The U.S. Open kicks off today with plenty of drama, surprises and thrilling tennis expected throughout its fortnight.
On the men’s side, the absence of 12-time major winner Novak Djokovic and defending champion Stan Wawrinka has left all eyes on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The longtime rivals, seeded first and third, respectively, have outshined their fellow players all year, making them the two heavy favorites to raise the U.S. Open trophy September 10.
Federer, now 36, is in the midst of a remarkable comeback season after missing last year’s U.S. Open with a knee injury. After taking an uncharacteristic six months off, Federer returned in stellar form in 2017, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon to extend his record Grand Slam count to 19. He has compiled a dominant 35-3 record this season and is perhaps hungrier than ever to capture his sixth U.S. Open title, nearly a decade after his last New York crown.
After facing three stinging defeats to Federer in the early part of the season, Nadal quickly bounced back and made history of his own by becoming the first man to win ten trophies at a single Grand Slam event, proving exactly why he’s the King of Clay at the French Open in June. His solid play throughout the grass and hard court season have helped him reclaim the world no. 1 ranking and dethrone Andy Murray, who had ascended to the top of the game for the first time in late 2016.
Along with Djokovic and Wawrinka, injury has plagued Murray, as well. The Scotsman has remained largely absent on tour following his quarterfinal loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon, leaving many to question not just his health but his form coming into the tournament, where he picked up the second seeding. However, he announced his withdrawal from the tournament over the weekend, citing a hip injury. This has only fueled further interest in the Roger-Rafa saga playing out in New York, driven also by the fact that despite their incredible career meetings, they have never clashed in New York’s slam. Of course the field of players is always competitive, and big-hitters like Querrey, Dominic Thiem, no. 4 seed Alexander Zverev, and Murray’s second seed replacement Marin Cilic are more than capable of doing some damage.
The women’s draw is as unpredictable as ever, with Serena Williams’ maternity leave opening a door of possibility for other players to break through the mold for the title. The 23-time major champ may be absent from the court this time around but big sister Venus is more than ready to continue bringing success to the Williams name. Now 37, Venus is defying time in 2017 and having one of the best seasons of her astounding 20-year career. She was a finalist at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and sits comfortably within the top ten, giving her plenty of momentum to take it all the way in New York.
Defending champion Angelique Kerber is in for a challenge to raise the trophy once more, as Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza have proven themselves this season as serious contenders chasing after the hardware. One woman looking to be the ultimate underdog is five-time major champion Maria Sharapova, who makes her return to the Grand Slam stage following a doping scandal that banned her from competing for 15 months. She faces Halep in a blockbuster first round match tonight under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The ladies’ draw will not feature former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who returned to the tour in time for Wimbledon after giving birth to son Leo in December. Azarenka announced her withdrawal from the U.S. Open last week, citing an “ongoing family situation.”
Will this year’s U.S. Open write a tale of lasting legacy for great champions like Federer, Nadal and Venus Williams? Will a talented young-gun write their own Cinderella story? One thing that’s certain is the final Grand Slam of 2017 will no doubt be an exciting one. This thrilling tournament will fly by in a New York minute, so grab your tickets today!