Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When the 2013 U.S. Open gets underway next
week ... who the heck will be the favorite on the men's side?
How 'bout Novak Djokovic?
It would seem like Djokovic is an obvious-type choice, considering he's a
former champion in New York; played in the final there a year ago; has been
the runner-up there on two other occasions; is the reigning Australian Open
champ; reached last month's Wimbledon finale; and, oh yeah, is the No. 1
player in the world!
But not so fast.
What about Andy Murray?
The high-soaring Scot is the reigning U.S. Open champ; broke through with his
first-ever Wimbledon title last month; is the reigning Olympic gold medalist;
appeared in this year's Aussie Open finale; and also appeared in the U.S. Open
final back in 2008.
How 'bout five-time U.S. Open legend Roger Federer?
True, the former world No. 1 does own an Open-Era-record-equaling five
men's championships in the Big Apple (joining Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras)
-- a record five straight from 2004-08 -- but hasn't captured America's Open
since 2008. And when he last reached the final at the USTA Billie Jean King
National Tennis Center in 2009, Fed lost to big Argentine Juan Martin del
Potro, blowing a two-sets-to-one lead in the process.
Perhaps the Federer U.S. Open ship has sailed (or even sunk at this point).
He's now all the way down to No. 7 in the world as he battles back problems
and continues to flip-flop on his racquet size.
It would appear as though French Open king Rafael Nadal is being penciled
in as the fave in Flushing right now. And why not?
When healthy, Rafa has been nothing short of remarkable this year. The super
Spaniard is an amazing 48-3 in 2013, including a perfect 15-0 record on his
"least favorite" surface, hardcourt.
The former world No. 1 is fresh off his surprising back-to-back hardcourt
Masters 1000 titles in Montreal and Cincinnati, respectively. Two weeks ago,
he spanked formidable Canadian Milos Raonic in the title match at the Canadian
Masters event, and then this past weekend, straight-setted wicked-tall
American John Isner in a pair of tiebreaks in the final at the Cincy Masters
for his first-ever title there. It also gave Rafa an overflowing/record 26th
ATP Masters shield.
The eight-time French Open champ is also a former U.S. Open winner (2010) and
was a runner-up in Queens in 2011.
Did You Know?: By capturing this year's French Open, Nadal became the first
man to win a single Grand Slam event eight times and the first to win at least
one major tournament in nine consecutive years, breaking the previous record
of eight shared by Bjorn Borg, Sampras, and Federer.
This is supposed to be the time of year when the 27-year-old Nadal runs out of
gas and his troublesome knees are sore from yet another long year of battle.
But Rafa hasn't played a ton of tennis in 2013, a season in which he didn't
start swingin' until February after being sidelined with a knee injury for
The mighty Mallorcan has played in only 12 tournaments in 2013, piling up an
ATP-best nine titles along the way, and has appeared in the final at all but
one of his tourneys, Wimbledon, where he suffered one of the biggest upsets in
the history of tennis when he lost to Belgian Steve Darcis in the opening
round. His only loss to a fellow "Big Four" member this season came against
Djokovic at the Monte Carlo Masters back in April. Nadal's 2-1 versus
Djokovic, hasn't met Murray yet, and is a flawless 3-0 against his great rival
Federer, including a come-from-behind victory against the aging Swiss in a
quarterfinal just last week in Ohio.
Amazingly, Nadal and Federer have never met at the U.S. Open. Never.
Did You Know?: One of the Big Four (Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Federer) has won
the last eight Aussie Opens, the last nine French Opens, the last 11
Wimbledons, and eight of the last nine U.S. Opens.
Surely there must be someone aside from Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Federer
ready to contend for the big prize in Gotham, right?
David Ferrer is No. 4 in the world and reached his first-ever Grand Slam final
at this year's French Open, but he's really not in the mix for a U.S. Open
crown at this time (or any time).
Then, there's really just Tomas Berdych, the aforementioned del Potro, Raonic,
and Isner to talk about. And outside of Delpo, there just isn't much to say.
Berdych is a former Wimbledon runner-up who reached his first-ever U.S. Open
semifinal a year ago, but I just don't see him getting past the Big Four,
ever. Raonic and Isner have big games that can produce a lot of wins on
hardcourts, thanks to their massive serves, but outdueling all those top guys
over a two-week span is just not in the cards for the 6-foot-5 Canadian
(Raonic) or 6-foot-9 American (Isner).
That leaves the 6-foot-7 del Potro as the only true contender outside the Big
Four. Delpo captured his lone major title at the '09 Open and can win against
anybody, on any surface (with the exception of perhaps Nadal on clay). The
menacing Argentine was a hardcourt titlist in D.C. a few weeks ago (beating
Isner in an all-tall final) before losing to Raonic in the third round at the
Montreal Masters two weeks ago and Isner in a Cincy semi last week.
Note: The best men's match of the year thus far involved del Potro and
Djokovic, as the two warriors performed in an epic five-set semifinal at
Wimbledon last month, with the super Serb prevailing there in just under five
If I have to pick a darkhorse in New York, I'd go with 6-foot-8 Pole Jerzy
Janowicz. He reached his first-ever Grand Slam semi at Wimby last month,
only to lose to the magnificent Murray in four sets. If JJ's big serve and
groundstrokes are landing in, he could beat just about anybody, especially on
a hardcourt. And he's a respectable 4-9 lifetime against Top-10 players.
American men boast an Open Era-record 19 singles titles at the Open, but
they're pretty well backloaded at this point. The last American man to run the
table in New York was Andy Roddick in 2003, which doesn't bode well for Isner,
Note: Djokovic and Murray have squared off in three of the last four major
finals, with Murray winning going 2-1.
The first-ever U.S. Championships were held on grass in Newport, Rhode Island,
way, way back in 1881. As a matter of fact, the tournament was staged on grass
from 1881 all the way up until 1974. It was then played on clay from 1975-77
before shifting to its current surface, hardcourt, in 1978.
So, who is actually gonna win this thing? Current trends would suggest that
Nadal will capture a second career U.S. Open title, but I'm gonna go with
Murray to nail down his first major repeat.
This year's U.S. Open champ will pocket a record $1.9 million.
The Sports Network