2010 U.S. Open Preview: Fernando Verdasco Will Be Dark Horse

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2010 U.S. Open Preview: Fernando Verdasco Will Be Dark Horse
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Spain will continue to dominate—not just the world of soccer—but also tennis. Specifically, a final featuring Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and fellow countryman Rafael Nadal is not out of the question (barring pairings that don’t allow for the possibility).

Tomas Berdych and Nadal have been the hottest players in tennis.

Novak Djokovic is always an unpredictable and combustible combination who can either explode or implode.

Mr. Roger Federer is always Mr. Roger Federer. One can never count him out.

England's number one racket, Andy Murray is playing well. The 2010 Australian Open finalist came close to winning the U.S. Open back in 2008. Only an inspired performance by "Roge" prevented the Brit from winning his first Grand Slam title. Murray is coming into the U.S. Open with a relatively low profile this year. This may be a plus taking away the pressure of high expectations.

Robin Soderling is as efficient as he is boring on and off the field. So hopefully he does not win. Nothing personal.

Nikolay Davydenko is another Soderling, just barely less boring and barely above mediocre from an entertainment value perspective. But he is a Top 10 player because he does rack up wins in relatively meaningless tournaments.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro is not even half the shadow of what he was last year. The Argentinean is out of shape and simply not in a position to repeat.

Andy Roddick, well, he could be the other dark horse. The home crowd adores him, but the hard-serving Nebraskan tends to get pumped up, fight hard, only to fizzle out at the end. The only time he got through was in 2003 when he won the U.S. Open. Could this be the year he finally gets back on course?

Which brings me back to the 10th-ranked player in the world, Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard puts together an explosive and powerful game, with lefty craftiness, superb conditioning, and a bravado personality that just does not quit. He is kept in superior shape by the same trainer that revamped the late career of Andre Agassi. 

Verdasco has the potential to be the top player in the world.

Could this be just wishful thinking? Well, yes, some of it is surely based on optimistic projections and the belief that the U.S. Open is where he has the best chance of breaking through and grabbing his first Grand Slam title.

Verdasco does have the charisma, good looks, and confident personality that can take a sports star off the sports pages and into everyone’s living rooms. The 26-year-old tennis star could potentially do for tennis what David Beckham does for soccer and what Michael Jordan did for basketball.

But first he has to win.

Can he win this tournament? Can he beat Nadal?

He has lost all 10 matches he has played against Nadal. He has no chance of beating Nadal on clay and just a little more chance at victory on grass. But given his extremely fast feet, court coverage and absolutely superb conditioning, hard courts present the best venue for him to have a shot at beating Nadal.

Remember, Nadal has yet to win a U.S. Open title. Psychologically, Nadal is not very confident in this tournament and on this surface. Plus, nothing lasts forever.

On the other hand, Nadal is red-hot and looks determined to achieve a career Grand Slam, and in order to complete the deed, he needs to grab the trophy being handed out in Flushing, Queens.

My adventurous pick is Verdasco by a whisker over Nadal.

A safer, more logical scenario is a wonderful and hard-fought win by Nadal over Verdasco, or a pesky Federer, a pumped-up Roddick, or a tenacious Murray.

Regardless, great action is surely coming your way at Flushing Meadows. The hard-hitting action colored by the always loud and rowdy NYC crowd, starts on August 30. 

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