US Open: The pundits' verdict
TV's tennis pundits - including Mats Wilander, Mark Petchey and Annabel Croft - offer their predictions for the 2014 US Open.
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On the men’s singles…
Mats Wilander, 1988 US Open champion, Eurosport analyst
I think Roger Federer is the favourite because he’s won the US Open five times and especially now that Rafa (Nadal) is gone. I don’t think he’s scared of Rafa at the US Open - until they step on court and start warming up - and that’s not going to happen this year. There’s not one player at the US Open that he doesn’t think he can somehow make magically disappear. I think he’s going to be so on fire and the crowd are going to automatically become Roger Federer fans like no other player, maybe in the history of the game or since (Jimmy) Connors’ semi-finals at the US Open. He will be the media favourite too because everybody feels it is his last great chance to win the US Open. It will be completely one-sided. If he doesn’t play too many long matches in the second week, then he’s got a good chance of winning – which is very exciting.
As for Andy Murray, it’s not a disaster to come into the US Open not necessarily having won a tournament and not having beaten a top player because he’s played the top players. I think he’s looking good, he comes in with no pressure, he does come in with nine or 10 months having played with the surgery – that cannot be an excuse for him any more. I like his chances, I don’t know if he can win the tournament but he goes in under the radar with no pressure and a decent hardcourt season, so why not? No-one else is playing great apart from Federer, so I think Murray will look at that and think ‘I can beat everyone else’. It’s just Federer he’ll be a little worried about; (Novak) Djokovic is not playing well, Nadal is not here, he’ll think ‘I won here two years ago, so I’ll go in as one of the favourites’.”
Peter Fleming, three-time US Open doubles champion, Sky Sports pundit
I think the favourite is Novak Djokovic. He hasn’t had the greatest couple of weeks since Wimbledon, losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto and Tommy Robredo in Cincinnati in the round of 16 but by the time the second week of the US Open comes around he will be playing his best. I think Tsonga played excellently to win Toronto and he is always a danger and someone to watch out for but guys like Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer have not really shown us a lot this year, and while Grigor Dimitrov showed how great he is on grass by reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals, he is not quite the same player on the hardcourts. I do, though, think that Andy Murray is starting to look good. He is a guy nobody will want to play.
Jo Durie, former US Open semi-finalist, British Eurosport commentator
I think Murray is trying to work his way back. He’s still got the hunger for it. Murray loves New York, it’s one of his favourite slams. He plays well there - I think he gets inspired by it. He loves the hardcourt and the hot conditions - he seems to relish it. Federer’s playing great - he’s still such a classy player and I think he would love another grand slam title. Djokovic is very good on hardcourts, and even though he’s not been playing great, it’s hard to bet against him. I think it’s very close between Djokovic, Federer and Murray - any one of them could win.
On the women’s singles…
Annabel Croft, former British number one, Sky Sports pundit
Serena Williams’ goal at the moment is to equal the 18 Grand Slam victories of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, while her ultimate target is to get nearer Margaret Court’s record of 24. I believe that is the main reason she has not made it to a quarter-final of a Grand Slam in 2014, an extraordinary statistic when you consider the player we are talking about. At every Slam Serena plays, people are talking about her breaking records and I think that has thrown her somewhat because she certainly looks more vulnerable than we have ever seen her before. Williams is getting more jittery and more tight on the court and that sometimes leads to the forehand breaking down with her pushing towards the ball rather than hitting it. She has been up and down emotionally, too. The upshot has been that the girls Williams is playing, especially the ones newer to the big time, don’t feel her aura as much and truly believe that they have a chance of getting the better of her. But before we start writing Williams’ tennis obituary, I have to say I still make her my favourite to win the US Open, as form, history and a desire to end the year with a bang are on her side. Serena has not lost a hardcourt match in the States in over a year – she last slipped up in the final of the 2013 event in Cincinnati against Victoria Azarenka, the player she beat to win the US Open weeks later. Plus, she won the title in Cincinnati last weekend and as she overcame (Ana) Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic in doing so, I think she will take even greater heart from her victory. Wozniacki and Jankovic, in particular, get a lot of balls back in the court and when rallies are extended against Serena she can come unstuck, so the fact she has beaten them bodes well for her. I also think Williams will be so motivated to do well as it is her last chance in 2014 to set the Grand Slam record straight and if she is ‘mentally dialled-in’, as we say in tennis circles, she is the best player in the women’s draw by a long way.
Aside from Serena, though, there are a few girls to keep an eye on. Simona Halep has had a fantastic year, reaching the quarters in the Australian Open, the final of the French, the semis of Wimbledon and generally going from strength to strength. I think she will do quite a lot of damage, but I also feel Wozniacki, who has been playing a lot better recently, and Ivanovic, who has had a very consistent season after playing some horrific matches over the last few years, can make inroads. It will be fascinating to see where Eugenie Bouchard is at, too, because she was stunning at Wimbledon but had an absolute nightmare in Montreal recently, totally folding under the pressure of a home crowd to lose 6-0 2-6 6-0 to the little-known Shelby Rogers. It seems that everything has taken its toll a little bit so she needs to regroup, and so does Petra Kvitova, who has been all over the place since winning Wimbledon. I’d also say watch for Madison Keys, who has huge potential, a massive serve and took the title on the grass at Eastbourne this summer – but if Serena’s on form, it should be her tournament.
Mark Petchey, former British player and coach to Andy Murray, Sky Sports pundit
Serena is the favourite in my eyes as quite simply when she plays her best she is the best. The women's game is lucky to have her as they go through the transition stage before the next group of potential champions actually become one that the WTA tour can promote as a superstar. Serena's legacy to the game of tennis doesn't need another US Open title but Serena's 2014 season desperately needs the US Open title, otherwise it's been a hugely disappointing year for her in the grand slams. The pressure is on for the American, can she cope with it?
Jo Durie, former US Open semi-finalist, British Eurosport commentator
(The fact that Serena has lost early at all this year’s Slam so far) is something she’ll be fighting. She fights herself a lot, as well as her opponent. She strives for perfection and gets cross with herself when she doesn’t play as well as she wants to. Though she’s one of the best ever, other women raise their game when playing Serena, and at 32, she knows there aren’t that many years for her to be at the top, so maybe she even puts a bit of extra pressure on herself. Ivanovic has had a pretty good hardcourt season - she’s started playing very well against the top players. She’s feeling good about herself, and I think it will be an interesting tournament for her. She is very capable of beating one of them (the top players), it’s whether she’s quite got the consistency in a grand slam to beat two, three or four of them in a row.
- The US Open is being televised live in the UK by Sky Sports and British Eurosport. Sky have the 'primary rights', meaning they will ge the pick of the matches, and Eurosport the 'secondary rights'.