fit—perhaps more so than in any other year in recent history.

    She will be tough to beat. Put all your money on Serena.

1. Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

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    ATP Ranking No. 2; Current Singles Season Record 50-9; 3 Titles

    Novak Djokovic is the defending champion at this year’s U.S. Open.

    Although the Serb did not enjoy quite the same start of the season as the one he compiled in 2011, Djokovic has nonetheless been playing high quality, consistent tennis for most of the year.

    After recently winning the title in Toronto, Djokovic must be regarded as one of the favorites as the U.S. Open gets underway in a little over a week’s time.

    Last year, Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in the final, winning his first title at Flushing Meadows. In 2010, Djokovic also met Nadal in the final, but that time the Spaniard won the match—also Nadal's first U.S. Open trophy. 

    Since 2007, Djokovic has advanced at least as far as the semifinals at the U.S. Open. It stands to reason that in 2012, the Serb will be left standing as the draw narrows to the final four. 

    His chances of winning the title for a second consecutive time depend on the Serb’s mental state, because it appears that Djokovic does not doubt himself, he finds a way to win. Right now he is as confident as he has been all year.

    He has an excellent chance of winning it all in 2012. It will be hard to bet against Djokovic winning his second consecutive U.S. Open title.