Here are my quick predictions for the 2008 US Open.
There are a few good storylines in this year's field. Let's start with Andy Murray; the new hope of the Wimbledon faithful has come on nicely in the last year.
I think Murray will have a good showing this year at the US Open, the kind of showing that propels a player to another level in the coming year. He won't win it, but he'll be in the quarters, and he'll be dangerous.
We move to Andy Roddick, the 2003 Champion. Roddick has had many Grand Slam disappointments since winning here five years ago. The disappointing streak has gone on too long in my opinion.
Roddick and company needed to fix whatever was wrong a few years ago. Part of the problem was strategy. Roddick seems to change his match strategy while he's winning a match, whereas he sticks with the same game plan when he's getting beaten.
It's for that reason that Roddick could never beat Roger Federer in a big match, or any match really in the last few years. Now, you've got players who are giving Roger a run for his money.
I think it's a little late in the game for Roddick unless something drastic happens to the draw or his on court strategy. The New York crowd will cheer him on, and Andy thrives on it. That said, I don't see better than a quarterfinal finish.
James Blake has been talked about going into the last few US Opens. Ever since he had that epic five-set match with Andre Agassi in '05, people have been expecting big things from Blake. Unfortunately, nothing has happened.
Blake is a talented, very fit player with a big forehand. That forehand is a weapon that James sometimes doesn't know how to use.
It's a shot that can control a rally and an entire match if used right, but James always tends to overhit. Until he can rein in that forehand and not go for broke so often in a rally, nothing will happen at Flushing.
Give Blake credit, he beat Federer at the Olympics, but that won't mean much here. To the disappointment of many, Blake doesn't get further than the fourth round here.
That leaves us with the top three players in the world. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic. Djokovic won in Australia, and we all know what Rafa did to Fed at the French and Wimbledon.
I'm not a big believer in the notion that Nadal will wear down at this year's Open. I realize this has happened in the last couple of years, but Rafael has taken himself to a whole new level this year. A fourth French title, his first Wimbledon crown, a gold medal, and the No. 1 ranking. What a year.
I think he will continue his run here, but not all the way to the title. Djokovic is lurking and is very dangerous. He won the year's other hard court Grand Slam title and he will be tough to beat. He can play here, having been in last year's final. He won't win either.
The heartbreak of a "slump" and losing his Wimbledon crown will fuel Roger Federer to his fifth US Open title. Everyone else may have given up on him, but I haven't.
On the women's side things are more wide open than ever. Take away defending champion Justine Henin, who retired, and that opens things up for more new title contenders.
Maria Sharapova, the reigning Aussie Open champ, has won here before and has the goods to do it again. Injuries have slowed her down a bit this year, and I just don't think she's match-tough enough to win here this year.
Jelena Jankovic has been lingering at the top of the women's game for the last two years. She's had plenty of chances to make her move, but hasn't quite kicked it in gear yet. She'll play well, but don't look for any additions to her trophy case.
Venus and Serena Williams are always contenders in any tournament they are in. For my money, Serena Williams is a better player than anyone on the women's tour.
The problem is, she's been injured and out of shape at times over the last few years. If she's feeling good and moving well, the title is hers. However, if she's not in tip-top shape, there are too many hungry women ready to take her down.
As for big sis Venus, if this were a grass court, she'd be the odds-on favorite. She played well early this summer to win another title at the All England Club, but Arthur Ashe Stadium won't be so kind. If the two sisters meet in the quarters, I expect Serena to win this time.
Dinara Safina is someone who is finally being talked about. She's picked up a few wins this year and has really steadied her game out. She made a nice run to the French Open final where she lost to Ana Ivanovic.
She is an extremely dangerous player and if the nerves of playing seven big matches in New York don't get to her, she could be holding the silver trophy.
French Open champ and world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic looks for her first title in New York to go along with her triumph in Paris. She'll be up there with the contenders, but I'm not sure she's ready to win seven matches in a row on the fast hard courts in Queens.
That said, she's been the best player in Grand Slam matches this year. When you get to US Open, it's about being able to play in big matches. Ana Ivanovic has done just that all year long, and I expect her to be the new name engraved on the winner's trophy.
2008 US Open: Roger Federer and Ana Ivanovic
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