US Open 2017 Preview: Major absences diminish spectacle

US Open 2017 Preview: Major absences diminish spectacle

US Open 2017 begins with a dwindled field in the men's side as five of the top-10 players in the world pulled out due to injuries. This leaves Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal as firm favourites. In women's section, Garbine Muguruza stands head-and-shoulders above rest.

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Roger Federer goes into US Open looking for a third Grand Slam this year. (Source: Reuters)

There will be no Rafa Nadal against Roger Federer final once again at the US Open – it is almost written in the stars that the two just won’t clash under the lights of Flushing Meadows after a two week period. As a matter of fact, they have never faced off in New York despite playing 37 matches in all. In the 2017 edition, both are placed in the top half of the draw and if all things go well, will clash in the semi-finals. The two have turned back the clock by a decade to take over the field and have been dominating the season. It has also helped that the two men who could have given them a real fight have struggled with loss of form and injuries.

Now those two men will not be part of the final Grand Slam of the year with Novak Djokovic pulling out due to an elbow injury and Andy Murray failing to feel 100 percent fit after the hip injury at Wimbledon. The Briton’s exit after the draw means Marin Cilic will face Murray’s first round opponent (Tennys Sandgren of the United States), with Sam Querrey facing Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber takes onTim Smyczek.

Not just Djokovic and Murray, three more in the top-10 ranking would not be in action in New York due to different injuries – Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and defending champion Stan Wawrinka.

However, Nadal said talks of a possible clash with Federer is too early. “Ten matches, ten victories to have that match,” Nadal said. “A lot of points and games to play, so now is not the moment to think about that.” And he is right considering the draw for both the players. Federer’s draw makes for a grim reading. The Swiss, chasing a third Grand Slam this season, could play big serving Feliciano Lopez in the third round, extremely talented but temperamental Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round and Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals. For Rafa, looking to solidify his recently acquired World No 1 ranking, it is relatively straightforward before a potential quarterfinal clash with Cincinnati winner Grigor Dimitrov.


With most of the big guns in the top half, the bottom half of the draw makes for a dream viewing if one is looking to reach the latter stages of the tournament. And that someone would be Alexander Zverev who is the biggest name in the section and he would be looking to cement his growing stature of being a talented player – shown in his Montreal Masters final win over Federer – and a Grand Slam title contender. However, his record in the Majors doesn’t make for a confidence boosting read – his best has been a fourth round finish at Wimbledon earlier this year. Also in the bottom half lies Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who would like to better his three quarterfinal finishes here.

One too many options in women’s draw

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Garbine Muguruza comes into the US Open in sublime form and a strong contender for the title. (Source: USA Today Sports)

Let’s get the biggest talking point about the women’s draw out of the way first – Maria Sharapova is back with a wildcard and is set to compete in her first Grand Slam since the doping suspension. This despite the fact that she was not handed wildcard at French Open, pulled out qualifying at Wimbledon, and has been in poor fitness recently. Despite all that, the fact remains she draws the crowds and it is something that everyone understands – including the USTA. And they would expect plenty of said crowd in her first round itself – a potential spectacular against Simona Halep who is chasing the World No 1 spot (again).

Halep has a 0-6 record against Sharapova and the Russian has never lost in the first round at US Open in her ten appearances in The Big Apple. “Facing her, I’m, like, it’s going to be a big challenge,” Halep said. “She beat me six times. So maybe I will change this.” But if there is a moment to end that winless run for Halep, it is now. She is in far better shape and form than Sharapova who has struggled in the tune up events. However, the Romanian’s quest for first Grand Slam title won’t be easy as she could face Johanna Konta in the quarters before a big, big ask against Garbine Muguruza in the semifinal.

The Spaniard Muguruza is in the form of her life having won Wimbledon in pulsating style with dominant wins in the semifinals and final. She has since added Cincinnati title to her trophy cabinet while reaching the semifinals and quarters in Stanford and Toronto. In Serena Williams’ absence, Muguruza is head-and-shoulders above the rest and the biggest contender for the title.

The other side of the half would be tough to predict with the presence of World No 1 Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, defending champion Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Agnieszka Radwanska and carrying American hopes is Madison Keys. It is almost bizarre that the defending champion (Kerber) is mentioned in passing but it has been that sort of year for the German. She’s only mustered fourth round finishes in Australia and Wimbledon and won no titles throughout the season.