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The US Open – Contenders, Outsiders & Irish Interest

Less than 24 hours until the US Open kicks off in Flushing, New York. Let’s break down who the contenders and outsiders are for the final Grand Slam of 2014.

Men’s Singles – The Contenders

Novak Djokovic

It has been quite a year for the World No.1. Marriage, baby on the way and a second Wimbledon title. However, he has not been at his best in the last few weeks.

Djokovic has only won 2 matches since winning at SW19 – looking quite rusty in the process. Maybe it’s the post-wedding blues! The Serbian has not been given the easiest draw, with Murray, Isner, Tsonga, Wawrinka and Raonic all in his half. He’s the favourite for the title but I’m slightly wary. One thing I’m certain of is that Djokovic will do a hell of a lot of splits at Flushing! That is a given.

Roger Federer

2014 has turned out to be a great year for Roger Federer. After a dismal last season, many critics believed that his time was up. But, like he always does, Federer has silenced them all by reaching eight finals (including Wimbledon) and winning three titles. His game is back to its best and he looks to be enjoying himself. Can he win a record-breaking 6th title? Stranger things have happened.

Andy Murray

The Wimbledon/back injury hangover continued longer than anyone expected. Early round losses have peppered his 2014 season. Earlier in the summer, Andy Murray revealed that he only just returned to full training schedule after the surgery. He has shown signs that he’s back to his best recently. Murray reached the quarters in the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Masters, losing to the eventual champions on both occasions. He’s in a tough section of the draw but, if he gets a few wins under his belt, the confidence will build and who knows what he could do.

The Outsiders

Grigor Dimitrov

It’s both great and a curse to be nicknamed ‘Baby Fed’ but the Bulgarian seems to be doing just fine. Like Federer, he has won three titles this year. In my opinion, Wimbledon is where he really shone, knocking out Andy Murray and putting Djokovic through his paces.

However, Dimitrov has never gotten to the 2nd round at the U.S. Open, which is weird considering he is the 2008 Boys champion. Hopefully, the 23-year-old will be able to build on his Grand Slam results from this year and go a few rounds better. A potential quarter-final match with Federer would be gold!

Milos Raonic

Raonic rose to a career high ranking of No.6 after making his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon. The Canadian has continued this form into the hard court season and recently won the U.S. Open Series. His past 2 visits to Flushing have seen him reach the 4th round. With a booming serve reminiscent of Pete Sampras, Milos is a definite threat here.

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Women’s Singles – The Contenders

Serena Williams

It’s incredible to think that, at 32, Serena Williams is still considered the favourite for every Grand Slam tournament. And it is no different at Flushing. The defending champion hasn’t reached a Major quarter-final this year but four of her titles in 2014 have been on outdoor hard courts.

Serena’s record this summer is 12-1, with that one loss at the hands of Venus in Stanford. She begins her defense against fellow American Taylor Townsend. Can Serena win Grand Slam No.18?

Maria Sharapova

The 2008 champion comes into this tournament with no ranking points to defend after missing last year due to a shoulder injury. Sharapova will be hoping to end the year with a 2nd Grand Slam title, after her victory in Paris. She has advanced to the quarter-finals at Flushing just once in five visits.

Her half of the draw isn’t the best with Halep, Wozniacki, Radwanska and Venus Williams all lurking there. However, she will be glad to see her nemesis Serena in the opposite half.

Simona Halep

The French Open finalist wasn’t even ranked in the top 20 this time last year. What a difference 12 months makes! Simona Halep has shown that she is a threat on all surfaces and has shot up to World No.2. The Romanian hasn’t had the best preparation – losing to Sharapova again and exiting New Haven early. But, Halep has declared that she is rested and ready. Watch out.

Petra Kvitova

With a 2nd Wimbledon title, it hasn’t been a bad year for Petra Kvitova. When the serve and ground strokes are firing, she is very dangerous; the Wimbledon final is a great example of this. Kvitova needs to bring her A-game if she wants to win her first U.S. Open title.  She won the New Haven title this week which will do her confidence the world of good.

The Outsiders

Victoria Azarenka

If 2014 wasn’t so injury-filled then Victoria Azarenka would be a contender for the U.S. Open title. A two-time finalist here, I would be surprised if she reached it again this year. After losing her Australian Open title in January, Azarenka withdrew from the French Open due to a foot injury, lost in the 2nd round at Wimbledon, withdrew from Cincinnati due to a knee injury and fell out of the world’s top 10.

She’s more than likely going to be rusty and, quite possibly, slow. Azarenka plays Misaki Doi in the first round, with Svetlana Kuznetsova, former U.S. Open champion, a potential 3rd round opponent.

Agnieszka Radwanska

It has been a good summer for the popular Pole, after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Radwanska’s best result at the U.S. Open has been the 4th round on four occasions but she will be hoping to do better this year. Her section of the draw looks good and a quarter-final appearance is very possible. Aga opens play against Canada’s Sharon Fichman tomorrow on Louis Armstrong.

Eugenie Bouchard

What I was to know is will Genie reach her 4th Grand Slam semi-final of the year. Judging by recent form, it’s a long shot. A triumphant return to Canada as Wimbledon runner-up turned sour as she lost in the second round in Montreal to Shelby Rogers. Another 2nd round loss in Cincinnati soon followed. If Bouchard can regain some of the form she has shown this year, expect her to go far.

Irish Interest

James McGee will make his main draw debut at the U.S. Open on Monday evening. McGee will play Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan on Court 13. They are 3rd on court.

Coverage of the 134th U.S. Open begins Monday 25th from 4pm on Sky Sports.

Eilís Brennan, Pundit Arena.

Featured Image By Edwin Martinez (Flickr: US Open 2011 Opening Day 068) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.