The four US Open semi-finalists twelve months ago, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, have split the biggest prizes in men’s tennis since then and return to New York as the top contenders.
The likes of Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Roddick and Jo Wilfried Tsonga may also have a major influence on proceedings but heading into the last grand slam of the season here is how the ‘Big Four’ are shaping up.
US OPEN FORM: (out of 5)
Federer 5, Djokovic 4, Murray 3, Nadal 2
Having won the last five Opens in a row, Federer will undoubtedly start as the favourite, as he looks to extend his Grand Slam record tally to 16. Making his tenth visit to Flushing Meadows, he will start his defence of the title on a 35-match winning streak, having won 46 of his 50 matches there in total (92%) with his last loss against the now absent David Nalbandian in 2003.
Murray was runner-up to Federer last year following his epic two-day semi-final victory against the then world No.1 Nadal. The new world No.2 will be making his fifth appearance following a 12/4 win/loss record (75%).
It will be Nadal’s seventh bid to win the one major that still eludes him with last year’s semi-final showing his best to date taking his win/loss record to 16/6 (73%). Djokovic, like Murray, will also be making his 5th appearance and with a 15/4 (79%) win/loss record, also knows what it’s like to finish runner-up to Federer, having done so in 2007.
Federer 5, Murray 4, Djokovic 3, Nadal 2
Since the start of the season Federer is 47/7 (87%) and has claimed four titles, including two more slams and two more Masters 1000’s. 7/1 (88%) since Wimbledon, he has also won 26 of his last 27 matches and beaten all three of his rivals in that time including Murray and Djokovic last week in Cincinnati.
Murray, 53/8 (87%) since 2009 began, has picked up five titles including two Masters 1000’s. Britain’s best is 8/1 since Wimbledon (89%). Nadal, 49/7 (88%) has also won five titles so far this year, including one slam and three Masters, but he has not triumphed since Rome in May and having returned from the knee tendonitis that sidelined him after his shock loss at the French Open, the Spaniard is 5/2 (71%).
Djokovic, who beat Nadal in Cincy, has won the same number of matches this year as Murray but lost twice as many – 53/16 (77%), The former Australian Open champion has won two tournaments but failed to win any more Masters 1000’s, let alone a second major and is 6/2 (75%) since Wimbledon.
FITNESS AND CONDITIONING:
Federer 5, Murray 4, Djokovic 3, Nadal 2
If Federer has been suffering a few sleepless nights since the arrival of his twin daughters he has not shown it physically in the sticky conditions of North America. Mentally he had a blip in the final set of his loss to Tsonga in Montreal, , but after the way he regained the Cincinnati title last week he looks in great shape for his latest defence in New York.
Murray’s undoubtedly put in the hours and miles off court in Miami over the past year to give him the physical foundation he needs to go the distance. Nadal should be fresh after his lengthy lay-off, but the Spaniard’s knees remain a concern while Djokovic, who pulled up at the start of the year in the searing heat in Melbourne could conceivably still suffer over five-sets if conditions get brutal in New York, as they often can.
‘IN THE ZONE’:
Federer 5, Murray 4, Nadal 2, Djokovic 2
Some said that breaking Pete Sampras’s record and having kids would take the edge off Federer’s game. But, far from it, his relaxed, clinical tennis to win the Cincinnati title would suggest Roger is razor sharp again and raring to go for a 16th grand slam title.
Having reached a first French Open quarter-final and a first Wimbledon semi-final this year, Murray only has eyes now for his first major title on his favourite surface. He is ready physically but mentally can he jump that final hurdle? Losing to Federer in Cincinnati was a disappointment after all his successes against the Swiss, and if they do meet according to the seedings on September 13th, it will be Murray’s biggest test yet.
Nadal is understandably playing down his chances. But if he gets into the tournament well and stays fit, memories of his great run in Melbourne could put the fiercest of competitors in very good stead for this. As for Djokovic, he would love to turn a decent year into a spectacular one. But his comparative lack of title success in 2009 points to a slight lessening in self-belief that could prove crucial down the stretch.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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BIOGRAPHY: Cesc Fabregas