Consider the 12 most recent grand slam tournaments, starting with the US Open in 2008.
Roger Federer has appeared in seven finals, winning four of them, while Rafael Nadal took the court in six finals, winning five championship trophies. These two opponents, however, have never met each other in a US Open final.
Since August of 2008, Novak Djokovic has appeared in three finals, winning two, while the No. 4 seed Andy Murray survived to take the court in three finals, but the Scot has not yet found himself in the winners circle.
Juan Martin del Potro appeared in one final, winning the US Open in 2009. Swede Robin Soderling overcame huge odds to appear in two French Open finals, losing both times. Andy Roddick and Tomas Berdych have each appeared in one slam final in losing efforts.
In total, eight men have appeared in the past 12 finals. Only four of them have won titles.
During the past 12 majors for the ladies, Serena Williams has appeared in five finals, winning all five, while another perfect lady, Kim Clijsters has managed to make three finals, winning all three.
Two other ladies were perfect but on a much smaller scale. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova each appeared in one slam final during the past three years, winning a championship trophy for their efforts.
On the other hand, Francesca Schiavone and Li Na of China both appeared in two grand slam finals and they each won once––both at the French Open. Russians Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva have also appeared in two finals, but neither managed a win.
Finally, Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Justine Henin, Samantha Stosur and Maria Sharapova have each appeared in one final in the past three years, coming away as the runner-up.
In total, 14 women have appeared in the last 12 major championships, with six different women winning finals.
As the men and women gather in Flushing Meadows ready to begin the task of winning the 2011 US Open, which man or which woman has the best shot of becoming the next US Open champion?
Here are the favorites coming into Flushing Meadows starting Monday, August 29.
After he won the US Open in 2009, overcoming Roger Federer in five sets, Juan Martin del Potro has been fighting to regain the form that allowed him to win that final.
Wrist surgery, as well as other niggling injuries, have kept the Argentine simmering on the back burner while his contemporaries on court advanced their respective careers.
Once 2011 began, the tennis world focused on del Potro, waiting for him to make his way back into the upper tier of the ATP rankings. The Argentine has climbed back into the top 20, residing now at No. 18.
While there have been moments of brilliant play, there has been no real consistency to suggest del Potro is all the way back.
The Argentine brings a 38-12 record into the 2011 US Open, with 10 more losses than Novak Djokovic. The Argentine managed to defeat Robin Soderling ranked in the top 10 at Estoril and Miami.
His top 20 wins came over Marin Cilic, at Madrid, Mardy Fish at Delray Beach, Ivan Ljubicic at Indian Wells , Fernando Verdasco at Estoril and Gilles Simon at Wimbledon. Del Potro won two titles in 2011 at Delray Beach and Estoril.
The Argentine comes into the US Open with some degree of hope, remaining very much under the radar. The fact remains that del Potro has not played on Arthur Ashe Stadium since he won there in 2009. The Argentine missed the 2010 US Open tournament as well as much of the 2010 season.
Still, del Potro has the game to win it all. What is more, the Argentine has proven he can win it all and defeat higher-ranked players to make that happen. He has been drawn into Andy Murray's quarter, and the Argentine has a real chance to advance deep into the draw.
You cannot discount the Argentine as the sixth favorite man to win the US Open title in 2011.
The Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has never done very well at the US Open in the past. But there is a new-found enthusiasm infusing his game of late.
After spending the summer making Roger Federer’s life miserable, Tsonga enters the US Open with a bounce in his step that has been lacking the past few years.
Certainly there are few men on tour with Tsonga’s natural athletic ability, his movement and his power playing tennis today.
After making an extraordinary run at the Australian Open in 2008, defeating Rafael Nadal on his way to the final, Tsonga faced Novak Djokovic to determine the winner. Even in a losing effort during the 2008 Australian Open final, it was easy to see that the Frenchman had an affinity for the hardcourts.
Tsonga enters the US Open with a 33-16 record in 2011, which represents 14 more losses than the world No. 1 Djokovic.
The Frenchman has seven wins over top 10 opponents, including two over Roger Federer and one over Rafael Nadal. Although Tsonga has not yet won an ATP tour title in 2011, he has advanced to two finals and three semifinals.
Tsonga appeared in three US Open tournaments from 2007-2009. He missed the tournament last year due to injury. Remarkably, the Frenchman has never advanced beyond the fourth round, yet there is definite improvement in the Tsonga game and his overall attitude.
Tsonga has been drawn into Federer's quarter, which should not please the Swiss. The Frenchman's new-found attitude and his results at Wimbledon make Tsonga the fifth favorite to win the men’s US Open final in 2011.
Czech Petra Kvitova had a breakout year in 2011.
To date, she has a 45-10 record as she prepares for the US Open. Of course, her largest and most impressive accomplishment was winning the 2011 Wimbledon championship, defeating former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova in the final.
