The Top Americans with a Shot to Win the 2010 U.S. Open
Rumors of the United States' demise in tennis were greatly exaggerated this summer. Although no men were ranked in the ATP top 10 for the first time in the history of the rankings, tennis in America is alive and well.
While only one male player (Andy Roddick) is currently ranked inside the top 10, fellow Americans Mardy Fish, John Isner, and Sam Querrey are all playing well and could make a deep run at this year's tournament.
Though Serena Williams' withdrawal from New York leaves the field wide open, it may give sister Venus her last great chance at a Grand Slam title. Venus was bounced early from the tournament at Wimbledon, but her lack of playing this summer may cost her on the hardcourts at Flushing Meadows.
There may not be a dominant U.S. player on either side of the draw, but depth in each draw could render a player deep into the second week in New York.
Unfortunately, the following players have no shot at a deep run in the Open, let alone winning the title: James Blake, Taylor Dent, Vania King, Christina McHale, Lisa Raymond, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Melanie Oudin was the feel-good story at the 2009 U.S. Open. She shocked the tennis world making it to the quarterfinals of the tournament before losing to eventual finalist, Caroline Wozniacki.
Oudin has struggled mightily since her success at last year's final Grand Slam tournament. She lost in the first round at both the Australian and French Open, while being bounced in the second round at Wimbledon. She has found that maintaining success is much harder than making one big run.
A good draw has given life to Oudin, but she'll need to muster up some of last year's magic in order to duplicate another run to the final eight. She's in the same part of the draw as French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, but Schiavone hasn't done anything of note since Paris.
A second round match-up with Alona Bondarenko looms, but the New York crowd should drive Oudin to pull the upset.
My prediction: Oudin makes it to the fourth round before losing to Victoria Azarenka.
Before the 2010 season began, John Isner was best known for his upset at last year's U.S. Open over fellow American Andy Roddick on his way to a fourth-round appearance. Now, everyone knows Isner for his marathon match against Nicholas Mahut at this year's Wimbledon.
Isner is one of the most feared players to face on the tour, especially in New York thanks to his big serve. The question for Isner will be if he has completely recovered from his match at the All England Club in June.
Like Oudin, Isner has a draw set up for possible success. If the seeds hold true, he'll play No. 12 Mikhail Youzhny in the third round. Isner should not only get to Youzhny, but beat him as well. Although a title may be out of reach for him this year, he should be a threat in New York for the next several years.
My prediction: Isner makes a second straight appearance in the fourth round before losing in four sets to Tomas Berdych.
Isner's doubles partner, Sam Querrey, got off to a great start this summer defeating Andy Murray in the finals in Los Angeles. It was his first victory over a top five player and should give him great confidence heading into the ultra-quick courts in New York.
Like Isner, Querrey has a very good serve. However, he can follow that up with a wicked forehand. The weather is expected to be scorching in the first week, which should serve Querrey's game quite well.
It seems as though draw officials have gone out of their way to get as many Americans deep into the tournament as possible. Querrey's draw is set up perfectly for a deep run to electrify the crowds. This tournament could very well serve as Querrey's first step towards a top 10 ranking.
My prediction: The fast courts will send Querrey into a fourth-round matchup with Andy Murray. I think Querrey will lose that match in five sets, but no one should be surprised if he pulls off another victory over the fourth seed. Doing so could set Querrey up for a run all the way to the semifinals.
Mardy Fish has gone from having one foot out the door towards retirement to a legitimate contender heading into the Open.
After knee surgery and dropping 30 pounds, Fish made it to the finals of the tournament in Cincinnati before dropping a tough match to Roger Federer. Fish showed the physical tools and mental toughness needed to win in New York.
This could be Fish's last good chance to win a major. He'll turn 29 in December, but one must wonder how long is body can hold up against the grinds on the tour.
He has shown his fitness is up to championship standards, and the crowd's energy could give him the extra boost needed for an unforgettable tournament. His best finish ever at the Open was his quarterfinal appearance in 2008, and he should find similar success this year.
My prediction: Fish comes in as the 19th seed, but he'll go further than his seed indicates. He'll pull off the upset over 16th seed Marcos Baghdatis in the third round before facing the third seed Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has struggled this summer, and although I think Fish will lose this match, don't be surprised to see him pull it off and make it to the quarterfinals where he could face fellow American and friend Andy Roddick.
Venus Williams is one of the greatest female players in U.S. history, but she's much closer to the finish line than she may care to admit. The 30-year-old lost uncharacteristically early in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, and she hasn't played since.
Despite winning the Open twice in her career, Williams hasn't played in the finals of the tournament since 2002. With her sister's departure due to a foot injury, this could be the last great chance for Venus to win a major title.
She'll enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed, but her lack of playing this summer will catch up with her at some point. She has a good draw to make a deep run, but no one should be surprised if her inactivity causes her to exit early in the first week.
My prediction: Venus will struggle early to get her legs under her, but her savvy will help her make a deep run. Expect a quarterfinal appearance before losing to Victoria Azarenka. If Azarenka isn't there, Venus could reach the semis before losing to last year's champion Kim Clijsters.
After a memorable loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009, many felt Roddick was poised for a deep run in New York. As seems to be the case for most of his career, Roddick disappointed and lost in the third round to John Isner.
Roddick made it to the quarterfinals in Australia, but he lost in the third round at the French and fourth round at Wimbledon. It was then revealed a few weeks ago that he has been suffering from a case of mono, which was the likely cause to his lack of energy and poor play.
He went on a nice run in Cincinnati before losing a tough three-set match to Mardy Fish. He's had a couple weeks for more recovery time, and he should enter New York healthy and ready for a deep run.
Like Venus Williams, this could be Roddick's last great chance at a major title. It's certainly been disappointing that he's only won the Open once in his career, but it's not his fault he's played in the era of the greatest player ever.
My prediction: Roddick will need help for a deep run, but he does have a favorable draw. I don't think he'll play a seeded player until No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko in the fourth round. Roddick will win that match and then beat third-seeded Djokovic in the quarterfinals. He'll then beat Robin Soderling on Super Saturday to reach his third U.S. Open final before losing to Rafael Nadal.
For hardcore tennis fans, it's hard to imagine that the best shot for a win at the Open is a doubles team, but that is the case for the 2010 U.S. Open, especially since the doubles team in question isn't the Williams sisters.
Bob and Mike Bryan are the top doubles team in the world, and they have teamed together to win eight Grand Slam titles, including the U.S. Open in 2005 and 2008.
The brothers are in good form, having won the titles in Cincinnati and Toronto. New York would only cement a great summer, and add to their legacy as the greatest doubles team ever.
My prediction: The Bryan brothers will win the doubles' title over Nestor and Zimonjic, but few will notice. The focus of tennis fans and the national media will be on Andy Roddick's magical run to the finals, but the Bryans will get their due after Roddick's loss in the final.