Despite the absence of the erstwhile World No. 1 and defending champion, Rafael Nadal, and the ever-present rain, Wimbledon served up more than its fair share of tennis drama that we have come to expect from SW19, thanks in large part to the heroics of Andy Roddick.
What the events of the last two weeks have done is to undoubtedly open up the floodgates for what promises to be probably the most open U.S. Open in the last five years. While we cannot afford to look too much past a certain Swiss gentleman who, incidentally is not only the five-time defending champion, but is also riding a wave of confidence after capturing the last two majors and regaining the No. 1 ranking, we also cannot overlook the upcoming return of the Spaniard, presumably at the Montreal Masters in early August.
Nadal, for his part, loves to prove his critics wrong, and despite beliefs that tennis pundits held during the early part of his career, has won titles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the latter of which he was unable to defend this year. The question marks for him going into the U.S. Open will primarily relate to how his knees will hold up on his return and how soon he can return to form. Having said that, the U.S. Open will still be his most challenging event given the speed of the court and the stress the surface puts on a player's knees.
Putting themselves as legitimate contenders for the title will be Scot Andy Murray, a resurgent Andy Roddick, fast improving Juan Martin Del Potro and of course, Novak Djokovic.
Andy Murray was quick to proclaim after his Wimbledon semifinal loss to Roddick that it was only a matter of time before he won his first major. He also mentioned during last year’s tournament that the U.S. Open was his favorite and his game appears well-suited to the surface, more so than at Wimbledon. If his fitness holds, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be one of the top favorites with Federer to win the title in September.
Andy Roddick, in no small measure, signaled his comeback into legitimate contender lists, after playing that epic Wimbledon final against Roger Federer. Roddick seems to have benefitted significantly from his association with coach Larry Stefanki, who, it appears, has wisely focused on the American’s strengths and made them even better. Case in point – the body serve that he used so effectively against Federer was seldom used, if ever, in Roddick’s career before.
Del Potro, over the last year or so, has emerged as a very legitimate threat, with very good results on American hardcourts as well as at the majors. Notably, he has wins over both Nadal and Murray this year, and came very close to denying Federer at Roland Garros in the semifinals.
Serb Novak Djokovic has failed to live up to expectations ever since his Australian Open triumph in 2008, after which many people thought it was only a matter of time before he took over the reins from Federer and Nadal. His confidence seems to be lacking against top players recently; however, he has proved that he has the game to win at the biggest stage, and if he gets his confidence back and improves his fitness, there is no reason why he should not be considered one of the favorites for the title.
Dark horses for the title, or at least to get through to the latter stages of the Open, will be: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils (if healthy), Robin Soderling and Tommy Haas, who have all proved that they can play on more than one surface.
All said and done, get your seatbelts on and get ready for a very promising U.S. Open.