US Open Tennis 2014: Predictions and Tournament Preview

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistAugust 18, 2014

US Open Tennis 2014: Predictions and Tournament Preview

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Ladies and gentlemen, we've made it to New York. After a topsy-turvy tennis season, it's finally time for the last major of the year: the U.S. Open.

    The top players in the world will descend upon Flushing Meadows at the end of this week to get ready to battle it out under the lights.

    Former champions such as Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will all be competing for glory while some fresher faces will try to play spoiler and cement their place in tennis history.

    There's nothing quite as exciting as tennis in the Big Apple, so it's important to study up and be ready for all of the action.

    Luckily, we have you covered. Keep reading for a full preview of the 2014 U.S. Open.

The State of the Men's Game in 2014

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    Aaron Favila/Associated Press

    Rafa Nadal Is Injured

    Due to a wrist injury sustained in practice, Rafael Nadal had to miss the two Masters 1000 events this summer, and he announced Monday via a Facebook post (h/t AP, ABC News) that he would miss the U.S. Open as well. Despite his French Open win, it's been a season of struggles for the world No. 2.

    With the defending champion sitting New York out, the whole complexion of the field is different.

    The Top Guys Are a Bit Shaky

    If you haven't been paying attention to tennis closely this year, you might not recognize the guys at the top of the game. Sure, their names ring a bell—Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray—but they look a bit different on the court.

    Djokovic has looked unsure of himself and his game all year. And while he was still able to win Wimbledon, he has not looked good this summer, falling early at the Rogers Cup and the Western & Southern Open.

    Murray, meanwhile, hasn't looked the same since coming back from back surgery at the beginning of the season. 

    Federer is in the best form of all of them, but his best isn't unbeatable. The top three are still dangerous but not as dominant as they have been in the past—hence why Stanislas Wawrinka was able to win the Australian Open at the beginning of the year.

    The Young Guys Are Coming

    As the guys at the top begin to show cracks in their facades, the younger generation is starting to make some waves. I use the term "younger" loosely here to mean the 25-and-under crowd. Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori have particularly made big impressions this season.

    Slowly but surely, there are signs that it's time for the next generation to shine.

Men's Key Storylines at the U.S. Open

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Can Roger Federer Win Another Slam?

    Most people thought that Wimbledon was Roger Federer's best chance to win Slam No. 18, but right now, his odds at the U.S. Open are looking pretty good too.

    Federer had a great U.S. Open Series, making the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto and winning the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati for his first Masters 1000 win in two years. With Nadal out and the other top guys struggling, he could create some more magic in New York.

    Will Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray Find His Form?

    A lot of Federer's (and everyone else's) chances at the U.S. Open depends upon whether Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray can find their games in time to make a run.

    Murray needs to stop overthinking things and blowing easy leads, while Djokovic needs to start trusting in his shots again. Both will be dangerous if they can get through the first week but could be prone to upsets during their first few matches.

    Is It Time for a Younger Guy to Break Through?

    Stanislas Wawrinka started the year with an upset, taking out Djokovic and Nadal to win the Australian Open. After Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov made the semis of Wimbledon, all eyes will be on the next generation to see if one of those guys can get their maiden Slam.

Underrated Men's Players to Watch

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    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 

    Tsonga has been discussed among the next best things of tennis since he made the Australian Open final back in 2008, but he hasn't ever really lived up to his early promise.

    But a couple of weeks ago in Canada, Tsonga beat Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to win the Rogers Cup, the biggest title of his career. Per ASAP Sports, that win made him feel like anything is possible:

    You know, you always have a moment where you doubt.  But I think, you know, when you decide to be a tennis player you know that will happen and you know that there is no ‑‑every mountain, you know, can be reached at the top. 

    So you continue to believe in it.  Even if, you know, people around you say you're not able to do it, you believe in it.  And when you believe in something, you know, it make it sometimes possible. 

    Grigor Dimitrov

    The 23-year-old Bulgarian has risen all the way to No. 8 in the world this year. And with his win over Andy Murray in the Wimbledon quarters, he seemed to announce himself as a contender for majors.

    With coach Roger Rasheed by his side, Dimitrov has risen to new heights in 2014. But he has his eyes set on a major, and if the cards fall his way, he could fulfill his dreams at the U.S. Open.

    Milos Raonic

    Another 23-year-old, Raonic has had a great summer, making the semis of Wimbledon, the semis of Cincinnati and winning his biggest title at the Citi Open.

    The Canadian is far from content with his accomplishments thus far, which includes a rise to No. 6 in the rankings. He wants be No. 1; a win at Flushing Meadows would help him get there.

    Also Dangerous: Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer

Top Men's Contenders

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    Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

    Novak Djokovic

    Despite his struggles this summer, Djokovic is still the No. 1 player in the world and the reigning Wimbledon champion. He's made the final in New York for the past four years and hasn't lost before the semis since 2006. Sketchy form or not, he's the favorite until he's out of the tournament.

    Roger Federer

    Federer just keeps on winning. The 33-year-old had a great summer, and should be feeling confident going into the major that he won five years in a row. If he hadn't struggled in New York recently, he might even be the overwhelming favorite.

    However, as it stands, he hasn't won the tournament since 2008 and hasn't been back to the final since losing to Juan Martin del Potro in 2009. But count him out at your own risk.

    Andy Murray

    Murray hasn't done much this year to convince me that he can win the U.S. Open, but he has won two majors in the past two years and surely loves playing in New York. It's the site of his first major victory and the perfect surface and environment for him to find his championship form again. 

    Yes, after all of this talk about newcomers, I'd say the top contenders are still the most familiar names in tennis.

