2012 U.S. Open: Assessing the Field

It's that time of year again. There is a slight hint of fall in the air, but summer is holding on for one last blast of heat. Last year at this time, New York City was not the place to be for an outdoor tennis event. The city was contending with an earthquake, hurricane, and seemingly endless amounts of rain. Lower Manhattan was evacuated. Even Arthur Ashe Kids Day was canceled.

That was then. This is now.

The 2012 U.S. Open is set to begin on Monday, along with the usual excitement that precedes the start of the final Grand Slam of the season. Conversations of contenders, dark horses, injuries, and up-and-comers who may steal the show are front and center.

The Big 4 (er, 3)

Roger Federer: The stars seem to be aligned for him to reach #18. It's hard to bet against a guy who won Wimbledon seven times and is back to the No. 1 position, and...doesn't have to face his greatest rival, Rafa. Federer is vying for his 6th U.S. Open title, and is currently tied with Jimmy Connors and Sampras for the Open Era record of five U.S. Open titles. 

Andy Murray: After winning Gold at the Olympics, he has finally silenced his critics, but hasn't quite gotten the monkey off his back yet. "I think he has the most to lose and the most to gain at this point," says John McEnroe about Andy Murray, heading into the U.S. Open. Confidence may be the deciding factor.

Novak Djokovic: The world No. 2 recently defended his title in Toronto, but lost to Roger Federer in the final in Cincinnati. He has been struggling a bit with his game this season (slight burnout?), but as the reigning U.S. Open champion, he will be looking to make his fourth appearance in the U.S. Open men's final. 

Nipping at Their Heels: Del Potro, Tsonga, Ferrer, Raonic


Sam Stosur (Slammin’ Sam): The defending U.S. Open champ is coming into the U.S. Open in the same situation as 2011, without having won a single title leading up to the U.S. Open. In fact, Stosur and Wozniacki at the only two players in the top 10 yet to win a title this season. Stosur was a runner-up in Doha (l. to Azarenka) and reached the last four at Roland Garros and Charleston. Can she defend her U.S. Open title? Hard courts are her best surface, but confidence will play a big role.

Li Na: Here's a top 10 player who usually rises to the occasion on the big stages. She began working with Carlos Rodriguez (former coach of Henin) after Wimbledon this year. She won her first tournament of the season in Cincinnati vs. Kerber. She will likely make it through to week two, if Carlos has anything to say (or hand gesture) about it.

Kim Clijsters: The queen of the hard courts will be saying farewell to tennis after the U.S. Open. She has a legitimate shot at winning her 4th U.S. Open crown (2005, 2009, and 2010 winner), but has been sidelined with injuries and off-court commitments for most of this year. The momentum going into her last Grand Slam may carry her through, if she can stay healthy. She'll be playing singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.

Serena Williams: Is No. 15 in the cards? Six-time U.S. Open champ Chris Evert isn't so convinced. Evert says Serena may have trouble keeping up a high level of tennis for over a two‑week period -- consistently. "Serena will have to work harder at the US Open than she did at Wimbledon," says Evert. "She had a lot of free points at Wimbledon and the Olympics because it was on grass and shots didn't come back, and she dictated every point. This is going to be a different story. She's going to have to run down a lot more balls and get a lot more balls back, be more consistent and probably be even in better shape." 

Maria Sharapova: She came off the Olympics with a stomach bug and decided to lay low until the U.S. Open. If healthy, she could find herself in the final, opposite Serena Williams. 

Nipping at Their Heels: Azarenka, Aggie Radwanska 

Left Field

Angelique Kerber. This lefty came out of nowhere to make it to the U.S. Open semifinals in 2011, and since then, has sky rocked to No. 6 in the world. She defeated Venus Williams at the Olympics, and defeated Serena Williams in the QF in Cincinnati. Her offensive game needs to improve if she wants to be a Grand Slam contender.

Petra Kvitova: She's coming off a big win in New Haven, but has her work cut out for her in New York. Despite advancing to the QF stage or better at all three Grand Slams so far this year, The 2011 Wimbledon champ has never reached the QF at the U.S. Open. And with less than 48 hours of rest before the start of the U.S. Open, fatigue may be a factor for this six-foot lefty. Her serve and a bit more consistency will carry her through.

Side Notes

Melanie Oudin’s QF run at the U.S. Open in 2009 remains her best Grand Slam singles result to date. However, she teamed up with fellow American, Jack Sock to win the 2011 U.S. Open mixed doubles title. Can they pull off a repeat?

As it stands now, the men's final will be played on Sunday, September 9. Don't count on the weather gods to cooperate with that schedule.

Sharapova has come up with a new line of candy, called Sugarpova. Apparently Maria has a sweet tooth. Her favorite flavor? "Quirky" (rainbow liquorice with a marshmallow middle). Yep, that sounds like Maria.

American Brian Baker is playing in the main draw of the U.S. Open for the first time since 2005. His road to success has been a bumpy one. Cheer him on, whether he's playing on court 12 or Arthur Ashe Stadium.

View the U.S. Open TV Schedule HERE (ESPN, Tennis Channel, CBS)

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