It was Kvitova's first major win, but we suspect that it will not be the last one for the Czech.
Kvitova began the year winning the tournament in Brisbane, defeating German Andrea Petkovic. In February, the Czech won the tournament in Paris, defeating Kim Clijsters in the final.
Later that spring, in winning the title in Madrid, Kvitova had to overcome Vera Zvonareva, Dominika Cibulkova and Li Na, followed by Victoria Azarenka in the final. The victory in Madrid made a real statement about the level of play the Czech could sustain during a tournament.
Although Kvitova has never done exceptionally well on hardcourts, her game should translate well onto the synthetic surface, especially with her big serve and her powerful groundstrokes.
The Czech started the year ranked No. 34, and she is now ranked world No. 6. Her rise to the top of the women’s game has been impressive.
Kvitova, drawn into Sharapova's quarter of the draw, comes in as the fourth favorite in the lady's field to win the championship at this year’s US Open.
Andy Murray enters New York City on the heels of a huge victory in Cincinnati, where the Scot upended the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic to claim his seventh career Masters shield.
This victory should give the Scot real impetus as he gets ready to scale the heights to claim the 2011 US Open title.
Murray brings a 34-10 record into the US Open, with eight more losses than leader Djokovic.
The Scot has lost twice to Djokovic, three times to Rafael Nadal and once each to Marcos Baghdatis, Donald Young, Alex Bogomolov Jr., Thomaz Bellucci and Kevin Anderson.
Donald Young was ranked at No. 143 when he upset Murray in the second round at Indian Wells.
It was patently obvious that Murray endured a real slump after his straight-set loss in the finals of the Australian Open to his friend Djokovic.
But the Scot rebounded during the clay court season and did well through Wimbledon. Aside from his his early dismissal by Kevin Anderson in Montreal, the Scot's hardcourt season was very good.
Murray made the finals of the US Open in 2008, losing to Roger Federer in straight sets. In 2009, however, the Scot lost to Marin Cilic in the fourth round, and last year, Murray was sent home by Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round.
Aside from his one final appearance, Murray, despite proclaiming the US Open his favorite slam, has never done particularly well there.
With his recent victory in Cincinnati and his new-found confidence, Murray comes in as the fourth favorite to win on the men's side of the draw.
When Li Na won the 2011 French Open championship earlier this summer, she officially arrived as a top contender on the women’s tour.
Starting the year, Li Na won the tournament in Sydney on hardcourts, defeating Kim Clijsters in the final, 7-6, 6-3.
The lady from China then made it to the finals of the 2011 Australian Open, where she once again faced Clijsters, losing in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. To reach the final in Melbourne, Li Na had to defeat Victoria Azarenka, Andrea Petkovic and Caroline Wozniacki.
Not faring well on the American hardcourts at Indian Wells and Miami, Li Na’s game began to revive on the European clay courts, culminating with her win over the 2009 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone at the 2011 final at Stade Roland Garros.
Li Na has not played much tennis since her second round loss to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon. Of course, Lisicki went on to have an extraordinary run at the All England Club. The Wimbledon loss seemed to take the wind out of Li Na’s sails.
Because she lost in the third round at Cincinnati last week, Li Na accepted a wild card into the tournament in New Haven, where she is the No. 2 seed. Li Na decided she needed more preparation before heading to New York City for the US Open.
With her aggressive style of play and her ability to negotiate the hardcourts, Li Na will be the third favorite in the women’s draw to win the 2011 US Open.
Roger Federer heads into the US Open with a 42-11 record, having lost nine more times than Novak Djokovic.
The Swiss has lost three times to Novak Djokovic, three times to Rafael Nadal, twice to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and once each to Jurgen Melzer, Richard Gasquet, and most recently to Tomas Berdych at Cincinnati.
The Swiss' earliest departure was in the third round, and the lowest ranked player to defeat him was Tsonga, ranked at 19 when he upset Federer during Wimbledon.
The Swiss has, however, won the US Open title five times consecutively from 2004-2008 and has reached six consecutive finals, losing to Juan Martin del Potro in 2009.
Last year, Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, suffering his earliest departure since 2003 when the Swiss lost to David Nalbandian in the fourth round.
Federer understands the rhythm of New York City perhaps better than any other player on tour. He knows what it takes to win beyond the physical aspects of playing great tennis.
Today, there are some players who may have bigger groundstrokes or more powerful serves, but they cannot seize the moment when winning is at hand and victory just one stroke away.
Federer recognizes the moment when it arrives and takes it when offered. The former world No. 1 is a threat always to win on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The pace of majors and the routine of winning are all patterns that Federer embraces.
The Swiss comes in as the third favorite man to win the 2011 US Open.
Maria Sharapova has fought her way back into the top five in women’s tennis after her shoulder surgery.
