Sport | Djokovic and Williams in pole position for US Open glory

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World number one Novak Djokovic is the bookmakers’ choice to claim victory in the men’s singles at Flushing Meadows, despite shaky recent form, by virtue of a lack of competition. The Serbian is boosted by the absence of 2013 champion Rafael Nadal, who rules the roost on this surface with a 90% win ratio on hard courts in the past year. A shock exit for five-time finalist Djokovic would open the door for either Andy Murray or Roger Federer, but both have their own problems.

Murray in particular is struggling to find his best tennis after the departure of coach Ivan Lendl, and he’ll need to recover the grit and determination that saw him beat Djokovic to the US Open crown in 2012. Chances are that the Scot will meet Djokovic at the quarter-final stage, and should Murray emerge victorious, he should go all the way to the final. However, it’s a very tough draw, and he may well have to beat four of the top six favourites to win the title.

Roger Federer meanwhile, is back from the disappointment of losing the Wimbledon final and ready to make an impression on the competition he hasn’t won since 2008. He’s regained form after victory in the Cincinnati Masters, and will be buoyed by the injury to Nadal, given The Spaniard’s recent success in majors over Federer.  Outside of the three favourites, only world number four Stan Wawrinka and exciting young Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov look capable of causing an upset in Queens.

In the women’s competition, Eugenie Bouchard’s stock has risen immeasurably since her run to this year’s Wimbledon final, and it will be intriguing to see if she can handle the increased expectation after her defeat to world number 113 Shelby Rogers in Montreal, and her early exit in Cincinnati. Her conqueror in SW19, Petra Kvitova, has a first major under her belt, but has a poor record on the hard court. The Czech has never progressed beyond the fourth round in New York and it appears unlikely that she’ll be able to see off the big names should she make it to the latter stages this time.

However, the favourite is the reigning champion, Serena Williams. Having lifted the trophy five times at Flushing Meadows, including the last two tournaments, Williams’ steely determination could win her a sixth US Open. She has momentum after winning in Stanford and Cincinnati, but could just as easily be an early casualty. Her greatest challenge will come from Maria Sharapova. Although the Russian tasted French Open success in June, her only title in New York came in 2006, and her section of the draw is packed with quality. Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniaki and Simona Halep are all in with a great chance of beating Sharapova to a semi-final berth.

It seems unlikely that Andy Murray will be giving British tennis fans something to cheer and the bookies’ favourites, Djokovic and Williams, will be clearing space on their mantelpieces. If only it were that simple.

 

David Cowlishaw

Image: India Today

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