Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ten things we learnt from the US Open Challenge Masters Series tournaments

  1. Despite an egalitarian summer filled with its fair share of upsets, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are easily the favourites heading into the US Open. Djokovic was extremely convincing during his victory in Toronto, while Federer was equally unstoppable in Cincinnati.
  2. While Federer can sometimes struggle a little bit against Djokovic or Nadal in a physical battle over five sets, his form in the best of three format is simply peerless. Since the US Open defeat to Djokovic last year, Federer has won a Masters Series tournament in every leg of the season. To improve this facet of his game at his age, speaks volumes of the Swiss Maestro's dedication and commitment to the sport.
  3. Despite his losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Djokovic is still a leading contender on hard courts. Most encouragingly for the World no. 2, his potency off the backhand returned during Toronto and Cincinnati, a crucial weapon that enables him to fire on all cylinders.
  4. That being said, Federer has tipped the balance back in his favour in head-to-heads against Djokovic. After some incredible victories in the last 2 years at Flushing meadows, where Djokovic saved 2 match points in each of the semis, one gets the feeling Federer will be more ruthless this time around if the opportunity arises.
  5. Judy Murray recently claimed that Andy Murray winning the gold medal at the Olympics would lift the monkey off his back, and enable him to win a grand slam. Whether this was the reaction of an overly enthusiastic mom or genuine insight into the psychology of Murray, only time will tell. Murray should keep in mind though, that winning a grand slam still remains the ultimate achievement in competitive singles tennis. His performances in Cincinnati and Toronto suggested that Murray was suffering from an Olympic hangover. He bet get over it in time for the US Open.
  6. There are signs that Juan Martin Del Potro is finally reaching the levels he displayed while winning the US Open in 2009. Clearly fatigued and outsmarted by Djokovic in the semis at Cincinnati, Del Potro nonetheless displayed some ferocious hitting from the baseline and mixed it up with some guile and deft touches to outfox his opponents. While it is too early to see him challenge for a grand slam again, Del Potro should soon overtake the inconsistent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to claim his position as the best of the rest.
  7. Milos Raonic is Canada's big hope on the tennis circuit. Raonic's serve is a tremendous asset that marks him out as a threat even against the best players. It is then somewhat ironic that Raonic has played some really poor tie-breaks this year. In losing to John Isner in Toronto and Stanislas Wawrinka in Cincinnati, Raonic displayed a mental fragility during important points that ultimately cost him victory. Raonic will have to show more mental fortitude to make it far into the US Open.
  8. Jeremy Chardy has been known as a bit of a journeyman player through most of his career. By defeating Tsonga in Toronto, and then Murray in Cincinnati, Chardy has earmarked himself as a dangerous floater in the US Open draw.
  9. Petra Kvitova and Li Na were the most consistent players on the WTA tour through Montreal and Cincinnati. Kvitova moved better than she has at any time during the year on the way to victory at Montreal. Li Na recovered admirably after losing a close final in Montreal to win in Cincinnati.
  10. Angelique Kerber also played well across both tournaments. The German southpaw is now a serious contender at every tournament she participates. Overshadowing the aforementioned trio is Serena Williams. Can we read anything into the form of the women's players in these tournaments when Serena doesn't consider it a priority to play in them? Simply put, when the US Open starts, Serena Williams will be the overwhelming favourite to win.

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