The final major tournament of the season shows the strength in depth of any player in any sport. The US Open is no different. Roger Federer eyes a sixth successive title, while in the women's the competition looks fierce.
Seven games stand between Federer and a million dollar prize at Flushing Meadows in the men's singles. This year the focus is on stopping the Swiss star. On his side of the draw are Nikolay Davydenko and Lleyton Hewitt, with Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick potential semi-final opponents.
While analysts eye yet another Nadal v Federer in the men's final, there could be a surprise or two thrown in with Robin Söderling a potential surprise in an early exit for Federer.
Juan Martín del Potro should face Andy Murray for the right to play Nadal on the opposite side of the draw. The Spaniard continues his fight back after injury, but if on top of his game should put away opponents with relative ease until he reaches the semi-finals.
Below par performances from Nadal following his injury perhaps takes some of the pressure away, but to prevent a sixth US Open for Federer should be motivation enough to get him to the latter stages of the competition.
Federer has struggled twice this year on his way to the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments. In the fourth round of the Australian and French Open Tomas Berdych and Tommy Haas shot to a two set lead, before becoming just another statistic.
A quarter-final clash with Söderling could provide the biggest upset in the competition. After defeating Nadal in the French Open Söderling he has been on a high. He will be hoping to avenge his loss in the final at Roland Garros but needs to rid himself of the inconsistency that saw him defeat Nadal in that tournament before being crushed by Federer in the final. Federer needs a test in each tournament on which to build on and Söderling could be it.
It may very well be the best matchup in the quarter-final rounds. Novak Djokovic reached the final of the Australian Open without losing a set before beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final. He proved he can beat Federer, unlike Roddick, and this could be the battle of the big servers.
Roddick will have to deal with the powerful forehand of Djokovic, but Roddick should have too much for the 22 year-old. Roddick should be tested by Tommy Haas in the earlier round and should overpower the semi-finalist of two years ago.
Andy Murray has the upper hand having beaten the Argentine in the final of the Masters 1000 in Montreal. He has finally emerged from the gloomy and largely winless shadows of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski and starts the tournament as the second best ranked player. His first and second serve percentage remains poor and mistakes could cost him against Juan Martín del Potro.
The youngster comes into the final Grand Slam of the year on the back of deafeating Rafael Nadal, but fatigue could play some part in how far del Potro will go in the competition. Having beaten Nadal on the last two occasions, he has proven he can remain calm under pressure and will need every bit of skill to beat Murray.
It was against Nadal that Tsonga made a name for himself in tennis, when the then unseeded Frenchman left Nadal powerless in a straight set victory. He has stagnated since then somewhat and in 2009 has played poorly against weaker opposition.
The biggest question is whether Tsonga can make the quarter-final stage and and if so what he can do to match Nadal. If an early exit is on the cards for Nadal it could be against Tsonga, with the Spaniard having also been below par since injury prevented him from playing Wimbledon.
Nadal’s biggest problem could be the knee injury that prevented him from defending his Wimbledon crown. Since withdrawing he has registered a string of unconvincing performances.
A semi-final encounter with Potro (should the Argentine advance past Andy Murray) would provide the Spaniard with a test he has not had since his surprise defeat to Robin Söderling in the French Open this year. Del Potro, 20, would provide a bigger test for Nadal, psychologically as well as physically, as it was against the Argentine that Nadal relinquished his No. 2 ranking.
Del Potro has struggled to make an impression when playing the top players, like Federer, but should he put Murray to the sword momentum and a bit of luck could see him make a Grand Slam final appearance. He has been calm under pressure and if he can put Nadal on the back foot early on, doubt could creep into the former No. 1’s mind, although a long fought season could count against him.
It would be foolish to cast aside the challenge the monster serve of Andy Roddick possesses. He is the last player to have won at Flushing Meadows prior to the dominance of Federer, but needs to avoid the killer Swiss’s killer forehand.
If the past five US Open tournaments have shown the world anything, Federer lacks complacency. Roddick will get an opportunity, but he can’t let it pass him by. He has lost four Grand Slam finals to Federer including three Wimbledon finals.
Federer’s biggest strength is that he can match most shots played against him, not necessarily going for the decisive killer shots, but forcing his opponent into mistakes.
Roddick needs to cast aside the severe beatings he has received at the hands of Federer in the past. A quarter-final defeat of fourth seed Novak Djokovic could give him the confidence to finally defeat Federer in a Grand Slam.
Having finally put the ghosts of every Federer deafet to bed, Roddick would wear the favourites tag in a match between the two. With Nadal coming back from injury, the onus will be on the American to dig deep and win his second US Open.
He knows what it is like to lose a final (well four) and his motivation will be a driving force behind any challenge. Should he get to the final, he won't let it slip from his grasp.