The sports world flicks its spotlight on tennis beginning Monday when the game’s top pros gather way off Broadway in New York for the year’s final Grand Slam event, the U.S. Open. Top seed Roger Federer and No.
4 Serena Williams are heavy favorites to capture the coveted singles
Federer, holder of a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, No. 2 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, and Olympic champion Andy Murray lead the men. World No. 3 Rafael Nadal, the 2010 champion, withdrew with a knee injury, prompting experts to declare the men’s event as a two-man scramble between Federer and Djokovic. “Whoever wins will more than likely be the Player of the Year and
almost certainly will be No. 1 at the end of the year,” says ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert. Gilbert and ESPN colleague Chris Evert favor Federer, the reigning Wimbledon champion and holder of a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles. “The thing that amazes me more than anything (is) he never looks stressed on the court,” says former pro Gilbert. “He barely even sweats.” Says six-time U.S. Open champion Evert: “Roger physically is relaxed, emotionally and mentally. If he loses, he lets it roll off his back. He goes back to his family; that keeps him fresh. (His) attitude has a lot to do with it. It’s a little bit of a bummer that (Nadal), one of the leading singers in the band is not there.” However, former pro John McEnroe, a four-time U.S. Open champion, leans toward Djokovic who would have been the first male player since Rod Laver (1969) to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles at the same time had he defeated Nadal in the French Open final last May. “There was a letdown,” McEnroe says. “He sucked it up and he’s definitely feeling like he should win this thing (U. S. Open).” Djokovic says Arthur Ashe Stadium and New York fans provide him with an extra burst of energy and determination. “It’s incredible to come back to New York as the defending champion,” Djokovic says. “It’s one of the most exciting cities in the world and you definitely can feel that, especially the night matches. The fans get into every point, they play with you, so it’s quite different from all the other tournaments.” On the women’s side, the analysts agree that though three players – No.1 Victoria Azerenka of Belarus, No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, and Russia’s Maria Sharapova, are ranked above her, none is in the same class with Williams, who holds 14 Grand Slam singles titles. “If Serena is mentally and physically ready to play and into it, I don’t think there’s a player alive that can beat her right now,” McEnroe says. Says Evert: “If you put Sharapova at her best against Serena at her best for a title, Serena is going to be the one to win. The danger is she could be her worst opponent. I don’t think it’s going to take a player to beat her. It’s more like going to take Serena, if she’s below par and that very well happens the older you get. You have more flat days.” Serena’s sister, Venus, says her little sister, is always tough to beat. “When she’s playing great and feeling confident – even when she isn’t – it still takes a hurricane to beat her,” Venus says.