US Open Tennis 2012: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams Still the Ones to Beat

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIISeptember 5, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns a shot during his men's singles fourth round match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland on Day Nine of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Even with the rain-condensed schedule that will cause a back log of matches, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams remain the best bets for the closing stages of the United States Open.

Williams has been on a tear since her win this summer at Wimbledon and has been on fire here so far. In her first four singles matches, the younger Williams sister has only dropped 10 games in eight sets.

In fact, Williams has won her last three sets at love, going back to the first set of her defeat of Ekaterina Makarova. Williams’ serve has only been broken twice the entire tournament and not since the second round.

Her road to the final looks to be fairly easy. She faces Ava Ivanovic in her quarterfinal match next. Ivanovic has failed to ever even take a set off Williams in her career.

She would presumably face the winner of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci Friday afternoon in the semifinals. Errani and Vinci are actually doubles partners who are still very much alive in that draw. While Errani has had a good run of late in majors, Williams, at 31-years old, just may be playing the best tennis of her entire career right now.

Williams also should have the benefit of playing a more fatigued opponent in the final. While Victoria Azarenka will get a couple of days to rest after her three-set quarterfinal win over last year’s champion Sam Stosur, she will be seriously tested by either Maria Sharapova or Maria Bartoli in her semifinal.

Bartoli has had a very good run so far in New York, while Sharapova has pulled out some difficult victories after seemingly disappearing for key stretches of her last couple times on court.

If it is a Williams-Azarenka final, Serena will easily win if she can hold serve as she is returning serve better than anyone at the moment.

Djokovic has also faced an easy road so far at the Open.

After his first three rounds, Djokovic has only dropped 13 games and has not even come close to dropping a set so far.

The biggest hurdle in making the final for Novak will be his presumed quarterfinal. He would potentially face the winner of Juan Martin Del Potro or Andy Roddick. Del Potro has an Open championship under his belt while Roddick has looked incredibly loose in matches since announcing his retirement after this year’s Open.

Even though Djoker is a fan favorite, he would certainly be the underdog if he faces the very popular Roddick in a quarterfinal. That match—if it happens and the tournament catches up the backlog—would be at night Thursday on Arthur Ashe.

Still with the ease that Djokovic has gone through his draw so far, he will be very fresh for the match and have a day to recover for a semifinal meeting against either David Ferrer or the winner between Janko Tipsarevic and Philipp Kohlschreiber.

If the seeds advance like they are forecast to, then Djokovic would face either Roger Federer or Andy Murray in the final. What works to Djokovic’s favor is that the winner of Federer and Murray will have been severely tested just to win.

If they do meet, this will be the third big match between the two since the finals of Wimbledon. Federer winning Wimbledon itself while Murray won the gold medal three weeks later on fabled Centre Court.

If Novak survives his quarterfinal, there is no reason to think he will not be the fresher of his opponents the rest of the way and that alone should give him a big edge.