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US Open 2015: What to expect from the men

Ajay G Prasad
618   //    31 Aug 2015, 13:58 IST

The final grand slam of the year is upon us. The US Open 2015 begins on August 31, 2015, Monday and it seems that it will be a fascinating two weeks. The world’s best tennis players, male and female, will gather in New York for the Open.

There are some big stories to watch out for. Will Serena Williams complete the Grand Slam, something no other player, either on the men’s side or women’s side, has accomplished since Steffi Graff achieved in 1988.  It is going to be interesting to see how Serena handles the situation. Not many people will bet against her achieving this feat.

While Williams’ quest for the Grand Slam is the dominant narrative of the women’s section, it cannot be said that the men’s section has one dominant narrative. Will Novak Djokovic win his third grand slam of the year, adding to his one and only US Open title which we won in 2011?

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic’s record in New York is quite bewildering to say the least. He has featured in five Open finals, winning only once. With all of his hard court prowess, this is one statistic the Serb and his coach Boris Becker would like to address, and address soon.  

If Djokovic manages to get to the finals of the Open, he will be the third player in the Open Era to reach the finals of all four majors in a single calendar year. The other men to have done so are Rod Laver and Roger Federer, with Federer having appearing in all finals on three separate occasions. The last time the Swiss Maestro did so was in 2009.

The Djoker has clearly been the man to beat this year. He has only been beaten five times so far in 2015, and only once in a grand slam. These days, it is hard to bet against him.

Roger Federer

Evergreen fan favourite Roger Federer’s chances of adding to his Grand Slam tally is the other popular narrative at the Open. He heads to the tournament fresh off wins against his two chief rivals, Djokovic and Andy Murray, beating both of them in Cincinnati without once having faced a break point. He had briefly lost his No. 2 ranking to Murray after Murray had won at Montreal. He quickly reclaimed it in Cincinnati.

If Federer were to win the Open this year, it would be his sixth time winning the title. That victory would make him the only player to have at least won six titles in more than two grand slams – the other of these is at Wimbledon, where he has won seven.

A win will also take his Grand Slam tally on hard courts to ten, something no other man has ever achieved. Despite Federer’s display at Cincinnati, can he, at the age of 34, go all the way? It is hard to say.

Over the last few years, the Swiss has played quite consistently, only to fall at the final hurdle. It is worth mentioning that he has not made it to the finals at the Open since 2009, when he fell to Juan Martin Del Potro in the finals.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray lies in Federer’s section of the draw. Seeded third at the tournament, he is slated to meet Federer in the semi finals.

The Scot has had a solid 2015 after a relatively poor 2014, a year in which he failed to add to his Grand Slam tally. He has not won a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2013.

The Open was where Murray was able to break his Grand Slam duck, but he has had mixed success here. He has been in two finals, winning one and losing the other. His two arch rivals seem to clearly have his number of late. Djokovic has beaten Murray eight consecutive times till the Scot got his revenge in Montreal.

Federer has beaten Murray five straight times, including in the last two grand slams that they faced, with only the loss of a set. Federer’s masterful performance against Murray at this year’s Championships have become part of Wimbledon legend. Murray may need to beat both Djokovic and Federer to win his second Open.

Rafael Nadal

That brings us to Rafael Nadal, the dark horse in the men’s section. Not many people are giving Nadal a chance, and the Spaniard is having his most torrid season in a decade. If he does not win the Open, it will mark the first time since 2004 that he has failed to win a single grand slam in a calendar year.

He is in Djokovic’s section of the draw, and if seedings hold, they are scheduled to clash in the quarterfinals. Nadal has a terrific record at the Open. Since his early loss in 2007, he has reached the semi-finals or better at the Open every year he has played in. During this span, he was champion twice, beating Djokovic on both these occasions.

Having said this, Rafa has a tough first round opponent in teenager Borna Coric. A lot is expected of Coric in the years to come. The Croatian teen has the kind of game that can hurt Nadal, and an upset cannot entirely be ruled out.

With the above story lines, it seems it will to be a more open tournament than it first appeared, especially with World No. 1 Djokovic beaten in back to back Masters finals by his two biggest competitors – Murray and Federer.

Let the games begin.

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Ajay G Prasad
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