US Open Series Preview: Tennis Shots

US OpenThe U.S Open Series gets underway next week. The series, started in 2004, is made up of five weeks of hard-court tournaments climaxing in the US Open fortnight at Flushing Meadows in New York City.

The Series, sponsored by Emirates airlines, offers points for each of the events leading up to the Open, with the male and female players who win the most points winning bonus prize money and the title of the U.S Open Series champion. Even further incentive to do well is a bonus for the first, second and third placed U.S Open series finishers for winning the U.S Open. Last year both Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams were U.S Open series and U.S Open champions and walked away with $3.6 million each-$2.6 million for winning the U.S Open plus a million dollar bonus for finishing top of the Series.

The Series has a history of great champions alongside Williams and Nadal. Other past winners on the women’s side have been Lindsay Davenport, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, and Kim Clisters. On the men’s side, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, and Novak Djokovic have all ended the Series at the top of the leader-board.

The first event of the Series is the BB&T Challenger in Atlanta where John Isner will defend his ATP 250 title. Isner has always done well during the U.S Open Series, his big serve and forehand game coming to life on the deco-turf courts in front of his home crowd. This year has been a good one for 12th ranked Isner- he has a 23-12 record and a title in Auckland- so expect him to hit through the courts, and hit big, once more in the build up to his home slam.

The second week of the Series serves up the WTA Premier Bank of the West Classic in Stanford and the combined  WTA International and ATP 500 Citi Open event in Washington DC. Last year’s Stanford event saw Dominika Cibulkova edge Agnieszka Radwanska in a three set thriller while the Citi Open was won by Juan Martin Del Potro who will miss out on this year’s event with a wrist injury, and the women’s champion was Magdalena Rybarikova.

Week three is the first combined ATP 1000 and WTA Premier tournament, the Rogers Cup, this year held in Montreal. Last year, this prestigious event was won by  Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal. The second combined ATP 1000 and WTA Premier event comes immediately after, in week four, at the Cincinnati Open, also won by Rafael Nadal last season. Serena Williams, though, did not repeat her Canadian Open success, going down to Vika Azarenka in a third set tiebreaker in the final.

Fans will be fascinated to see whether or not either Nadal or Williams can repeat their U.S Open Series 2013 glory after both suffered surprise defeats in big events this season, with neither player making it past the last sixteen at last month’s Wimbledon. Nadal, who finished 2013 as the ATP world no.1, fell to no.2 behind Novak Djokovic after his Wimbledon exit. Williams, meanwhile, still holds on to her no.1 ranking on the WTA tour, despite also going out in the last 16 of the Australian Open and the second round of the French, but has a lot of points to defend if she wants to stay on top of the WTA tour, and her and Nadal’s stories will be two of the most keenly followed ones this U.S Open series.

The warm-ups to the U.S Open finish in week five of the series as players gather at the WTA International Connecticut Open in New Haven won by Simona Halep in her breakout year of 2013, and the ATP 250  Winston-Salem Open in Winston-Salem, N.C, which saw Jurgen Melzer lift the trophy in 2013.

Then comes the big one, the US Open. By the time that event gets underway, the hard court appetites of tennis fans will be whetted, the form of the players should be close to their best, and the tennis world will be treated to what is often considered the fairest, with both attacking and defensive games able to flourish on the hard courts, the loudest, and, arguably, the most exciting slam of them all.

The US Open series starts Monday July 21. Follow it here at the Guardian Liberty Voice.

Tennis shots is the regular tennis column for Guardian Liberty Voice.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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