2011 U.S. Open: Top 20 Questions We Want Answered About Nadal, Federer and More
The aesthetics of tennis can wow and inspire people, yet the stories surrounding the players can prove to be just as enthralling.
With the U.S. Open a month away, what are some of the questions you want answered?
Will men’s tennis continue with the "big three" being the only legitimate contenders?
What about women’s tennis, are the Williams sisters back?
Here are the top 20 questions we want answered come the U.S. Open.
20. Will Grigor Dimitrov Qualify for the U.S. Open?
When you watch Grigor Dimitrov, it's hard not to notice the uncanny similarities to Roger Federer.
In a game increasingly overpowered by strength and muscle, watching a 20-year-old Dimitrov elegantly stroke a one-handed backhand down the line is refreshing.
Dimitrov has reached a career-best world No. 57, though instant success has been forthcoming.
He's yet to qualify for the U.S. Open, and the question beckons, will he qualify?
When Federer was 20, he had already dethroned seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras and was world No. 13.
Dimitrov has a long way to go.
19. Will Petra Kvitová Be a One-Slam Wonder?
No one really contemplated Petra Kvitová winning Wimbeldon, even though there were signs she was a legitimate contender.
Even with the fragmented state of women's tennis, can Kvitová win another Grand Slam?
If so, will it be at this year's U.S. Open?
18. Is It Milos Raonic's Time to Shine?
For me, Milos Raonic is the most refined young player on the tour and looks like a future perennial top-five player.
He just boasts so much power, and for a 20-year-old, he plays well beyond his age.
Will Raonic be a giant killer in this year's tournament?
17. Can Peng Shuai Be China's Next Grand Slam Winner?
Before Li Na burst onto the scene, Peng Shuai looked like a legitimate prospect for the future.
Whilst Na has been the Chinese face of tennis, Shuai has quietly progressed to world No. 16 and has continually played a consistent level of tennis.
She could potentially be a sleeper in this year's tournament, just like Marion Bartoli was during the 2007 Wimbledon women's singles.
16. How Good Is Bernard Tomic?
Bernard Tomic's unorthodox, gangly, fearless and unpredictable style has caught many of his opponents off-guard.
What's remarkable is that Tomic is only 18, and if he's this good right now, how good will he be in a few years' time?
15. Will Samantha Stosur Ever Win a Grand Slam?
Somedays Samantha Stosur can hit anyone off the caught; other days, the only shot she knows is the unforced error.
There's no doubting Stosur's pedigree, but one has to wonder if she has the mental fortitude to play top-notch tennis over two weeks.
She made a surprise quarterfinal appearance last year, having never progressed past the second round.
14. How Will Andy Roddick Do?
In recent years, Andy Roddick has garnered more attention for his marriage to Brooklyn Decker and his contributions to Lacoste than his tennis achievements.
It's been almost seven years since Roddick won the U.S. Open, his only Grand Slam, and one does wonder if his best days are behind him.
13. Will Sabine Lisicki Surprise Us Again?
Sabine Lisicki came out of nowhere and shocked Li Na, who was in career-best form, in a very entertaining second-round match in this year's Wimbledon.
Lisicki would reach the semifinals, but can she have a similar run in New York?
12. Will Juan Martín del Potro Disappoint Like Marat Safin?
The disappointment, the frustration, the anger—you could see it etched all over Juan Martín del Potro's face after he lost in four tight sets against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon this year.
Perhaps del Potro was reflecting on his nerves costing him the match, or maybe he was livid at what he perceived to be unsportsmanlike conduct from Nadal, a man whose reputation was staked on being a gentleman.
Whatever the reasons, del Potro has been there or thereabouts in recent years, a far cry from what was projected for him after he overpowered a hapless Roger Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open Final.
Can del Potro win another Grand Slam, or will he continue to fall short like Marat Safin?
11. Can the Comeback Queen Do It Again?
Incredibly, Kim Clijsters has won more Grand Slams (three) as a mother than she did when she wasn't (one).
Of all the ways she could have injured herself, dancing at a wedding was one way she sustained her ankle injury.
Ankle injuries have hampered her season so far.
Though the comeback queen will be aiming for a hat-trick of U.S. Open titles, can she do it?
10. Will an American Win an U.S. Open Singles Title?
Gone are the days of having Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang at a Grand Slam.
U.S men's tennis is going through a dip; not that Mardy Fish or Andy Roddick are bad players, it's just they're not going to seriously contend for Grand Slams year in and year out.
