With the news that Amazon Prime have the exclusive UK broadcasting rights to this year’s US Open it feels like this grand slam marks the beginning of a new era in tennis broadcasting.
However, while tennis is willing to embrace change in terms of how they televise the sport, its top players are reluctant as ever to make way for a new era. In the men’s draw it is less a case of old vs new and more of old vs old, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic being tipped for the title. On the women’s side it seems like it will once again be a case of Serena Williams against the field, and the question of whether or not age and motherhood will be enough to slow her down. With its availability on Amazon combined with the strength of the players competing for the title, the 2018 US Open has the potential to be the sporting event of the year.
The first two grand slams in men’s tennis in 2018 followed a fairly predictable narrative. Federer triumphed in Australia, before Nadal continued his dominance at Roland Garros. Just as it appeared Federer and Nadal would look to make it a seventh slam in a row won by the pair at Wimbledon, Djokovic rediscovered his form to take the title. This of course sets up the perfect narrative for Andy Murray to emerge victorious at Flushing Meadows to show that the big four are truly back. Unfortunately for British fans he has as much chance of winning the US Open as Arsenal do the Premier League. While it is very difficult to pick between the top three, I think Nadal will be lifting the trophy in a fortnight’s time. Nadal’s chances are helped by the fact that he cannot meet Djokovic or Federer until the final. The other half of the draw offers a mouth-watering potential quarterfinal between Djokovic and Federer, with the winner likely to face Nadal in the final. I am backing Djokovic to beat Federer in five sets, but that he will ultimately fall to Nadal in the final in four.
In the women’s draw it is, as always, difficult to predict who will be the champion. With Serena Williams having returning to imperious form at Wimbledon it is impossible to rule her out of contention and she deserves her tag as one of the bookies favourites. Angelique Kerber also has to be considered a threat after her Wimbledon triumph, but, outside of Williams, no woman has been able to establish any real notion of dominance in recent years, so I think back-to-back majors is beyond her. My tip is Simona Halep. If it was the Halep of 2017 then I would be hesitant to back her, but after her breakthrough victory at Roland Garros this year, I think she will prove it was no fluke and pick up her second slam.
The downside of the men’s big four is that it limits the potential for a so-called dark horse to win a slam. However, if one young player has caught the eye in recent months then it is Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 20-year-old from Greece has burst onto the scene and cannot be ruled out from making a strong run, he definitely has the game to. He enters the tournament as the No. 15 seed and opens his campaign against Tommy Robredo.
The 🇪🇸Robredo #USOpen file:
Best Result: QF (2013)
Last time played: 2015
With his passage into the main draw today, we flash back to @TRobredo's first appearance in Flushing Meadows…
🎥: 2001 pic.twitter.com/9vokFyI9Y8
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 24, 2018
Another option is Stan Wawrinka, who, whilst definitely passed his best, is difficult to beat and dangerous in the latter stages of grand slams. However, a tough first-round match against Grigor Dimitrov means he is just as likely to go home early. Another potential dark horse is Murray, who, if he is able to navigate the early rounds that include Juan Martin Del Potro, has the talent, if not the youth or fitness, to challenge. American fans cannot realistically expect an American champion, but Frances Tiafoe is one to keep an eye on and this has the potential to be a real breakthrough year for him. He is definitely the American man to watch.
One woman considered an outsider that cannot be ruled out is Madison Keys. The American lost to her compatriot Sloane Stephens in last year’s final and has the game to beat anyone on her day. In terms of youthful challengers, Belinda Bencic and Naomi Osaka could meet in the third round in what would be a fascinating clash. Bencic especially is a talent who broke into the top ten as a teenager and it would be great to see her make real progress at a slam. While I do not think she will lift the trophy, I always rate Jelena Ostapenko’s chances because of her powerful attacking game.
While I expect the big three to navigate the early rounds that does not mean there will be no upsets. The Dimitrov-Wawrinka first round clash will be a repeat of their Wimbledon opener and I believe Wawrinka could repeat the result and send Dimitrov home early. Similarly, Andy Murray would do brilliantly to make it into the second week, especially as he will likely have to navigate past Del Potro. For the most part though, I believe the men’s draw will be relatively upset free.
An early women’s match that stands out is the first-round clash between Johanna Konta and sixth seed Caroline Garcia. Konta had gone from obscurity to potential grand slam champion in the space of a couple of years but her ranking has begun to slide recently. Given her struggles I think Garcia will have too much for her and with the winner of that match possibly then facing 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig, it is likely that we will see two recognisable names go home early. Moreover, the nature of the women’s game at the minute means that any and all of the top seeds could fall early. Without the protection of five sets the women’s game will always be a bit more unpredictable, but it does act as a refreshing counterbalance to the dominance in the men’s game.
Aside from Konta and Murray, British hopes will once again lie with 23-year-old Kyle Edmund. After an impressive run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open back in January, the right-hander enters the tournament as the 16th seed. He faces a tricky opening tie against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi, who reached the fourth-round at Flushing Meadows last year, but he should have enough to win that. A potential tie with big-serving American Jack Sock awaits in the last 32, but Sock’s poor form this year, winning just 25% of his matches, should see Edmund make it to the last 16 for the second time in his career before falling to Nadal.
Upsets or not, it does not matter, this year’s US Open promises to be a cracker.