The US Open, the year’s final Grand Slam, gets underway today. Who will round off the year in the majors smiling with some silverware? Here are four talking points ahead of the two-week challenge at Flushing Meadows
CAN FED REIGN IN NEW YORK AGAIN?
Federer has won five US Open titles, but they all came between 2004-2008. He has even been French Open champion (2009) since the last time he triumphed in New York. Since 2008, he has twice been a runner-up — to Juan Martin del Potro in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015. Del Potro returned to haunt him again last year when the towering Argentine triumphed in the quarterfinals. Now 37, Federer would become the oldest New York champion in the Open era should he lift the trophy again on Sept. 9 and second oldest of all time. “It’s even a bigger priority this year than it was last year. Not that it wasn’t last year, but Wimbledon was key for me last year,” Federer said.
CAN THE YOUNG GUNS FIRE?
They are young, gifted but not quite yet the finished product. The sport’s widely touted “NextGen” are still to make an impact at the Slams with much expected of German star Alexander Zverev, the world No. 4. The 21-year-old has yet to get past the quarterfinal of a Slam while his last two visits to New York have seen second-round exits. Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas, 20, who is ranked 15 having been at 161 in the world this time last year, made his mark at the Toronto Masters this month where he defeated Zverev, Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson on his way to the final where he lost to Nadal. “Zverev has been struggling at Slams maybe a little bit, sure, but he’s still young, so time is on his side,” said Federer of a player who has hired Ivan Lendl as his coach.
WILL SERENA MAKE HISTORY?
Serena Williams missed the US Open last year as she prepared to give birth to daughter Olympia. Her return to the sport has been a rollercoaster, with a runners-up spot at Wimbledon followed by a 6-1, 6-0 defeat by Britain’s Johanna Konta in San Jose — the worst loss of her career. However, the 36-year-old is still one of the favorites to lift a modern era record seventh US Open and 24th career Grand Slam to go level with the mark set by Margaret Court.
“I think the surface plays in her favor, as does competing at her home Grand Slam and having an American crowd cheer for her. All of those things will be helpful,” former champion Martina Navratilova said. “It’s about trying to win a 24th Grand Slam to equal Court — that’s the number she cares about.”
IS MURRAY THERE TO MAKE UP THE NUMBERS?
Is Murray there just to make up the numbers? When Andy Murray won the US Open in 2012, he ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a men’s singles champion at the Slams. He has gone on to add two Wimbledons to his CV, but his career has been stalled by hip surgery in January which has seen his world ranking slump to 378. The 31-year-old has not played at a Slam since Wimbledon last year and there remain serious doubts over whether or not he can last two weeks of intense best-of-five sets in New York.