Tuesday 24 October 2017 / 07:30 AM

US Open preview

There is just three days left before the US Open gets underway and there are some burning questions to be answered as the world’s best players fight it out in the final Grand Slam tournament of 2015. In the men’s draw, all eyes will be on the world’s top three in Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, with the Scot winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal and the Swiss winning a record seventh title at Cincinnati, both of those victories coming at the expense of world number one Djokovic. It will be interesting to see how Marin Cilic fares as he attempts to defend the title he won by defeating Kei Nishikori in last year’s final, the Croat having endured an average season by his standards so far in 2015.

Here are just some of the questions that will be asked in the lead-up to the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of 2015.

1. How will Marin Cilic fare in his US Open title defence?

Marin Cilic surprised everyone with his title victory last year, and raised fears that the Big Four’s dominance could be coming to an end sooner rather than later. But while Djokovic has restored order, winning two of the three Grand Slam titles in the interval, Cilic has endured an average season so far in 2015, sitting out the Australian Open due to a shoulder injury and yet to reach a final this year. The Croat has been seeded 9th for the championships and thus if Cilic is to successfully defend his title, he may have to defeat four top-eight seeds in succession.

2. Can Kei Nishikori go one better?

The player Cilic thrashed in last year’s final, Kei Nishikori, has enjoyed a consistent 2015 season so far, reaching the quarter-finals at both the Australian and French Opens and also winning three titles. This will see him seeded fourth for the final Grand Slam tournament of the year, which means he won’t have to face either Djokovic or Federer until the semi-finals, while he cannot face Andy Murray before the final. However, he could still draw ninth-seed and nemesis Cilic as early as the quarter-finals, potentially impeding his chances of repeating his run to the final. Still, it will be interesting to see how Nishikori progresses at this year’s US Open.

3. Can Djokovic win his second US Open title?

Having won the Australian Open and Wimbledon on either side of yet another French Open failure so far this year, world number one Djokovic will be out to add a second US Open title to his growing Grand Slam résumé.

The Serb has only tasted success at Flushing Meadows once before, when he defeated Nadal in four sets to claim the title in 2011. Since then, he has finished runner-up twice, losing to Andy Murray and Nadal in 2012 and ’13 respectively, and was upset by Nishikori in last year’s semi-finals.

‘The Djoker’ has played just the two tournaments since winning Wimbledon in July, finishing runner-up to Murray and Federer at the Montreal and Cincinnati Masters respectively. His loss to the Swiss at the latter event prevented him from completing a Career Masters Slam, which comprises winning all nine Masters events on offer (namely Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris). Still, the top seed will start favourite to win his second US Open title, which would cap off a dominant year at the Grand Slams with the only blot being a loss to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final.

 

4. Or will Federer prove everyone wrong once again and end his Grand Slam title drought?

While Roger Federer may not have mounted the Grand Slam dais since claiming a seventh Wimbledon title in 2012, his recent title win in Cincinnati and runner-up showing at Wimbledon last month is still proof enough that he still has what it takes to win another Grand Slam title.

The Swiss defeated Andy Murray and Djokovic in succession to win his seventh title in the Ohio capital, sending out a warning to his fellow contenders that he is still a major contender in New York, despite his ongoing Grand Slam drought.

That being said, he hasn’t saluted at Flushing Meadows since defeating Andy Murray to win the last of his five titles in 2008, while he also hasn’t reached the final since going down to Juan Martin del Potro in 2009.

However, on the basis of his consistent season to date, you can bet on him making another deep run at the US Open this year, and there is the possibility that he could set up another championship showdown against Novak Djokovic.

5. How will the Aussies go?

Once again, Australia’s charge at the US Open will be led by best men’s hope in Bernard Tomic, controversial star Nick Kyrgios and 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt, in his final appearance. Tomic will be out to improve his overall record at Flushing Meadows, having not gone past the second round in four previous main draw appearances. Last year, he was forced to withdraw before a match against Ferrer due to a hip injury.

Controversy has plagued Kyrgios in recent times, none more so than when he allegedly sledged Wawrinka during a match in Montreal which the Australian won after the reigning French Open champion retired midway through the final set. That aside, the 20-year-old has impressed at the Slams this year, reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon on either side of a third-round showing at the French Open.

Hewitt has been granted a wildcard into what will be his final appearance at the US Open, and if he loses early in singles, then you can bet that he will prolong his stay at Flushing Meadows by entering the men’s and mixed doubles, as he did at Wimbledon where he paired with Thanasi Kokkinakis and Casey Dellacqua respectively.

These are just some of the questions that will be asked as the countdown to the US Open continues. Will the big names be there when it matters most? Who will win the men’s title in 2015?

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