Three Things to Look for at the 2018 U.S. Open
The last major of the season has arrived, and players are looking to cement their year with success at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Like always there are many storylines to pay attention to. Here are the major three
Who will win the championship on the women’s side?
It is pretty much common knowledge that whenever Serena Williams enter a major she is the favorite. However, this year’s U.S. Open may be the exception. No doubt if Serena plays her best, she will be difficult to beat but it is hard to truly know where her level is now. Although Serena had a strong showing at Wimbledon by making it to the finals, her results on the hard court this summer have been less than stellar. In the two tournaments she played, she was only able to win one match. Despite Serena’s ability to turn it on the grand slam, she is in a loaded part of the draw that could see her face her sister Venus in the third round and the number one seed Simona Halep in the fourth round.
When Serena is absent or still not quite 100 percent, the list of potential winners grows tremendously. This year is no different. Halep is playing the best tennis of her career, and with a grand slam under her belt and a premier tournament win in Montreal, there’s no reason why she can’t take home the trophy.
Then there is the defending champion Sloane Stephens. Like Halep, Stephens is playing at a high level, consistently either winning a big title or getting to a final. With Sloane’s elite ability to switch to defense to offense so effortlessly, she can also repeat last year’s result. After Sloane, the list of potential winners goes on and on. 2016 champion and Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová.
Will it be the big four or the field?
Last season Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal took home all the majors. This year another member of the big four, Novak Djokovic, rejoined the winner’s circle, by taking the Wimbledon title. Now with Roger, Rafa and Nole each winning a slam, will one of them be able to take home the trophy in New York? The oddsmakers say yes. Djokovic and Nadal are both heavy favorites with Federer at a distant third. It makes sense considering the results over the past couple of months.
Novak resurgence started in Rome, where he made the semifinals (something he had not done in a long time). From there, he posted consistent results making it to the quarterfinals at the French, a final in warm-up grass event, and then going on to win Wimbledon. Novak then made history in Cincinnati by winning and claiming all master titles, something that had not been done. Djokovic appears to have momentum on his side that might allow him to walk away the winner in New York.
Rafa equally posted good results. He made the Wimbledon semis, barely losing to Djokovic and then went on to win the Toronto Masters. He is the defending champion and considering how confident he is, there is no reason to believe that he cannot retain his title.
Though Roger’s results have been below his standards and expectations, there’s no denying his ability to win. He won the title five straight times and even though he has not won since 2008, if he gets on a roll, he will be very difficult to stop. Roger has a tough draw that could see him face the eccentric Nick Kyrigos in the third round and Novak in the quarters. So, it’s going to take Roger all he can give if he plans on emerging the winner.
Outside of the big four, there are players who might be able to take home the title. There is 2014 champion Marin Cilic, who is playing well and has the tools to win. There are the young guns looking to get their breakthrough. Sasha Zverev has the game and confidence to win It all. Sasha is working with tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl in New York and that possibly could be the difference in him winning. Stefano Tsitsipas made it all the way to the finals in Toronto, defeating a slew of top ten opponents on the way. With the support of the Greek community in New York, he might be able to go deep in the tournament. The Next Gen players are hungry and confident, that combination alone should make them someone to pay attention to.
Will the new tournament changes affect tennis players?
Over the summer, a 25-second shot clock was introduced in all the hard court tournaments. To speed up the game, once the point is over, players have 25 seconds to serve. That shot clock will now make its first appearance in a grand slam in New York. If they fail to do so in the correct time, they receive a warning. If they do it a second time, they lose their first serve. Almost all the players on the tour seem to have adjusted well to the shot clock but will they do it at a grand slam, where the pressure is more intense, remains to be seen.
The U.S. Open also plans to do away with line judges and use electronic calling instead. Players will no longer get the chance to bash a person (other than the chair umpire) but instead take all their frustrations out on a machine. Electronic calling was used in World Team Tennis, but the U.S. Open will be the first grand slam to implement it. Whether or not this will affect players will also have to be something to keep an eye on.
There are blockbuster first-round matches on Monday. Venus Williams takes on former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Grigor Dimitrov takes on former champion Stan Wawrinka and NextGen superstars (and best buds) Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime battle it out.
It will be an intriguing two weeks at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center. Although there are favorites it is still anyone’s game in both fields. The only way to really knows who is going to win is to watch.