The men’s side of the 2014 U.S. Open will be missing something important—the defending champion.
Rafael Nadal withdrew from competition with a lingering wrist injury. It is certainly disappointing to fans who were hoping to once again see some of his magic from last year when he returned from a knee injury and won the title.
Nadal won at Roland Garros earlier this year but has not played since he lost in the round of 16 at Wimbledon to Nick Kyrgios.
The Washington Times noted the impact it had on the seeding for the remaining top stars in the field:
The door is always open for the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic when it comes to Grand Slam events, but the opportunity is even greater with no Nadal. With that in mind, here is a look at a couple of predictions for the remaining superstars in the field.
Federer is a 17-time Grand Slam winner but has not added to that total since 2012. However, he still has plenty of momentum on his side as he arrives in Flushing Meadows.
He reached the final at Wimbledon before falling to Djokovic in a five-set thriller and won an astounding sixth title in Cincinnati Sunday at the Western & Southern Open. He knocked off David Ferrer 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to extend his finals record in Cincinnati to a perfect 6-0.
Federer also reached the championship match in Toronto the week before but ultimately fell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Incredibly enough, Federer has reached the finals in four consecutive tournaments and sports a 9-1 record during the summer hard-court season thus far. It’s hard to argue against his credentials for the U.S. Open.
What’s more, as the No. 2 seed, he doesn’t have to face Djokovic until a potential showdown in the finals.
For those worried about fatigue after winning in Cincinnati, Federer seemed to have the right attitude, via Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian:
Now I come in [to Flushing Meadows] with great confidence. I can really rest now, rather than having to work on stuff. I can just enjoy New York for what it is and go out to the practice courts and do the opposite of what I had to do last year. Last year I went out there and did three-hour practice sessions and went for extra practice sessions after matches sometimes. That I don’t have to do. I know my game is where I want it to be. It’s about just keeping that level up right now.
The thought here is that the momentum and relative freshness (he appears as fresh as he can be at 33 years old given the weekly grind of the tennis tour) on Federer’s side will propel him to the championship match. Again, it’s very important that he doesn’t have to play Djokovic until that last meeting in terms of reaching the finals.
However, Federer’s Wimbledon loss to Djokovic was just the latest in a series of head-to-head losses, which can be seen below. Yes, Federer holds the all-time lead at 18-17, but Djokovic has won five of the past seven and is 11-5 in the past 16 dating back to the 2011 Australian Open. Djokovic is also only 27 years old, won their last U.S. Open meeting and didn’t play as many matches in Cincinnati or Toronto as Federer.
|2014||ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Monte Carlo||Clay||Federer|
|2014||ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells||Hard||Djokovic|
|2013||Barclays ATP World Tour Finals||Hard||Djokovic|
|2013||ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Paris||Hard||Djokovic|
|2012||Barclays ATP World Tour Finals||Hard||Djokovic|
|2012||ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Cincinnati||Hard||Federer|
|2012||ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome||Clay||Djokovic|
|2011||ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells||Hard||Djokovic|
Just like Wimbledon, Djokovic will hold up the trophy at the end with a victory over Federer.
We know what the prediction is now for tennis’ top-rated player. He lost to Nadal in the finals at last year’s U.S. Open, but that obstacle is unfortunately no longer in the way.
Who wins this hypothetical finals matchup?
Even with the Wimbledon title, there isn’t a lot of momentum on Djokovic’s side right now. He lost in the third round in Cincinnati to Tommy Robredo and the third round in Toronto to eventual champion Tsonga. Sure, these aren’t as important as the Grand Slam events, but it’s still not exactly how Djokovic wanted to show up to Flushing Meadows.
Despite the struggles, he’s the top-rated player and has made the final at the U.S. Open four straight years. He hasn’t lost before the semis since 2006 and appears comfortable every time he takes the court here.
Plus, he had lost in five of his previous six championship matches at Grand Slams before knocking off Federer at Wimbledon, so that proverbial monkey is off his back.
It will be forever gone with another title at Flushing Meadows.
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