This week sees the stars of tennis in Winston-Salem for the last stop on the ATP World Tour before the culmination of the Grand Slam season, the US Open. These quick-fire tournaments are designed to add points to players’ seed scores and get them ready for the American hard court grand slam, and are played weekly following Wimbledon. With the US Open less than two days away, they serve as the final predictors of who will shine and who will fall.
It may be tedious to say this year that all eyes are on Roger Federer, but there is a fever pitch to Federer madness this year at the US Open, as his record in 2014 has had many ups and downs. Federer may not have any Grand Slam titles yet this year, but he took the title in the ATP Cincinnati tournament and made the finals in Wimbledon. On the men’s side John Isner and David Ferrer also look to be players to watch, as Ferrer has done well all season and Isner is blowing through opponents in Winston-Salem.
In women’s play, the big ATP upset did not come from new blood as predicted, but from a seasoned veteran in the form of Venus Williams, who beat her sister Serena for the first time in many years in the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The 34 year old elder Williams sister has maintained her status as an elite player in doubles, however is seeded 26th in singles while her younger sister Serena is still ranked first in the world despite an injury and health problems which caused her to withdraw from doubles play at Wimbledon. Venus Williams went on to the finals at the Rogers, but did not take the title.
It is safe to say that in the women’s tournament, the title is truly up for grabs, as relative unknown Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon, while Maria Sharapova made a comeback to take the French Open. Hard court play was a little more predictable earlier in the season, with Li Na taking her third title in the Australian Open, so she may be the favorite going into the US Open, but not by a very wide margin.
While women’s predictions are a mixed bag, Most fans and tennis experts are looking to Novak Djokovich and Roger Federer to reenact their French Open battle, as Rafael Nadal will sit out this year. John Isner and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga are also looking strong, however, and should not be discounted. Tsonga did, after all, beat Federer to win the Rogers Cup in early August, and Isner is favored to win the ATP Cup at Winston-Salem this week. Though there may be less uncertainty about the outcome of the men’s final than the women’s, there still may not be a clear runaway candidate for the US Open final this year.
With a year full of injuries, upsets and illness, the outcome for the US Open in both men’s and women’s play probably cannot be predicted with any certainty. All of the major players have had their ups and downs throughout the 2013-2014 season, while some lower-ranked players have managed to shine through the usual suspects to show potential in the next generation of athletes. One thing is for certain: the weeks leading up to this year’s US Open seem to be less about practice for the last grand slam of the season and more about gaining insight into who will be the next champion in singles play.
Commentary by Layla Klamt