US Open Tennis 2012: Favorites on Shaky Ground Early
The 2012 U.S. Open is underway.
First-round matches have already been completed in both the men's and women's tournaments, giving us some indication of the tennis we're likely to see throughout the next two weeks.
Players like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have started without an issue, but for some tournament favorites, the start of the 2012 U.S. Open hasn't been ideal. They haven't been the competitive force that they would have liked and appear to be one solid player away from elimination.
Let's take a look at some favorites who are on shaky ground early.
Almagro is looking very shaky heading into his second-round match against Philipp Petzschner at the 2012 U.S. Open.
The Spaniard had a difficult first-round match against Radek Stepanek—unable to get his serve as accurate as he would like and racking up too many unforced errors. He progressed through that match in four sets, but could face a tough time against Petzschner.
The German player beat big-serving Nicolas Mahut in the opening round—proof that he is capable of handling the surface at Flushing Meadows and a player with a dominant serve on those conditions. He possesses the technical game to indeed beat Almagro, though fatigue is likely to favor the clay court specialist in Almagro.
While there might not be a complete upset brewing in the second round, Almagro definitely isn't as comfortable as he'd like to be and is a little shaky early on.
American hopeful John Isner almost suffered the worst possible result in the opening round of the competition—winning a hard-fought battle against Xavier Malisse in four sets. Were it not for Malisse's poor serving, Isner may well have not made it through the competition at all.
The World No. 9 will face a fresh Jarkko Nieminen in the second round, and while the Finnish international isn't the toughest player on the circuit, he is still able to produce some quality tennis matches and Isner must be prepared for another hard match.
Isner's big serve will not save him every single match—particularly if his unforced errors continue to be a problem, like they were against Malisse.
Before you think I'm crazy for having the World No. 1 seed here who is yet to drop a set in the entire tournament so far, consider two main facts.
First, Azarenka is yet to play a decent opponent so far in the competition. No offense intended to either Alexandra Panova or Kristen Flipkens, but neither are of the caliber that should trouble one of the best players in the women's game.
Second, Jie Zheng is a genuine dark horse in the competition—having only played three sets so far in the tournament after her opponent retired in the opening round. The 29-year-old has the experience on the world circuit to undo Azarena in a shocking third-round upset.
With Zheng on hand now, and the likes of Li Na and Samantha Stosur waiting for a potential quarterfinal matchup, Azarenka has a tough road ahead of her in the next few days—one that I cannot see her prevailing through.
Who's not looking so good at the 2012 U.S. Open?
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