The future lies with big-serving John Isner and 19-year-old Ryan Harrison, though both are overshadowed by the rising stars of Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic.
On the female side, Americans will have to hope the Williams sister rekindle that flame that brought them so much success.
9. Will Andy Murray Win His First Grand Slam?
Every time Wimbledon comes along, the name Fred Perry pops up because he was the last Englishman to win at SW19.
Yet, the English seem to want to adopt Andy Murray as one of their own, even though he's Scottish, which is an interesting paradox given the English—in most other aspects of life—choose to be distinguished from Scotland.
Twenty-three Grand Slams later, one wonders if he'll win a Grand Slam after three finals appearances—let alone the U.S. Open—anytime soon.
8. Is Caroline Wozniacki Going Down Like Dinara Safina?
I recall Dinara Safina responding to criticisms that for a world No. 1 she had yet to win a Grand Slam by stating it was always her dream to be No. 1.
That may be true, but I'm sure she'd take five Grand Slam victories yet be No. 2 throughout her career, as opposed to zero Grand Slam victories and being No. 1 for most of her career.
Caroline Wozniacki is stuck in the same situation as Safina in that she faces a credibility issue for being No. 1, even though she hasn't won a Grand Slam.
7. Do You Think Roger Federer Will Ever Win Another Grand Slam?
Maybe Roger Federer was unlucky Jo-Wilfried Tsonga went for broke, thus coming from two sets down to win in five at Wimbledon.
However, it was Federer's sixth Grand Slam running he hadn't won.
Six-time Grand Slam-winner Boris Becker was 29 years old when he won his last Grand Slam.
Eight-time Grand Slam-winner Ivan Lendl was 30 years old when he won his last Grand Slam.
Eight-time Grand Slam-winner Jimmy Connors was 31 years old when he won his last Grand Slam.
And 14-time Grand Slam-winner Pete Sampras was 31 years old when he won his last Grand Slam.
Federer is 29 years old.
6. Is Venus Williams Headed for Retirement?
Venus Williams insists she has plenty of years left, though I beg to differ.
I think a combination of injuries, other projects and a loss of a desire have contributed to Williams not winning as many Grand Slams as she is capable of.
Given her proven ability, she is always a contender, but how many more Grand Slams will she play in?
5. Can Rafael Nadal's Body Hold Up?
Rafael Nadal fears no one except himself.
The taxing regiment he puts himself through to be the fittest on tour, and then the war of attrition he engages on court, has taken a severe toll on his body.
Pundits had predicted Nadal would struggle with his injuries, though I doubt they envisioned he'd win 13 Grand Slams.
Injury really hampered his Australian Open and his Wimbledon, will it now be an obstacle to him wining the U.S. Open?
4. End of the Maria Sharapova Era?
Perhaps it's a stretch to describe Maria Sharapova's success within a short period of time as an "era," but there was a four-year span where she was haled as the next big thing in women's tennis.
She was the challenger to the Williams sisters' prolonged dominance, but like the Williams sisters, Sharapova's success was curtailed by herself.
All the endorsements and all the off-court distractions perhaps are reasons why Sharapova hasn't dominated women's tennis throughout this fragmented era where anyone can take the Grand Slam.
3. Comeback Time for Serena Williams?
I always rated Serena Williams a better player than her sister.
You can see it her eyes, you notice it with her aggressive playing style and, of course, sometimes her behaviour.
As long as she dedicates herself to the game, I have no doubt she'll win the U.S. Open.
It would be an emotional victory, given she was contemplating retirement at one point.
2. Start of the Novak Djokovic Era?
I remember years ago watching Novak Djokovic beat Gaël Monfils in the early stages of the U.S. Open and thinking this Serbian kid can play.
Lo and behold, five years later, Djokovic continues to play at a high level (unlike Monfils).
Perhaps it was somewhat symbolic that during that match, Monfils had dominated Djokovic, only to lose concentration and essentially hand Djokovic the match.
With Roger Federer on the decline and Rafael Nadal fighting with his body, it might be the start of the Djokovic era.
1. Will We See Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray as the Last Men Standing?
Of the four, whoever faces Milos Raonic may be headed for an exit.
However, clearly having Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray would be excellent semifinal matchups.
Aside from Juan Martín del Potro's 2009 U.S. Open, all the rest of the Grand Slams since have been shared by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.