Monday, August 25, 2014

Players to watch in the U.S. Open

   The U.S. Open is scheduled for today through Sept. 8 (seedings in parentheses):
MEN
      Novak Djokovic (1)
   Why he'll win -- Djokovic won Wimbledon last month, and he has reached the last four U.S. Open finals, triumphing in 2011.
   Why he won't -- The Serb got married after Wimbledon and lost in the third round of his two U.S. Open tuneup tournaments. He admitted he was "flat."
   NorCal connection -- None.
Roger Federer is interviewed by Mark Knowles of Tennis Channel
at Indian Wells in March. Photo by Paul Bauman
Roger Federer (2)
   Why he'll win -- Federer won the U.S. Open five straight times (2004-08) and has had a good summer, winning the Cincinnati title and reaching the final at Toronto.
   Why he won't -- The Swiss hasn't won a Grand Slam crown in more than two years (2012 Wimbledon). At 33, he eventually will wilt in the best-of-five-set format on unforgiving hardcourts in possible high heat and humidity.
   NorCal connection -- None.
Stan Wawrinka (3)
   Why he'll win -- Wawrinka won the Australian Open, also on a hardcourt, in January for his first Grand Slam title.
   Why he won't -- The Swiss has been unimpressive this summer, losing to Kevin Anderson in the third round at Toronto and Julien Benneteau in the quarterfinals at Cincinnati.
   NorCal connection -- None.
  Andy Murray (8)
   Why he'll win -- Murray won the U.S. Open two years ago and last year became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years.
   Why he won't -- He underwent back surgery last September and hasn't reached a final since capturing Wimbledon
   NorCal connection -- Murray won the SAP Open in San Jose in 2006 at 18 years old and repeated in 2007. He also won the Aptos Challenger in 2005.
Others
   David Ferrer (4) -- The 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Spaniard reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 2007 and 2012, but he's 32.
   Milos Raonic (5) -- The 23-year-old Canadian, 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) with a devastating serve, reached his first Grand Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.
   Tomas Berdych (6) -- The Czech advanced to the Wimbledon final in 2010 and the U.S. Open semifinals in 2012, but he has struggled this summer.
   Grigor Dimitrov (7) -- Like Raonic, the 23-year-old Bulgarian advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon. However, he is 0-3 in the main draw at the U.S. Open.
   Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9) -- The French veteran knocked off Federer to win the Toronto title this month. 
   John Isner (13) -- The United States' top hope defaulted his Winston-Salem quarterfinal on Thursday with a sprained ankle. Isner, 6-foot-10 (2.08 meters), could face Djokovic in the fourth round. 
   Marin Cilic (14) -- A two-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist, the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Croat led Djokovic two sets to one in the Wimbledon quarters last month before falling.
    Champion
   It's all lining up for Federer. Rafael Nadal, last year's champion, is out with a right wrist injury. Djokovic might not be focused enough after getting married. And this is not Murray's year.
Serena Williams won her third Bank of the West title last month
at Stanford. Tri Nguyen/TriNguyenPhotography.com
WOMEN
Serena Williams (1)
   Why she'll win -- Williams is the two-time defending champion, and she has won two of her three tournaments since Wimbledon. Her loss to older sister Venus in the Montreal semifinals was a fluke.
   Why she won't -- The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion has failed to reach the quarterfinals in a major this year. 
   NorCal connection -- Williams won her third Bank of the West title last month at Stanford.
  Simona Halep (2)
   Why she'll win -- The 22-year-old Romanian reached her first Grand Slam final in this year's  French Open and followed up with a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon.
   Why she won't -- Halep has never advanced past the fourth round at the U.S. Open in four attempts.
   NorCal connection -- She lost to Sabine Lisicki in the first round of the 2011 Bank of the West Classic in her only appearance at Stanford.
Petra Kvitova (3)
   Why she'll win -- Kvitova won her second Wimbledon championship last month and captured the New Haven title last week.
   Why she won't -- The Czech has never been past the fourth round at the U.S. Open in six tries.
   NorCal connection -- None.
  Maria Sharapova (5)
   Why she'll win -- Sharapova has won five Grand Slam singles titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open.
   Why she won't -- She has slumped since capturing her second French Open title in early June.
   NorCal connection -- Sharapova was the runner-up to Victoria Azarenka in the 2010 Bank of the West Classic.
  Others
   Agnieszka Radwanska (4) -- The Polish veteran reached the Wimbledon final in 2012 and won the Montreal title this month.
   Angelique Kerber (6) -- A 2012 U.S. Open semifinalist, she fell to Williams in the Bank of the West final last month.    
   Eugenie Bouchard (7) -- The 20-year-old Canadian is the only woman to reach the semifinals or better in all three majors this year.
   Ana Ivanovic (8) -- The former world No. 1 advanced to the Cincinnati final recently, losing to Williams.
   Venus Williams (19) -- A two-time U.S. Open champion (2000 and 2001), she beat Serena to reach the Montreal final. 
   Sloane Stephens (21) -- A first-round loss at Wimbledon ended the 21-year-old American's streak of six appearances in the second week at majors.
   Madison Keys (27) -- The 19-year-old American won her first WTA title in June at Eastbourne on grass. 
Champion
   Serena Williams will salvage her year and tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for fourth place in career Grand Slam singles titles (second in the Open era to Steffi Graf with 22).

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