by Michael Lemort
The US Open starts in late August and the favorites are Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal without a doubt. Not really a surprise as we know how huge those two champions are, but more than a year ago, who would have thought that the balance inside the Big Four would be so different than it is today!
Novak Djokovic was the invincible number one for several years and he had just won majors in a row in between two years after winning the French Open. But five months later, he gave up his throne to Andy Murray. The British player won Wimbledon, the Olympics and the Masters Cup in London and became the last member of the Big Four to be number one at the ATP rankings. Nadal and Federer, injured and obviously getting older, had withdrawn for the end of the season.
Today the Serbian has lost his four majors crowns, he hasn’t won a Masters 1000 this year and he is ranked number 4. Moreover he has just announced this week that he will withdraw for the rest of the season to heal an elbow injury and get some time off to take care of his family and get ready for next year!
Andy Murray, like Djokovic, hasn’t won a Major neither a Masters 1000 in 2017. Exhausted by his achievements of last year and also weakened (hip injury), he is about to lose his supremacy. Federer and Nadal, fresher than ever, are just behind him and have almost no ATP points to defend until the end of the season. Aged 36, the Swiss is more aggressive than he has ever been. He looks more impressive than he was back 10 years ago when he was at his top. He won the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Halle and Wimbledon (without dropping a set!) and he beat Nadal three times in a row for the first time of his career. The Spaniard won his tenth French Open (a record) after triumphing in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. Both of them have shared the big trophies this year and they will probably race against each other for the number one ATP ranking until the end of the season. Who would have thought about that a year ago?
Everybody also thought that, besides Murray or Djokovic, a new member of the next generation would hold some big trophies in 2017. But except Alexander Zverev in Roma (the only big tournament that Nadal and Federer haven’t won so far this year), they will have to wait some more as « the old Roger and Rafa » still hunger for success and are not retired yet. Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov represent the best chances but after Nadal crushed the Austrian at Roland Garros and Federer did the same with the Canadian and the Bulgarian in London, on their favorite surface, the way to the top doesn’t seem that close. Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios have been injured too much and their body seems fragile. Also Borna Coric, Frances Tiafoe and Andrey Rublev, all members of the teen « Next Gen », are getting better and tougher each year but they will probably need some more time to compete with the Top 10.
So Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal seem to have the best chances to hold the trophy at Flushing Meadows. But as we saw the turnover that happened between last year and this year, some more surprises, comebacks and upsets can happen very soon. And don’t forget that the defending champion hasn’t been mentioned yet ! Only player to have won several Majors besides the Big Four in the last 15 years, the other Swiss player, Stanislas Wawrinka, even though he is quite inconstant, could perfectly win two US Open back to back!