The major storylines for the 2016 U.S. Open
The tennis season has reached the final grand slam and pro players are in the big apple prepping for the U.S. Open. For some top players it is their last chance of the year to right the wrongs of the season. For those playing well it is their opportunity to keep the momentum going and end the season on a good note. Just like the previous three slams, the U.S. Open will be an exciting event filled with many storylines. Here is the top three:
Serena looks to break Steffi Graff’s records (Grand slams and consecutive weeks at #1)
Last season and for most of this season the question that had been asked was can Serena tie Steffi Graff’s record of 22 grand slams. Now that Serena has done with her win at Wimbledon, at the U.S. Open Serena has the opportunity to own the most grand slam championships in the open era (Margaret Court has 24 grand slams but that was before tennis was restricted to strictly professionals).
But if that wasn’t enough pressure Serena has to win the U.S. Open in order to retain her number one ranking. As of last Sunday Serena has held the number one ranking for 183 consecutive weeks. German Angelique Kerber had a chance to dethrone Serena from her number one spot but in losing to Czech Karolina Pliskova at the Cincinnati, missed her chance. As a result of that lost Serena is guaranteed to tie Steffi’s 186 consecutive weeks’ record. But if Serena wants to hold off Kerber and a few other players it is imperative she wins the U.S. Open.
There are other scenarios in which Serena doesn’t have to win the U.S. Open to retain her number one ranking but they rely on Kerber losing early. Kerber who has made two grand slam finals, winning one against Serena, and also winning and Olympic silver medal seems to be hitting her stride. It seems highly unlikely that Kerber will lose early. So for Serena, who had a meek appearance in Rio, losing early in both singles and doubles, it will be a battle if she wishes to hold her place atop the rankings. To complicate matters Serena is having issues with her shoulder. She wasn’t able to defend her Cincinnati title because of the shoulder and it can also explain why Serena lost early in Rio. Assuming Serena is healthy and is in top form taking home the trophy will allow her to o stay number, thus breaking both of Graff’s recording and proverbially “killing two records (birds) with one stone.”
Andy Murray looks to establish himself as the dominant player
Despite his recent lost to Marion Cilic at the Cincinnati Open, it is safe to say Andy Murray has been on quite the roll. Before Wimbledon, Murray was having a good season. He made it to the first two grand slams and took home a master’s titles in Rome. Once the season shifted to grass that is when Murray began to take over. Murray walked away with a title in a tune up grass tournament. He then went on to win the biggest grass court title, Wimbledon. Although some tennis fans may say Andy got some help from Sam Querrey, who stunned Novak Djokovic in the third round. But Murray wasn’t done. He continued his winning ways in Rio by taking home Olympic gold in singles. For those who forgot Murray took home the gold medal in singles in London. So with his win in Rio he became the first tennis player ever to win gold medals in singles.
Murray has not been shy in telling the public of his love for hard courts and being that the U.S. Open was the first grand slam won, in 2012, he is definitely the favorite to win. That might seem blasphemous because of a certain Serbian named Novak Djokovic but momentum and confidence are hard to ignore and Murray has that.
Novak Djokovic looks to bounce back after a couple of months of futility
When Djokovic finally won the French Open and completed the career grand slam, becoming the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four grand slams at the same time, many thought for sure he would continue to dominate the season. Then something happened at Wimbledon. Novak lost!
Novak didn’t lose in the finals. He didn’t lose in the semis. He didn’t even lose in the quarterfinals. He lost in the third round. Novak lost to an inspired Sam Querrey, of America, in a match that spanned two days. Even with the shocking lost, fans viewed It as a fluke; a consequence of an emotionally spent Djokovic who was finally able to get his “Holy Grail,” the French Open. But that was not the case!
Winning a singles gold medal was next on the list of things of Djokovic to accomplish. Surely Novak’s motivation to win gold would make him unstoppable? Nope! Novak had the bad fortune of drawing former grand slam champion Juan Martin del Potro in his first round. Del Po has played sparsely in the last couple of seasons due to wrist injuries. However, he was in form in Rio and knocked Djokovic out in two tight sets. As Novak left the stadium with tears in his eyes, it was evident how much this loss meant to him. The Olympics, of course, only occur every four years and although it is not impossible to believe Djokovic could win in Tokyo, it is hard to imagine that will happen. So Novak probably won’t ever get an Olympic gold medal. It is worth noting that Del Potro took out Novak in the London Olympics, squashing his chances to walk away with a bronze medal. It Is also worth noting that days after the Olympics Novak pulled out of the Cincinnati tournament citing wrist injuries.
So there are many questions surrounding Djokovic. If Novak is healthy then logically he stands a great chance of winning. But his health is unknown. What is also in question is his confidence and mental stability. That heartbreaking lost in Rio must have taken a toll on him. Has he recovered enough to make a run at the Open? That remains to be seen.
Novak has been the definition of consistency so it is hard to believe that he won’t make it to at least the quarterfinals but after who knows. Also his closest rival, Andy Murray, seems to be a new person. Murray is playing aggressively and with confidence and despite the fact that Novak owns their head to head record, Murray most know that if he plays his best he can defeat Djokovic.
As always there are numerous subplots that will also be happening at the U.S. Open. Rafael Nadal is back and despite not being fully healthy, something he told the press, he will look to make some noise. The U.S. Open is where American tennis players usually shine so we have to pay attention to them. Madison Keys and Steve Johnson are having solid seasons and with both playing well in Rio, it would make sense for them to have a good run. The roof on Arthur Ashe stadium is complete and will be in play. So matter what the state of the weather there will be live tennis to be seen. The U.S. Open is always an exciting tournament. The energy of New York electrifies the atmosphere and the player. This year should be no different. Enjoy tennis fans!