The Reuters global sports blog
Rusedski sticks to his picks
The first week of the US Open is always interesting. It’s easy to get a sense of what is going to happen, who is playing well and who is struggling. The weather conditions have been warm but not as humid and hot as last year, no major issues for the players – with the exception of Rafael Nadal and his cramps post match during his press conference.
On the men’s side Novak Djokovic has been sensational and has appeared to have had no issues with his shoulder that was worrying him in Cincinnati. Djokovic still looks like the favorite and is hitting the ball better than anyone in the tournament. Roger Federer has looked good as well, but had his first test against Mario Cilic. The big question mark around Federer is how will he play the big points if he plays Djokovic in the semi-finals but before getting there he has a tough section.
Rafael Nadal has been struggling a bit but he is still winning even though he’s not playing his best tennis. He will have to lift his game if he is to defend his title because at the moment he is not playing well enough to win. Andy Murray was hitting the ball well in his first match, but he got nervous in his second match but came through in five sets.
Winning against Robin Haase might be a blessing in disguise because he might relax more into the next round. In a grand slam you normally have to win at least one match not playing your best to win a major. Week Two will be a lot tougher so let’s see if the likes of Mardy Fish, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner or Juan Martin Del Potro can cause a major upset.
On the women’s side all of this year’s grand slam champions are out. Petra Kvitova and Li Na both lost in the first round and with the withdrawal of Kim Clijsters it means that all of this year’s grand slam winners are no longer in the running to lift the trophy next weekend. From a British point of view Heather Watson lost in the first round in three tight sets against Maria Sharapova. Heather will have a bright future in tennis and has a great attitude. Laura Robson came through qualifying and won her first ever match at the U.S. Open before going out in the second round. Look out for these two British girls to carry British women’s tennis over the next decade.
Serena Williams has been sensational and looks like the clear favorite to win the tournament. The woman’s game is struggling at the moment and needs some new young superstars to bring more interest into the woman’s game. Also with Sharapova losing there is a lot of star power missing. The Woman’s game is in transition now.
Week Two will only get better. I still haven’t changed my picks. Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams to win.
The Labor Day weekend at the US Open always has great matches. Federer played well in his first real test of the championships against Cilic winning in four sets. The one backhand looks to be attackable from the very top players. The likes of Djokovic, Tsonga or Fish will try and take advantage of that side up high on serve and from the back of the court.
Serena Williams looked sensational in her victory over fourth seed Victoria Azarenka. The first set was the best set of tennis I have seen her play in years. In the 2nd set she got a little nervous when serving for the match and lost serve but closed it out in the tie breaker. Serena is working as hard as I have ever seen her work on the practice courts. If she keeps her motivation and keeps herself healthy she will win many more majors. Nobody looks close to her form in the woman’s draw at the moment.
Djokovic hasn’t been troubled at all. He is playing so well and at the moment, it looks like it will take a super human effort to beat him. He hasn’t lost a set and has not been pushed in any sets played. Nadal is getting back to form and is starting to play great tennis again. The first set against David Nalbandian was the best set of tennis in the championships. Nadal is starting to look like his old self. The only talking point other than tennis with Nadal was his cramping in his press conference with the Spanish journalists. It was a very humid day and this can happen, but it is no threat to his chances.
Murray got back to form after his five set scare in the previous round, cruising past Feliciano Lopez. Also his draw has opened up with Juan Martin Del Potro losing. Del Potro and Gilles Simon played the match of the tournament so far in the men’s side. Simon is tailor made for Murray and things are looking up for the Brit. He will have a very loud crowd against him in his next match when he faces the young American Donald Young on Tuesday but Murray will have too much for him.
U.S. players Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Donald Young, and John Isner are all into the round of 16 which is great for the event and the American crowd. The pick of the fourth rounds will be American Mardy Fish versus Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Monday for the right to most likely play Federer.
Next week the weather could play a massive part in the tournament with rain forecast for 3 days from Tuesday. This will give the tournament a scheduling nightmare, once the rain starts falling, I think many will agree with me that they should have considered putting a roof on Arthur Ashe stadium in 1996 when they refurbished the site and stadiums. From the men’s point of view they might have to play five set matches back-to-back which will put an even great emphasis on fitness and mental strength.
Enjoy the second week.