By Charles Phelps
This past week, Bethpage State Park—located off Long Island, New York—played host to the PGA Tour’s The Barclays. The event was the first of the FEDEX Cup playoffs for the tour. The host course was the Black course, which became the first public golf course to host the US Open back in ’02. Fast forward to today and another individual sport takes the stage in New York City—tennis.
The 2012 US Open begins at Flushing Meadows today. The defending champion of the men’s bracket is Novak Djokovic. The women’s defending champion is Samantha Stosur. Stosur was the no.9 seed last year, but she upset heavily-favored Serena Williams in the final. Djokovic’ toughest match was in the semi-finals. Federer had two-match points to move on into the finals, but Djokovic persevered, overcame and conquered Federer. He (Djokovic) then mowed through Rafael Nadal in the final. Nadal—who suffered an injury and early defeat at Wimbledon two-months ago—didn’t compete in the Olympics and isn’t competing in the US Open.
Nadal’s abscense, Djokovic’ struggle and Federer’s hot-and-cold streak may open the door for a new face to emerge in tennis. Could it be Andy Murray? Murray—who lost in the final’s of Wimbledon to Federer—came back less than a month later and beat Federer in straight-sets to win Olympic gold. Was it the break-through Murray’s been waiting for? He’s never won a major in tennis, however, his Olympic victory may open the door for the majors’ to come. No one is dominant in tennis right now, so his biggest opponent may be himself.
Even though the top-2 players may be struggling, they’re still in the field. Murray’s opportunity hinges on how well Federer and Djokovic play. Federer hasn’t won at Flushing Meadows since ’08. He (Federer) is arguably the greatest tennis player in history. He turned back the clock at Wimbledon and looked poise to do the same at the Olympics, but it wasn’t meant to be. If he brings his B-plus game to Flushing Meadows, it may not be enough to reach finals.
Djokovic, is in the same boat. Since winning the marathon-final at the Australian Open, he’s fallen flat in the season’s other majors. If he wants to regain the momentum he lost at the French Open, Djokovic needs to play flawless, not let players’ who aren’t on the same plateau as him stick around in a match.
Aug 4, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Serena Williams (USA) returns a shot against Maria Sharapova (RUS) in the women's singles gold medal match during the 2012 London Olympic Games at All England Lawn Tennis Club. Photo Courtesy By Leo Mason-USA TODAY Sports.
On the women’s side of the draw, Serena Williams is the story. She’s the reason eyes will be watching the women of tennis. She’s played a lot like Federer the past two-months. She dominated the Olympics and comes into the Open with momentum. She may not be ranked no.1 in the world, but she’s outplaying the top-ranked female players. Maria Sharapova’s going to be her top-contender. Caroline Woznaiacki—girlfriend of PGA champion Rory McIlroy—is coming off an injury at the New Haven Open, where she was trying to win her fifth-straight title, but retired during her semi-final match to rest the injury.
My picks’ for the US Open: Serena Willaims continues her dominant play. Novak Djokovic returns to form and wins his second-consecutive US Open.
Stats/news: washingtonpost.com, usopen.org
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