August 18, 2009
We’re more than half way through the Olympus US Open Series (a.k.a., the summer hard court season). Even though the US Open is still a few weeks away, one thing is clear on the men’s side: Change is in the air.
U.S. Open Contenders
Andy Roddick - It’s official. Andy Roddick is back, and he means business. After heeding the advice of his new coach, Larry Stefanki, Andy shed 15 pounds, and has renewed confidence in his game. The No. 1 American is having one of the best years of his career, battling his way into the Wimbledon final, and in the process, bringing American tennis back into the fold. After recovering from a hip flexor injury, he reached the final at Washington. In the sweltering heat, Roddick fought a very close 3-set final, saving 3 match points against Juan Martin Del Potro. The match ended in dramatic fashion, with a challenge call on championship point, giving Del Potro his 2nd consecutive title in Washington. Less than a week later, Roddick advanced to the semifinal of the Roger’s Cup, but lost to Del Potro. It’s safe to say that Roddick has the look of a champion, and is ready to do some damage at the US Open.
Juan Martin Del Potro -The 6′6″ Argentinean and current world No. 6, has been dominating the summer hard court season. His big serve and powerful double-handed backhand make him a tough opponent to beat. Del Potro showed Andy Roddick twice in one week how to win in a tight match, and in the process, he successfully defended his title at the Legg Mason Classic. Del Potro then went on to the Rogers Cup, beating Rafa and Roddick along the way, only to run out of gas in the final, losing to Andy Murray. Del Potro is the current point leader in the Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge, and is poised to break into the ATP’s top 5. The Federer/Nadal rivalry may be taking a back seat to the brewing battle between Del Potro and Roddick.
Andy Murray - Before the Rogers Cup, Andy Murray hadn’t played a match since his semifinal loss to Andy Roddick at Wimbledon. But since pulling off a 3-set win against Del Potro in the Roger’s Cup final, the US Open buzz has begun. Looking ahead to September, Murray will be looking to avenge his 2008 US Open loss to Roger Federer. The newly minted No. 2 also has a chance to become the first British man since Fred Perry (in 1933) to take the US Open title. Murray, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title, has beaten Federer 6 times in their past 8 meetings.
Roger Federer - The reigning No. 1 took 5 weeks off after Wimbledon to focus on family, but joined the summer hard court season in Montreal, at the Rogers Cup. He suffered a surprising loss in his quarterfinal match against Tsonga, despite a 5-1 lead in the 3rd set. Even Federer admitted that Tsonga is a “dangerous player.” But with 5 consecutive titles at the US Open (2004-2008), it’s doubtful that any player can take him down in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Novak Djokovic - Like Murray and Federer, Djokovic hadn’t seen any match play since Wimbledon. Upon his return to competition, the current world No. 4 made it to the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup, only to be taken out by Andy Roddick. Moving forward, Djokovic is considering some changes off court. He is in talks with Todd Martin to possibly bring him on as a member of his coaching team.
The Rafa ComebackRafael Nadal’s long awaited comeback finally took place in Montreal, making his debut at the Roger’s Cup. A quarterfinal finish was a good test of his health and fitness, but the former No. 1 player is understandably taking a cautious approach. Looking back on this year, no one has experienced more change than Rafa. Within the span of just a few months, the 4-time French Open champion lost in the 4th Now at No. 3 (a ranking he hasn’t held since July 2005), Rafa isn’t setting any expectations for himself, or his knees. He knows that recovery is a process, which takes time. It may be too soon to tell if his knees will be ready to survive the hard-court pounding at the US Open. round in Paris, his knees began to fail him, he withdrew from Wimbledon, he was sidelined with tendonitis for 2 months, and lost his No.1 ranking.
The American Comeback
Not too long ago, there was a significant void in men’s tennis, caused by a lack of young American talent on the tour. With Andy Roddick now taking the lead, a new crop of American tennis players are following suit. Sam Querrey and John Isner, along with veterans Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri, have the talent and commitment to put American tennis back on the map. It won’t be long before the American men start winning Grand Slams again.
Sam Querrey - The 6′6″ California native has top-10 potential written all over him, holding the No. 26 ranking spot. He reached the final of Newport and Indianapolis, and won the LA Tennis Open, in front of his hometown crowd. Querrey will have more than a few more aces up his sleeve as he heads into the US Open.
John Isner - Despite being sidelined for 2 months with mono, the 6′9″ rising star is back and stronger than he’s been in 2 years. He’s achieved his highest ranking -No. 55, and has proven that he can give the top 10 players a run for their money. Since the start of the summer hard court season, Isner reached the semifinals in Indianapolis, followed by a quarterfinal run in LA, and reached the semifinals at the Legg Mason Classic, where he lost a tight match to fellow American Andy Roddick. After the semifinal loss, he received a special exemption into the Roger’s Cup main draw. Isner has also been granted a wildcard for the Pilot Pen in New Haven.
Mardy Fish - The No. 2 American has lost the knee tape, gained a wedding ring, and has slowly crept back into the top 25. Despite an abdominal strain that has sidelined him during most of the US Open Series, the opportunity for him to rest and regroup could make him a dangerous opponent.
Robby Ginepri - One of the most unpredictable players on the tour, Ginepri managed to win the title in Indianapolis, beating Sam Querrey and John Isner along the way. With hard courts being his favorite surface, he will have some additional chances to prove himself during the US Open Series.
Darkhorse Picks for the US Open