It wasn’t that long ago that Grand Slam tennis returning to Flushing Meadows looked more like a dream than a reality.
New York became the epicentre of Covid-19 and contingency plans looks more in hope than expectation. Whilst it is fantastic to see tennis return at the highest level it would not have happened without the incredible work done by those key workers who have helped save many lives.
It will be a different US Open this year, known as the city that never sleeps New York will be unusually quiet as players take to the courts on Monday and step out onto Arthur Ashe which is usually full to its 23,771 capacity but just a handful will be there to watch the action unfold.
Who isn’t in New York?
Many players aren’t in New York and opted against travelling to Flushing Meadows including:
Ash Barty, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Belinda Bencic, Kiki Bertens & Bianca Andreescu
Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are all out.
Will it be No.24?
Serena Williams to an extent was not too pleased with how she left Lexington and Cincinnati but when it comes to the big stage she does turn up.
Interestingly after her first match in Lexington Serena said she felt more relaxed without the crowd there so it will be interesting to see how this affects Serena who has had some issues in big moments in New York.
Will it be better if things aren’t going to plan for Serena if she looks up, see’s an empty crowd and just her team sat at a distance? This is new territory for everyone.
The only thing Serena will be slightly worried about is cramping. Muscle injuries were always going to be the topic of conversation after an enforced break for soo long and going back into tennis in what is essentially the deep end will highlight these issues.
There are a lot of players missing from the women’s draw and I think we will get a lot surprises.
Even though tennis has just returned the early tournaments have given us an indicator on what could pan out in New York.
On the women’s side I think it is very open. I do think Naomi Osaka will go in as the favourite, I think she has looked strong and grown as the week has gone on.
Other contenders, Serena would be silly to rule and someone who has won a Grand Slam and was simply outstanding in Cincinnati was Victoria Azarenka. It was just over a week ago I wrote saying Vika just needs a run of events and she has looked really sharp.
It isn’t often that I would rule out a top seed but I just don’t see Karolina Pliskova winning in New York. I thought her performances were flat and she hasn’t defeated a top ten ranked player at a Grand Slam in six years.
The first name at the top of the list is Novak Djokovic. Novak has flirted with defeat a few times this season but come through against Thiem in Melbourne, Monfils in Dubai and Agut in Cincinnati.
Despite looking a little jaded he is still the man to beat. Despite winning two of the last five US Open’s it has been a tricky hunting ground for Novak who has ran into a few problems over the years but who will cause him problems?
Daniil Medvedev was runner up last year but hasn’t done much since, he was tipped to deliver and cause trouble in London and didn’t deliver and before the enforced break was not in good form.
Someone else who hasn’t been in good form is Alex Zverev, he won’t have his new coach David Ferrer but when he does leave New York will team up with him. Part of his game impressed against Murray but the double faults at the end were bizarre.
Talking of bizarre, Dominic Thiem’s performance against Krajinovic in Cincinnati was as bad as it gets. No top player played more than Dominic Thiem during the lockdown at various events but no one played as bad as the Austrian in his first tour match back.
Dominic won just 2 of 34 points on Krajinovic’ serve during the match and if it doesn’t go to plan early on in New York he is still on the following weeks list in Kitzbuhel.
The two in good form at the moment who really impressed were Milos Raonic and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Milos in-particular has looked very strong through the return to tennis.
Who to watch out for?
Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray will be back in action at the US Open following returns to tennis.
Leylah Fernandez is one to watch out for, the Canadian teenager isn’t afraid of going for her game no matter who is on the other side of the court to her.
Jannik Sinner made big strides at the end of last year and will face a tough challenge in Karen Khachanov who looked pretty good in Cincinnati.
Two Americans to keep an eye on are Caty McNally who took Serena to three sets last year at Flushing Meadows. The other to look out for is Hailey Baptiste, who will up against Mladenovic in round one and has signed up to doubles with Whitney Osuigwe and will play McNally and Gauff in round one.