Men's Predictions

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Andy Murray Will Be Involved in a Dramatic Five-Setter in the First Week

    Somewhere around Wednesday or Thursday during the first week, 2012 champion Andy Murray will turn a routine match against someone you've barely heard of into a dramatic, masochistic, unnecessary marathon.

    If he can get past this match, he'll probably make it to the semis or beyond. But he might not make it through.

    There Will Be a New Name in the Semis

    Since there will be draw openings with Rafael Nadal out and David Ferrer and Stanislas Wawrinka having entire quarters of the draw to themselves, I expect there will be a surprise or two in the semis. I'm not talking about guys like Raonic, Dimitrov or Tsonga that I've mentioned already. I mean someone that none of us will see coming. 

    Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer Will Win

    The draw comes later this week, and that will tell us which of the top two seeds will have a better shot at winning the title. But I think after all the chaos and focus on upstarts, the champion will have been there before.

The State of the Women's Game in 2014

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    Serena Williams Has Been Bad at the Majors

    So far in 2014, Serena hasn't even made it to the quarterfinals of a major. She lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open to Ana Ivanovic, the second round of the French Open to Garbine Muguruza and the third round of Wimbledon to Alize Cornet.

    She's still No. 1 in the world and she's won five other titles this year, but her nerves have gotten the best of her when it's counted the most.

    Former No. 1s and Past Grand Slam Champions Have Reemerged as Threats

    Remember Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and former No. 1? Well, she's back in the WTA Top 10 for the first time in five years and she's beating players like Maria Sharapova and Serena. Caroline Wozniacki, who finished as the year-end No. 1 twice, is playing some of her best tennis in years.

    Meanwhile, Sharapova won another French Open this year, and former No. 2 Petra Kvitova won her second Wimbledon title. Li Na won the Australian Open for her second major title as well, but she's out of the U.S. Open due to injury. Most of the WTA's top stars are in great form this season, and it's been a blast to watch.

    Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard Have Impressed on the Big Stages

    Two up-and-comers have arrived on the big stages this year and made a splash. Simona Halep, 22, made the French Open final and the Wimbledon semis, and is now No. 2 in the world. Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, just 20, has made the semis of every major this year and even made the final of Wimbledon. For women's tennis, the future might just be now. 

Women's Key Storylines at the U.S. Open

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Can Serena Williams Survive the First Week? 

    This one is pretty self explanatory. Serena is, without a doubt, the most vulnerable early in events. If she can make it to the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows, the trophy will be all but hers. However, she hasn't made it that far at a major in a year.

    Will Maria Sharapova Find U.S. Open Success Again?

    It feels like Sharapova and New York are a match made in heaven, but that has not been the case lately. The Russian hasn't been back to the U.S. Open final since winning it in 2006, and she's only made the semifinals once in that time period, in 2012.

    Sharapova missed the tournament last year due to shoulder problems, so this year she'll have her sights set on reversing her fortunes in Queens.

    Which Petra Kvitova Will Show Up? 

    Kvitova reminded the world what a dominating force she can be when she won Wimbledon in breathtaking fashion earlier this year. When she's on, she can beat anyone.

    But the Czech lefty is incredibly inconsistent, and she has trouble playing in the New York humidity. If she reins in her game, she could be a huge factor at the end of the tournament. She could also lose meekly in the first round. We'll have to wait and see.

Underrated Women's Players to Watch

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Agnieszka Radwanska 

    One of the stranger facts in tennis is the fact that Radwanska, a perennial top-five player, has never made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.

    The Pole won the Rogers Cup a couple of weeks ago, showing that she is indeed in great form on the summer hard courts. Look for her to finally make a deep run in New York.

    Venus Williams

    Big sister has had quite a summer. After pushing eventual champion Petra Kvitova to the brink in the third round of Wimbledon, Venus came out on fire during the U.S. Open Series, with wins over Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and even little sister Serena. 

    Venus is back in the WTA Top 20 now, and even at 34, she's someone that nobody wants to play in Flushing Meadows. 

    Eugenie Bouchard

    The Canadian has been pretty meek at the smaller tournaments this year, and then a dangerous threat at all of the majors. Despite her rocky U.S. Open Series, there's no reason to believe that Bouchard, now ranked No. 8, can't do some damage at the U.S. Open too.

    Also Dangerous: Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki

Top Women's Contenders

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Serena Williams

    No matter her form, Serena Williams is a favorite anytime she enters a tournament. Of course, after she won Stanford and Cincinnati this summer and made the semifinals of Montreal, she's looking to be playing close to her best tennis too. Watch out.

    Maria Sharapova

    Sharapova's competitiveness is off the charts, and even though she's not played her best tennis throughout 2014, she's still in first place in the year-to-date rankings. The Russian has done a lot in her career, but she's never won two majors in one season. She'll be trying to accomplish that in New York.

    Simona Halep

    Halep might not be a familiar name to casual fans yet, but that should be taken care of soon. The Romanian has had a breakout season, and her No. 2 ranking is no coincidence. The 22-year-old is just a beat away from getting a signature win and becoming a major champion, and with her Clijsters-like on-court versatility, that could very well happen at the U.S. Open.

Women's Predictions

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Victoria Azarenka Will Fall Early

    The past two years, Victoria Azarenka has made it to the U.S. Open final and given Serena Williams a run for her money. But after Azarenka has struggled with injuries all season, it's hard to see her making it that far this year.

    In fact, the Belarusian will likely fall in a hard-fought but erratic match in the first two rounds.

    Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska Will Both Make the Quarterfinals

    Sharapova has only made it to the quarters of the U.S. Open once since 2006, while Radwanska has somehow never made it that far. Both of them will be in the final eight this year.

    Serena Will Win

    Bold, I know. But it's just next to impossible to imagine 2014 finishing without Serena adding to her major tally.