The U.S. Open begins next week, and when players take the court in New York, they will be fighting for superiority in the final major of the calendar year.
The majors have belonged to the triumvirate of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray for the majority of the last several seasons. While Djokovic and Murray are again at the top of the favorite lists—Federer is out as he recovers from knee surgery—one gets the feeling that a surprise challenger could emerge this time around.
Djokovic lost at Wimbledon last month, and he also struggled in this year's Olympic tournament. When Djokovic is on his game, as he was last year, it doesn't seem like anybody in the world can beat him. He is not playing with that kind of consistency this year.
Murray won both Wimbledon and the Olympic crown, but he does not have the same kind of swagger or game that Djokovic has, and his matches often seem to hit a critical point before he is able to turn it around in his favor.
Djokovic is a 10-11 favorite to win the event, while Murray is the 2-1 second choice, according to Oddschecker.
|2016 U.S. Open Odds and Analysis|
|Novak Djokovic||10-11||Will regain his form and find championship glory|
|Andy Murray||2-1||Several tough matches before reaching the Final.|
|Milos Raonic||14-1||Has to maintain full concentration|
|Juan Martin del Potro||14-1||Power game can be overwhelming|
|Rafael Nadal||14-1||Late-round matches will be a challenge|
|Stan Wawrinka||16-1||A bit too up and down|
|Marin Cilic||25 -1||Capable of making a good run|
|Kei Nishikori||25 -1||Look for one major upset|
|Nick Kyrgios||40-1||Lack of discipline hurts|
|Dominic Thiem||66-1||Has a chance to pull off a surprise or two|
In addition to the top two, those with the best chance of competing for the title in the U.S. Open include Olympic silver-medal winner Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raoncic and Rafael Nadal.
Del Potro took out Djokovic and Nadal in the Olympic tournament before pushing Murray hard in the championship round.
Del Potro is back and near the top of his game after losing two seasons to a serious left wrist injury. He is now able to hammer away at the ball with his sensational forehand once again, and that's one of the best shots in the game.
Murray believes Del Potro has an excellent shot to assert himself and become a top-level player. "If he stays fit," Murray told the Associated Press (h/t Tennis.com), "there's no reason why he can't be up at the top of the game."
Del Potro comes into the U.S Open at odds of 14-1.
Nadal is no longer at the top of his game, as he has reached the age of 30. He is coming off a wrist injury of his own that still manifests itself with soreness.
However, he is still a tough out, even though he may not get back to the level he was at in 2013, when he won 10 tournaments. Nadal is at his best when he is rested, and he will try to get as much as possible prior to the start of the tournament.
If Nadal can survive the first few rounds, he will be tested severely when playing against the better competitors on an every-other-day basis.
Nadal also comes into the tournament with odds of 14-1.
Raonic appears to be on the verge of becoming one of the elite players in the game after getting to the Wimbledon final this year. The 6'5" Canadian player is known for his power and relentless play, and that helped him get the best of Federer in the semifinals in London.
While he could not get past Murray in the title round and also lost to him in Cincinnati Masters semifinal round last week, his confidence and consistency appear to be growing.
Raonic has been working with John McEnroe, and the coach believes that his player needs to show more mental intensity if he is going to break through in the biggest tournaments, according to Kamakshi Tandon of Tennis.com.
Raonic comes into the tournament with odds of 14-1.
The U.S. Open will be missing some of its usual flair without Federer, who can make a claim as the best player in the sport's history.
As good as Federer has been, he has clearly ceded the No. 1 position to Djokovic, and while he lost at Wimbledon and in Rio, he is likely to get back on track here.
It would not be a surprise if he got back to top form in New York and ended up playing Murray. The British star may have more close calls than Djokovic, but he should be able to reach the final as well.
Murray will steal the first set in the championship round, but Djokovic will take the title in four sets.