Is This The End of Federer's Run?

The time has finally come. Yes. Happy Birthday Andy Roddick! Hopefully for you, this year’s U.S. Open will be extra special. Especially after that memorable five-set Wimbledon classic with Roger Federer.

Can the just turned 27 year-old American overcome heartache to win his second Open and first major since 2003 when he was No.1 in the world? Under Larry Stefanki, he’s playing the best tennis of his career due to better fitness which has allowed him to stay in points and show off an improved backhand along with a better net game.

Can he, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic or the sizzling Juan Martin Del Potro put an end to Federer’s reign in Flushing? Is Rafael Nadal healthy enough to make a run and complete the career grand slam? How will Marat Safin’s final slam of a topsy turvy career go?

All this along with whether Serena Williams can continue her renewed dominance with a third major and fourth in five will get kick started later today at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Who will come out on top? Let’s take a look at the candidates from each field:
Will Serena repeat or can Elena Dementieva finally win a slam?

Will Serena repeat or can Elena Dementieva finally win a slam?

(2) S. Williams-In fine form this year, the younger Williams is aiming for a repeat and all systems look go with a routine draw that has no serious threats until the quarters where she’ll likely see either Vera Zvonareva (7) or 10th seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta. Samantha Stosur and Daniela Hantuchova might be fourth round opponents and vet Sybille Bammer a third round probable. She upset Serena a couple of weeks ago in a tuneup but this is a slam. So, expect her to be fired up with a shot to reclaim No.1.

(4) Elena Dementieva-The 27 year-old Russian is the best WTA player to never win a slam. She’s a former runner-up who’s one of the most consistent performers. Lena’s reached the semis in four of her last five majors including last year in Queens before falling to finalist Jelena Jankovic. Her draw won’t be easy with former champion Maria Sharapova in Round 3. The winner likely will see either Nadia Petrova (13) or Jie Zheng (21) in the Round of 16. Figure another former winner Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) to be standing in the way in the quarters unless 19 year-old New Haven champ Caroline Wozniacki (9) can ride her solid form under the limelight.

(5) Jelena Jankovic-The Serb is in the same section as No.1 ranked Dinara Safina. Thing is we like Jankovic’s chances a little better because she’s finally playing better. Indeed, the former top rated woman has had a rough year at slams making the fourth round twice and bowing out in the first week at Wimbledon. But she finally seems over her slump in time for her favorite slam where she’s made deep runs three straight years. Outside of German phenom Sabine Lisicki (23) or struggling Ana Ivanovic (11), she should have a clear path to the final eight where Safina should be waiting. If Safina can’t get through Alisa Kleybanova early, shame shame.

Kim Clijsters-Perhaps the most intriguing story is the return of the former 2005 winner. And the Belgian is in the toughest draw which features No.3 Venus Williams along with several other hardcourt threats including Victoria Azarenka (8), Marion Bartoli (14), Li Na (18) and Australia comeback story Jelena Dokic. Indeed, it’s a top heavy draw with potential upsets. On paper, Venus is favorite with no serious threat until the second week. But who will she face in the Round of 16? Clijsters will have to deal with Bartoli in the second round with the winner possibly facing Dokic depending if she’s recovered from an injury. Knowing how supportive New Yorkers are, expect Clijsters to get tons of love pushing her through to a dream match-up against Venus. Most expect the elder Williams to meet Serena in the semis but we like what we’ve seen from Clijsters. Figure either to face Azarenka, who really has no one standing in the way unless feisty Agnieszka Radwanska (12) surprises her.


(5) Jankovic vs (4) Dementieva- A rematch of last year which Jankovic won in straights. She also edged Elena recently in a tight three sets. Still, this could be Lena’s time to shine and make another final. We’ll take her.

Clijsters vs (2) S. Williams-If it comes off, it would show off Serena’s power versus Kim’s grit. But Serena should be much fresher allowing her to advance.

2009 U.S. Open Champion (2) Serena Williams, USA-She’s just too tough on the big points. As much as we’d love to see Dementieva get her first slam following up a recent win, it’s hard to bet against the clutch Serena. It will be tight but in straights as the younger Williams rises to the top of the WTA once again.

Player To Watch: Melanie Oudin, USA-The 17 year-old from Atlanta is a future star who made a nice run to Round 4 at Wimbledon ousting Jankovic. She has a good ground game already. Look for her to test Dementieva in Round 2.
Are either Andy Murray or Juan Martin Del Potro ready for primetime at the Open?

Are either Andy Murray or Juan Martin Del Potro ready for primetime at the Open?

(1) Roger Federer-It starts with the new record holder following the amazing final at the All England Club in which he outlasted Roddick despite not being able to break him until the 30th game of the longest final set in championship history. Amazing to think the 28 year-old new father of twins didn’t play his best but showed the mental fortitude he lacked against Rafael Nadal to surpass Pete Sampras. So, can the amazing Swiss Maestro who has it all make it a ridiculous six in a row in NYC? Why not? His section while tricky with potential encounters with Lleyton Hewitt (31) and fading James Blake (21) isn’t bad. The real test shouldn’t come till the quarters where either Robin Soderling (12) or emerging American Sam Querrey (22) should be waiting. Yes. We’re discounting Nikolai Davydenko (8) whose game has slipped. Either way, we don’t see Feds being seriously threatened.