Periodically, the Russian suffers through days when her serve deserts her. Her most recent win in Cincinnati has propelled her to the top rung of those women expected to win the 2011 US Open championship.
Sharapova enters the US Open with 36-10 record in 2011. The Russian has won titles in Cincinnati and in Rome.
The former US Open champion also appeared in the finals of Wimbledon, losing the Czech Petra Kvitova.
Earlier that summer, Sharapova advanced to the semifinals of the French Open, losing to Li Na, the eventual champion. The Russian also made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open, losing to Andrea Petkovic.
Her year has been one of steady improvement.
Sharapova, of course, won the US Open in 2006, defeating then world No. 2 Justine Henin. Last year, the Russian advanced to fourth round, losing to the No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki.
Because she escaped having Serena Williams drawn into her quarter, Sharapova has an excellent chance of winning the US Open in 2011.
She is the No. 2 favorite of the ladies to win the title in 2011.
Rafael Nadal comes into the US Open as the defending champion. The world No. 2 won his first trophy in New York City in 2010, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final.
Although Nadal's hard court season has not been particularly noteworthy to date, the Majorcan will be ready to do whatever it takes to win a major.
The world No. 2 brings a 53-10 record into the US Open having played more tennis than the other top seeds.
In 2011 Nadal lost five times to Novak Djokovic in finals, and once each to Nikolay Davydenko in Doha, David Ferrer in Melbourne, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Queen’s Club, Ivan Dodig in Montreal and Mardy Fish in Cincinnati. The lowest seeded player to defeat Nadal was Dodig ranked at No. 41.
It took Nadal a relatively long time to win majors on hardcourts. He finally succeeded, defeating Federer in the finals of the Australian Open in 2009.
His last quest was to win in New York City as he entered the 2010 US Open to culminate the best year of his career. A win in Flushing Meadows would give Nadal a career grand slam.
The task was seemingly monumental since the Majorcan had not yet managed to make the finals of the US Open.
But Nadal capitalized on all the opportunities afforded him during the 2010 US Open and he won the title, securing his No. 1 ranking for what many thought would prove to be a long time.
A “long time” ended up being just a little under a year.
This year, Nadal seems both mentally and physically tired. His energy level dips unexpectedly at the end of matches, not at all in keeping with the Majorcan’s modus operandi.
Even though Nadal would not meet Djokovic until the last match, the odds of his making another final are not as great as last year.
Despite his lingering injuries and his lack of success on hardcourts, Nadal comes in as the second favorite to win the men’s US Open title in 2011.
After being injured for almost a year, former world No. 1 Serena Williams returned to the women’s tour in time to participate at Eastbourne, where she was defeated by world No. 3 Vera Zvonareva.
Williams followed that grass tournament by returning to Wimbledon to defend her 2010 championship. The younger Williams sister had won the Wimbledon title four times in 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010.
But with little preparation and no match play coming into the tournament, Williams was dismissed in the fourth round by Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli.
But the brief losing streak was quickly replaced by wins on the American hardcourts. Williams won the title in Stanford, where she defeated the same Marion Bartoli who took her out of Wimbledon in straight sets. Williams won that match 7-5, 6-1.
On her way to the Stanford final, Williams defeated Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki before facing Bartolil.
Williams went on to win her next tournament in Toronto, defeating Samantha Stosur in the final, again in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2. Williams dispatched Victoria Azarenka in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 in order to reach the finals in Toronto.
Stosur was much more fortunate in Cincinnati because the Aussie was scheduled to meet Williams again, but Serena withdrew from the match before it got underway, and Stosur advanced to the third round of the Western and Southern Masters without having to fire a shot.
It is fairly obvious that Williams is more than ready to meet the best players and dominate them once again.
Even seeded No. 28, Serena Williams is the hands-down favorite to win the 2011 US Open.
Novak Djokovic comes into the US Open with a 57-2 record, having lost twice in 2011.
The Serb's first defeat came at the hands of Roger Federer during the semifinals of the 2011 French Open.
Djokovic's second loss came during the finals at the Western and Southern Masters in Cincinnati to world No. 4 Andy Murray. After losing the first set, Djokovic retired in the second set after falling behind 0-3.
The loss will not derail the Djokovic rolling thunder express as it rolls through the rest of 2011.
After all, none of the top seeds were in tip-top shape as they neared the end of the hard court season ready to do battle in New York City.
In 2007, Djokovic appeared in his first US Open final, losing to Federer. In 2008 and 2009, the Serb lost back to back semifinals again to the Swiss.
In 2010, Djokovic finally defeated Federer on Arthur Ashe Stadium during the semifinals, but, then could not overcome Rafael Nadal in the final.
The time has finally arrived, beckoning Djokovic into the winner's circle at Flushing Meadows.
There seems no better bet to win the US Open in 2011 than Novak Djokovic.