Roger Federer – Becoming a father hasn’t affected the master’s play since Wimbledon. A few hiccups on the way to that Cincinnati win merely reflect the lack of complete dominance by any of the world’s top men at the moment. It is this that will help Federer; with the exception of Murray none of the top players are playing anything near to their consistent best. It is times like this when Roger should rack up those Grand Slam titles.
Andy Murray – By far the main threat to Federer at the US Open. His win in Montreal and his regular appearances in the latter stages of the other tournaments suggest he is full of confidence. Such self belief will only be boosted further by Murray’s recent elevation to the number two spot. Whilst his bullish claims of reaching number one very soon are still unrealistic – a fair shot at the US Open is very reachable.
Novak Djokovic – He said it himself: “I was born in the wrong era”. Whilst the Serb may have been half joking after losing to Roger Federer in the final in Cincinnati his words are beginning to look worryingly ominous. Perhaps not so much at the moment with Nadal still getting back to speed, but certainly this year Djokovic has done nothing to trouble the top three this season. If anything the still rather erratic Del Potro has shown greater reason to be ranked at 4 in the world.
Rafael Nadal – Right now we are witnessing the kind of scenario that will make or break Nadal’s career and will determine his future as a possible Federer-beater. The strain the Spaniard’s game places on his body and his knees of course in particular has been clear enough by his absence and inability to defend his Slams. But the slow and steady progress Nadal is making to be back at his very best further points that this isn’t a little niggle of an injury. It will take months to properly heal and such a recovery time will only get longer as Nadal ages. I predict poor Rafa will go backwards again before returning to the summit.
Juan Martin Del Potro – Consistent since Wimbledon brilliantly taking the title in Washington and only narrowly losing to Murray in Montreal. Del Potro is still very young and his game can still (excitingly) grow and evolve. Along with Murray, he must be confident of reaching at least the final in Flushing Meadows.
Andy Roddick – Since Wimbledon Roddick has been solid enough only coming unstuck against Del Potro twice in the Washington final and the semi’s at Montreal. The home support at the US will always be a factor but a repeat of his Wimbledon heroics suddenly doesn’t seem as sure-fire as they did a month ago.
Sam Querrey and Robby Ginepri – have also been playing well in the Series with a title each. Ginepri is still frustratingly prone to confidence and concentration dips whilst Querrey’s early strong form in the last month is beginning to peter out. Should both deliver and go far in New York.
Dinara Safina – Apart from a low key title in Potoroz it has been a quiet US Open Series for the World Number One. A disappointing loss to a Jelena Jankovic still finding her form in the Los Angeles final, having beaten comeback princess Clijsters proving the only highlight. Deserves a Slam title during such a period of dominance in the past year but will need to approach the big matches differently to do so.
Venus Williams – As with Safina, it seems that defeat in a tour final has shattered the confidence in Venus. Marion Bartoli is a tricky customer and this year has been very Jeckyll and Hyde. Venus probably expected to wipe the floor with the Frenchwoman. Since that loss in Stanford it has been horror show stuff for Williams Snr. Needs the US Open title more than anyone.
Serena Williams – An unremarkable lead up to the Open for Serena, never really hitting the heights of her game and apart from Dementieva her victors have been players she should be beating.
Elena Dementieva – Until the win in Toronto it had been a case of the nearly woman that has defined Dementieva’s career. Always up there with a shot but never delivering that killer blow. Well, she looks better and better as she matures and I fancy Elena as an outside bet for the Open.
Svetlana Kuznetsova – Not a happy bunny, the 2004 Us Open champion is having a torrid US Open series. Never really convincing against Clijsters in Cincinnati and a loss to SeedKiller Stosur in the opening round in Toronto. A generous draw at the Us Open may allow the Russian to play herself into form and confidence but it will be tough.
Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova – are two comeback players hitting their stride. Clijsters has of course been away for longer and as such is still adjusting to the new level of the WTA tour which has changed so much in her short two year absence. Like Hingis though, Kim will find her range and be back to title contention. Maria has been playing some brutal tennis and if she can withstand a fortnight of Slam level play then she will go far. The title itself is still too big a task for the grittiest competitor.