(5) Andy Roddick-Is this the year the new Andy wins a second Open in front of his biggest fans? He’s clearly improved and most notably, his head seems clearer since marrying SI swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. Perhaps settling down was the right move for tennis’ A-Rod. Could anyone do better than her? Next. The real question is is he ready to deliver? A lot of positives came out of his crushing defeat including a ton of support. He really won a lot of people over. His play has been solid since even though he lost to Del Potro twice. Roddick will be tested in a tricky section that includes nemesis Djokovic in another potential quarter showdown preempted by either Fernando Verdasco (10) or German vet Tommy Haas (20). Even Dmitry Tursunov could prove tough in Round 2. So, they didn’t do him any favors. Assuming Djokovic gets through Ivan Ljubicic, Russian Igor Andreev (29) poses the only challenge in Rd.3. It would be an upset if Roddick-Djokovic II didn’t happen. All eyes will be watching.

(3) Rafael Nadal-It’s true Nadal isn’t 100 percent but did look decent in a couple of warmups. Even though he fell to both Del Potro and Djokovic, Rafa needed the matches to prepare for the Open. People forget that he made it all the way to the semis last year before Murray eliminated him. Assuming he gets through dangerous opening round foe Richard Gasquet who’s fresh off suspension for alleged cocaine use, figure Nadal to be a tough out. Especially in a reasonable draw which shouldn’t get hard until he sees either Gael Monfils (13) or David Ferrer (18) in the Round of 16. Indeed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s (7) half is more challenging with Jarkko Nieminen in Round 2 and either Fernando Gonzalez (11) or Tomas Berdych (17) in Rd.4. Tsonga has a big game but we’re unsure if he’s ready to go far here. Figure Nadal to face Gonzalez or Berdych for a spot in the Final Four.

(2) Andy Murray-No Brit has won a major since Fred Perry. If you think about it, Murray’s not a true one because he’s Scot. But he represents London’s hope and has a big enough game to win here. He made the final last year before a bad call cost him a realistic chance against Federer. Since a disappointing Wimbledon semi loss to Roddick, Murray hasn’t played a ton. There are two schools of thought. Either he wanted a chance to recup to be fresh or the lack of match play could hurt. We’ll know early on when big serving Latvian Ernests Gulbis tests him in the first round. He might see big server Ivo Karlovic (27) in the third round. Karlovic gets the winner of comebacking Taylor Dent-Feliciano Lopez. Murray should have little trouble until the Round of 16 versus either Croat Marin Cilic (16) or Stan Wawrinka (19). Wawrinka is a steady player but doesn’t pose as much of a threat as the big hitting Cilic many picked for a breakout season. He’s made four fourth round appearances in slams and made Rd.3 in his Open debut last year.

(6) Juan Martin Del Potro-It’d be wrong to just include Murray as the only contender in such a deep part of the draw. So, we broke it up due in large part to Del Potro who’s one of the best hardcourt players on the ATP. He is hot coming in winning in D.C. over Roddick while falling short versus Murray in Montreal. Fittingly, they could be pitted against each other in a great quarterfinal. However, Del Potro could have to deal with former champ Safin, who’s in his final swan song. You just know the 29 year-old two-time slam winner wants to go out with a bang. Don’t underestimate him in Round 2 against Del Potro. Early in these slams, anything can happen which Djokovic knows only too well from his Wimbledon 2008 exit which saw Safin make a run to the semis before Feds ousted him. That’s the beauty of Marat. Assuming Del Potro gets through, big server Mardy Fish could pose a test in Round 3 if healthy. And either Gilles Simon (9) or Juan Carlos Ferrero (24) should be lurking in the Round of 16. Want an early match to catch? Ferrero against Magician Fabrice Santoro should be a treat.


(5) Roddick vs (1) Federer-The anticipated rematch comes down after Andy exacts revenge on Djokovic, who hasn’t been as consistent this year. Roddick is focused and more than ever believes he can win. We saw that belief against a player who’s dominated him. Look what it took Federer to beat him on grass. Figure this to be intense with a few breakers. We’ll take Andy to avenge Wimbledon finally overcoming his biggest obstacle.

(3) Nadal vs (2) Murray-Honestly, it was very difficult to pick against Del Potro because of how well he’s playing. But we feel Murray has just enough versatility to pull out a quarter and setup a semi rematch. It’s hard to bet against Rafa against the same opponent but this is clearly Murray’s best surface and by this point, figure Nadal to show some strain. We’ll take Murray to advance to a second consecutive final in four sets.

2009 U.S. Open Champion (5) Andy Roddick, USA-The long drought ends for American men with its best player meeting every challenge. It will be very tough because of who he has to go through. But he says he doesn’t feel as much pressure and we believe him. That Wimbledon loss gave him new perspective and might be the best thing for his career. He really deserved better that day. It showed he could compete with the best. People forget that he also showed a lot in beating Murray too. Only we see this final being even tougher. It just might go the distance.

Player To Watch: Sam Querrey, USA-The 21 year-old from San Fran is playing well adding more to his game than just a serve with improved groundstrokes that got him to the final in New Haven before losing to Verdasco. Was it wise to play this week? We’ll see. All we know is he’s capable of making a run and showing that America does have a bright future. He made the fourth round last year before Nadal ousted him in four. Also keep an eye on Donald Young, who again made the main draw and plays baseliner Tommy Robredo.

Women’s Doubles Pick: Samantha Stosur/Rennae Stubbs AUS (3) over Serena Williams/Venus Williams USA (4)

Men’s Doubles Pick: Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan USA (1) over Mahesh Bhupati IND/Mark Knowles BAH (3)

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