By: Alex Roth
Coming into this year’s U.S. Open, the big names have been struggling while the young guns and wily veterans have been improving their form. After almost a week of action in Flushing Meadows, there has been drama and suspense as well as many storylines tennis junkies just can’t resist.
After winning Wimbledon in July, Andy Murray has been playing out of his mind as he creeps closer and closer to challenging Novak Djokovic for the number one ranking in the world. Analysts have been debating for months if this possible changing of the guard is caused by Murray’s success or Djokovic’s woes. Recent results have given me one explanation: it’s a combination of both. Djokovic has had a few early exits in majors and other tournaments this past year, like the Rio Olympics and the grass courts of Wimbledon.
That being said, Murray still was required to post very good results in order to gain on Djokovic’s insurmountable points lead in the standings, and he has done just that this year. The question on many people’s minds about this major has yet to be answered: Will Djokovic suffer another early defeat?
While the men’s draw focuses on two big names, the women’s draw, as always, is headlined by Serena Williams. Now that she has tied Steffi Graf with 22 major titles, the most in the open era, she sees major number 23 right in front of her as she could pass Graf in just a few weeks. Recently, however, Serena has pulled out of tournaments due to pain in her right shoulder. No one is quite sure how that will affect her play, but she seemed Serena-like in her tough first round matchup against Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, winning 6-3, 6-3.
What poses a tougher challenge to Serena than her shoulder is the improved competition she could face in the later rounds. If the highest seeded women advance every round, Serena’s path will be a daunting one: 16-seeded Sam Stosur, 8-seeded Madison Keys, and a possible quarterfinal matchup with her sister, Venus.
If Serena wants to win her 23rd major, she must also go through 4-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and the number two seed Angelique Kerber. While Kerber’s game matches up better to Serena’s game than Radwanska’s, it is Radwanska who has had the best hard-court season in the entire world. Her sneaky quickness and all-time great net play have been unstoppable this Summer as she won the most matches in this year’s U.S. Open Series for the women.
The biggest surprise of the tournament thus far has been Milos Raonic’s second round exit. The big-serve Canadian, a pre-tournament lock to reach the semifinals, was upset by 120th ranked Ryan Harrison. Harrison, just 24 years of age, has been to the U.S. Open before, but has recently bounced around to play in various Challenger Tour events. The match lasted 4 sets, with Raonic winning just one game in the last set. Raonic complained of cramping during the match, which might explain a lower-quality match from him. Even so, Raonic should have no excuses in losing to Harrison.
If the next few weeks of the Open fare well in comparison to the first week, then we are looking at a very entertaining and memorable major that should carry over into next year’s Australian Open. We need to keep our eyes glued to the screen or else we will definitely miss something truly amazing. There is so much to look forward to in the 2016 U.S. Open.
(Photo: Rob Towsky, https://www.flickr.com/photos/24714119@N04/)