US Open 2016: Early Predictions Post-Wimbledon

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2016

US Open 2016: Early Predictions Post-Wimbledon

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    Andy Murray kisses the winning trophy at Wimbledon 2016
    Andy Murray kisses the winning trophy at Wimbledon 2016Pool/Getty Images

    The 2016 U.S. Open is less than two months away, and players have a couple of hundred thousand more reasons to get excited.

    The United States Tennis Association announced Tuesday that singles winners will each receive a record $3.5 million (£2.6 million) in prize money, an increase from $3.3 million (£2.5 million) last year. 

    But which players are most likely to cash in? 

    Andy Murray and Serena Williams, winners at Wimbledon, will be among the favorites to claim the U.S. Open titles. Finalists Milos Raonic and Angelique Kerber will certainly be in the mix.

    Novak Djokovic remains world No. 1 by a wide margin. However, Murray has gained ground on the Serb, cutting into what once seemed like an insurmountable lead. Has the Scot's Wimbledon win stifled his rival's momentum?

    And what about Roger Federer? How will he bounce back from such a painful semifinals loss at the All England Club? 

    On the WTA Tour, Maria Sharapova's drug suspension appeal has been postponed until September, which guarantees that she'll miss the U.S. Open for the third time in four years.

    Victoria Azarenka hasn't played since she retired at the French Open. 

    Meanwhile, Kerber has established herself as the clear No. 2. Will other top players, such as Simona Halep, have anything to say about that? 

    The following are early predictions for the U.S. Open.

Young Guns Take Big Leap

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    Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic shake hands after their match at the Aegon Championships in London.
    Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic shake hands after their match at the Aegon Championships in London.Patrik Lundin/Getty Images

    Raonic came close to becoming the first male player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam. Despite his loss to Murray in the Wimbledon final, the 25-year-old Canadian moved the young guns one step closer to taking charge of the ATP World Tour. 

    Murray and Djokovic leave their 20s next year and will join Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in that 30-something crowd in the Top 10.

    World No. 7 Raonic and No. 9 Dominic Thiem, who is 22, are the only 1990s babies in the top 10. David Goffin, 25, is ranked No. 11. There are five in the Top 20 and nine among the top 30. 

    Members of the ATP's "next generation" players aged 21 and younger include Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and Taylor Fritz.

    They've been making a slow but steady push deeper into tournaments and higher up the rankings. This year's U.S. Open will be their coming-out party. More young guns than 30-somethings will still be playing in the second week. 

Simona Halep Returns to a Grand Slam Final

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    Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber shake hands after their quarterfinals match at Wimbledon 2016.
    Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber shake hands after their quarterfinals match at Wimbledon 2016.Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    There was so much focus on Serena Williams' bid to complete the calendar-year slam that Simona Halep escaped scrunity about her lost opportunity against Flavia Pennetta in the 2015 U.S. Open semifinal. 

    Halep had knocked out Azarenka, considered the second-biggest threat to win the U.S. Open, in the last eight. Winner of two Australian Opens, the Belarus player had reached the finals in 2012 and 2013. 

    Seeded No. 2, Halep was so impressive in her win over Azarenka that getting past Pennetta seemed like a cinch, but the Romanian performed poorly in the last-four tie. Had she won, she would have faced Roberta Vinci instead of Serena Williams. 

    So much depends on the draw, but as long as she escapes Williams' half, Halep will redeem herself at this year's U.S. Open and make it to the final.

Sam Querrey Enjoys His Best US Open Ever

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    Sam Querrey reacts to upsetting Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2016.
    Sam Querrey reacts to upsetting Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2016.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Sam Querrey's big serve on display at Wimbledon didn't just emerge this year; he has always had the power, he just lacked confidence.

    Not anymore, though. He could have easily been overwhelmed by all the attention he received beating Djokovic, but instead, Querrey backed up that win with a tough victory over Nicolas Mahut. 

    Even in his quarterfinals loss to Raonic, Querrey performed well. There was little he could do against the Canadian, who had 58 winners to just 16 unforced errors. 

    Querrey's last time beyond the third round happened in 2010. Expect the American to ride his Wimbledon momentum to his best U.S. Open ever.

Serena Williams Makes More History

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    Serena Williams celebrates winning Wimbledon 2016.
    Serena Williams celebrates winning Wimbledon 2016.Pool/Getty Images

    Serena Williams is back to the basics and is no longer anxious about tying Steffi Graf's record.

    If she goes out and plays as freely as she did in Wimbledon, the 34-year-old will be in sole possession of the record for most Grand Slam titles in the open era.

    She's been in the finals at Flushing Meadows four of the past five years, but the American will want to erase the bad memories from her loss to Roberta Vinci in the semifinals last year.

    What better way to make that a distant memory than to set the open-era Slams record in the Arthur Ashe Stadium?

Roger Federer Struggles

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    Roger Federer reaches to make a play during his semifinals match at Wimbledon 2016.
    Roger Federer reaches to make a play during his semifinals match at Wimbledon 2016.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Roger Federer performed better than many expected at Wimbledon and, with Djokovic out, the Swiss seemed to have a clear path to the final.

    But it's as if Federer choked in the semifinal against Raonic. 

    Tennis.com's Steve Tignor wrote: "Federer was coming off an injury, but the way he was broken at 5-6 in the semis reminded me of the way he was broken at the end of the fifth set in the 2014 final against Djokovic. He seemed, suddenly and surprisingly, to run out of belief." 

    If the season ended today, the former world No. 1 would not qualify for the singles race to London.

    Wimbledon residue weighs heavily on Federer; he'll be out of the U.S. Open before the quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic Falls Short Again

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    Novak Djokovic during his third-round match at Wimbledon 2016.
    Novak Djokovic during his third-round match at Wimbledon 2016.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Djokovic is still the best player on the tour. He'll regroup, but will it be enough to keep Murray from slicing into the lead at No. 1?

    Then there's the question about the Serb's health. When asked if he was 100 percent healthy, Djokovic responded, per the Telegraph: “Not really, but it’s not the time or place to talk about it.” 

    It's unclear if his health concerns are minor or major. He's skipping the Davis Cup tie against Great Britain, but Murray is also set to miss out, per BBC Sport.

    Djokovic will want to prove his third-round loss at Wimbledon was more an aberration than an indication of deeper issues with his game. 

    He'll be back in the finals, but he won't win it all.

Andy Murray Wins His Fourth Slam Title

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    Andy Murray celebrates winning his second Wimbledon title.
    Andy Murray celebrates winning his second Wimbledon title.Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Murray remains nearly 5,000 points behind Djokovic in the ATP World Tour rankings. However, he's within 800 points in the singles race for the year-end finals. This demonstrates how close the Scot is to the world No. 1 in terms of accomplishments this year.

    Murray has reached the final at every Grand Slam in 2016, and he also defeated Djokovic in Rome. Perhaps the gap between the two is not nearly as large as it seems. 

    Reunited with coach Ivan Lendl, Murray is focused on claiming the No. 1 ranking

    With three Grand Slam titles, the 29-year-old separates himself from tier-two Wawrinka.

    Murray has been to the semifinals or better at six of the last seven Slams. The U.S. Open was the first Slam he won, and he's ready for a repeat performance.

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