Hurricane Irene more or less spared New York City, meaning the U.S. Open will begin as scheduled today in Queens.The tennis world has changed a little bit since you tuned in to Wimbledon last month.
Here’s what the landscape looks like going into the Open:
The men’s field is wide open for the first time in a long time. Don’t get us wrong, there’s still a huge gap between the top four (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Murray), and everyone else. But injuries and poor form indicate that the quartet that has dominated the sport for years is not as impenetrable as they’ve been.
Novak Djokovic is nursing a shoulder injury that forced him to retire after one set in the final at Cincinnati two weeks ago.
Rafael Nadal has been hampered by a foot injury and a freaky finger burn that he picked up at a restaurant in Cincinnati. He hasn’t won in the hard court season, and he’s light years away from his dominant self.
Andy Murray won the Cincinnati tournament after Djokovic had to retire in the final, but he hasn’t done much else of note this summer. His grand slam failures are also starting to pile up, to the point that he can’t be considered a “favourite” going in.
Elsewhere in the men’s game: Mardy Fish is the best American player right now (he’s seeded No. 8). Andy Roddick is seeded all the way down at 21st, so don’t hold your breath on a deep run from him. Fish has an outside shot to make the semis (he beat Rafa earlier this summer), but don’t expect chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” to fill Arthur Ashe after either of these players win the men’s final.
Keep an eye on Ryan Harrison, the American teenager. He’s matched up with out-of-form Marin Cilic in the first round.
On the women’s side, the parity (or, more cynically, lack of quality) that has defined the sport for years continues.
Caroline Wozniaki is the No. 1 seed, and is coming off a win at the New Haven Open. But she has yet to win a slam in her career, and she’s far from the dominant player that her seed implies. On the other hand, she’s dating Rory McIlroy and he won the golf U.S. Open, so you never know.
Serena Williams is seeded 28th(!). This is because the U.S. Open seeds based on current rank and not past performance. She’s probably the favourite. The question is if she can stay healthy, keep her cool, and maintain the progress she’s made since coming back from injury.
Other than those two, the women’s game is as uncertain as you remember it. Expect high-seeds to get knocked off, low-seeds to go on Cinderella runs, and utter unknowns to be playing deep into the second week.
The U.S. Open gets underway today at 11:00 a.m. TV coverage starts on ESPN at 1 p.m.