Tennis will take center stage on the sports calendar one more time in 2014 with the U.S. Open. As the final major tournament of the year, as well as the only one to be contested on American soil, there will be lofty expectations for the big event.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of American stars on the men's side, it doesn't seem likely that any U.S. player will break the country's streak without a Grand Slam title. Andy Roddick's 2003 U.S. Open win remains the last Grand Slam title for any American.
The event also took a hit in star power when Rafael Nadal withdrew due to a wrist injury. It's still going to be full of drama like we always expect from the big tournaments, so why waste anymore time talking about what isn't going to happen.
|2014 U.S. Open TV Schedule|
|August 25||11 a.m.- 7 p.m.(Tennis Channel); 1 p.m.-7 p.m. (ESPN)||First Round|
|August 26||11 a.m.- 7 p.m.(Tennis Channel); 1 p.m.-6 p.m. (ESPN)||First Round|
|August 27||11 a.m.- 7 p.m.(Tennis Channel); 1 p.m.-6 p.m. (ESPN)||Men's First Round; Women's Second Round|
|August 28||11 a.m.- 7 p.m.(Tennis Channel); 1 p.m.-6 p.m. (ESPN)||Second Round|
|August 29||11 a.m.- 7 p.m.(Tennis Channel); 1 p.m.-6 p.m. (ESPN)||Men's Second Round; Women's Third Round|
|August 30||11 a.m.-6 p.m. (CBS); 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (Tennis Channel)||Third Round|
|August 31||11 a.m.-6 p.m. (CBS); 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (Tennis Channel)||Men's Third Round; Women's Round of 16|
|September 1||11 a.m.-6 p.m. (CBS)||Round of 16|
|September 2||11 a.m.-7 p.m. (ESPN)||Men's Round of 16; Women's Quarterfinals|
|September 3||Noon-6 p.m. (ESPN)||Quarterfinals|
|September 4||Noon-6 p.m. (ESPN)||Men's Quarterfinals|
|September 5||12:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS)||Women's Semifinals|
|September 6||Noon-6 p.m. (CBS)||Men's Semifinals|
|September 7||12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (ESPN2); 4:30 p.m.-7 p.m. (CBS)||Men's Doubles Final; Women's Final|
|September 8||5 p.m.-8 p.m. (CBS)||Men's Final|
Roger Federer's Last Stand
Given how long we have talked about Roger Federer not winning a major title, you would think he'd dropped off the face of the earth. The 33-year-old is in a Grand Slam drought, last winning one of the big four events in 2012 (Wimbledon).
However, it would be a mistake to think Federer has nothing left in the tank. He was the final at Wimbledon and took top-seeded Novak Djokovic to five sets in a marathon that lasted nearly four hours with all the drama you would expect.
Now, with one of Federer's biggest obstacles out of the way (Nadal), the door is open for the 17-time major winner to get back in the winner's circle. Making things easier, as Courtney Nguyen of SI.com wrote, is the draw:
Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are all in the top half of the draw, leaving No. 5 David Ferrer (who Federer beat the last two weeks and has a 16-0 record against), the slumping Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov as the top seeds remaining in Federer's draw.
Federer has built momentum coming into the U.S. Open, winning the Western & Southern Open last week for his first victory since June. If there is one more major for the veteran will win, it is going to be the U.S. Open.
Who Is Serena Williams?
This has been one of the most unusual years of Serena Williams' career. The top-seeded woman at Flushing Meadows is the odds-on favorite to capture her sixth U.S. Open title and third straight.
However, doing so would require Williams to buck her current trend in Grand Slam events. The American star hasn't made it past the fourth round of any major in 2014. There was also the scary incident during her doubles match with sister Venus, when an illness prevented her from hitting the ball with any authority.
In many ways, this year perfectly encapsulates what we know of Williams' career. Johnette Howard of ESPNW.com wrote an article titled "Will The Real Serena Williams Please Stand Up?" in which she flat out says that Williams seems to take pride in being an enigma:
Pendulous swings in her mood, health and level of play have been an overarching pattern in her career. So have long breaks. She defies categorization, and she courts celebrity more than her more introverted older sister, Venus. But they're both rugged individualists and near equals when it comes to talking the sort of zany Williamspeak and non sequiturs they often use to deflect questions.
While the character quirks are part of what fascinate us about Williams, it's hard not to think that at age 32 she's losing her grip on top of the women's tennis circuit. While no one has matched her dominance, nor are they likely to, the lack of success in majors is alarming.
Even if she doesn't come out on top at the U.S. Open, which wouldn't be a surprise with the women's side looking deeper than it has in a long time with Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Li Na and Petra Kvitova looking like formidable competition, Williams has to make a deep run to silence her doubters.
Is There An American Man Worth Watching?
It's alarming to look at the stage of men's tennis in the United States right now. There is only one player ranked in the top 25 of the ATP rankings (John Isner, No. 15) and two in the top 50.
In addition to not having a major winner since Roddick in 2003, there hasn't been an American man in the finals of a Grand Slam event since Roddick lost to Federer at Wimbledon in that 2009 five-set classic.
Kamakshi Tandon of ESPN.com painted a realistic picture of what this year's U.S. Open will be like for American men (Hint: It's bleak):
Isner's best showing was a quarterfinal in 2011, also his best Grand Slam result. "It's one of my favorite tournaments," he said. "I would say it's our Grand Slam. I've always played extremely well there, also."
Being a top U.S. up-and-comer has usually come with intense pressure, but the demands are now reduced. Jack Sock, 21, says the presence of Isner and other veterans means he has not yet been thrust into the spotlight.
Things don't figure to get better for Americans, especially with Isner withdrawing from the Winston-Salem Open on Thursday with a sprained ankle, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
The road to recovery for American men is going to be a long one, so it's best to go into the U.S. Open with low expectations. That way, any run a player does make can feel like a big deal.
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