On the Ball: US Open Preview—Can Federer Get No. 6?

By Dave Martin, Epoch Times

The draw is out, the stage is set, and come Monday morning, it’ll be high time for us to see some great tennis again—US Open style.

This year’s tourney promises several intriguing story lines.

Federer Again?

Seventeen-time major champion Roger Federer hasn’t lifted the US Open trophy since 2008, when he won his fifth straight title on the hard courts in Flushing, but this time around figures to be his best chance at number six. Why?

For one thing the 33-year-old won’t have to deal with his long-time nemesis Rafael Nadal—the one player who’s had his number over the years.

Nadal, who’s out with a wrist injury, has a career 23–10 record versus the Swiss Maestro, including a stellar 9–2 mark in grand slam events.

In addition to the favorable draw, Federer is currently playing some of his best tennis. Unlike 2013, when he was dealing with back issues, Federer’s coming off his now sixth Western & Southern Open title and is less than two months removed from nearly upsetting Novak Djokovic in a thrilling, five-set Wimbledon final.

World No. 1 Djokovic is still the favorite and Federer’s biggest threat, but Djokovic is coming off consecutive round of 16 losses in both the Western & Southern Open and the Rogers Cup. Should the two meet again, it would only be in the final and it would promise to be a classic.

Men’s Golden Era

Beginning with Nadal’s triumph at the 2005 French Open, 34 of the last 38 majors have been won by the dominant trio that is Nadal (14), Djokovic (7), and Federer (13—he also won four previously).

Since the Open Era began in 1968, no period in men’s history has ever been dominated so thoroughly by three players. The closest we’ve seen came three decades ago when Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe won 19 out of 30 majors beginning with Borg’s win at Wimbledon in ’76 and ending with Connors’ US Open victory in ’83.

With Nadal out and eighth-seeded Andy Murray (who’s managed to somehow win two majors during this era) struggling to regain his form following back surgery, there’s a chance someone else could wedge their way in. The most likely candidate would seem to be third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, who won the Australian Open earlier this year by beating both Djokovic and Nadal.

Serena Looks for 2014 Redemption

On the women’s side, it’s been a rough year, grand slam-wise, for the world’s No. 1 ranked women’s player—Serena Williams. Williams, who like Federer has 17 grand slam titles to her resume, has yet to even get to the quarterfinals in any 2014 major. That hasn’t happened since her injury-riddled season of 2006 when she missed both the French Open and Wimbledon.

However, like Federer she comes into this tournament fresh off winning the Western & Southern Open title—her fifth singles title of the year. She’s also won each of the last two US Opens and has five total wins in Flushing, dating all the way back to 1999.

Her main competition here the last two years has been Victoria Azarenka, who she’s topped in the finals both times. Azarenka is a very good hard-court player, having won a pair of Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013, but she’s been slowed by a foot injury this year.

The world’s No. 2 ranked player, Li Na, has withdrawn due to a knee injury but French Open champion and former US Open champion Maria Sharapova, who missed last year’s event in Flushing, will return as another favorite. Sharapova has won three titles this year but failed to make it to the quarterfinals in both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.