The final major of the tennis season is upon us. Can you believe 9 months have flown by already since we started the grand slam season in Australia? The months are sailing by faster than a Federer forehand shot. We have seen some epic upsets, out of this world shots and amazing comebacks this season. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The grand slam champions for 2015 have been a familiar bunch...and a small collective group. Serena Williams has rolled through the grand slam season, winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. New York could see the first calendar year grand slam since Steffi Graf achieved the feat in 1988 (Graf would actually win 5 grand slam titles in a row) but more on this below. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic won his fifth Australian Open (a modern era record) and his third Wimbledon title to up his grand slam collection to nine overall. If it wasn’t for Stan #Stanimal Wawrinka playing lights out tennis in the French Open championship, we would have a chance to see the double calendar grand slam over the next two weeks.
This year marks the 135th edition of the US Open. A few interesting points to note as you hunker down for two weeks of intense tennis action:
Novak Djokovic (#1) – No surprise here. Novak elevates himself to another level during the grand slam events. Being denied his shot at a calendar grand slam stings a bit but don’t tell Novak...he doesn’t seem to care. The top ranked player in the world for the past 61 weeks (and 162 weeks overall) has had a good summer but not a great summer. Back to back tournament final losses in Montreal and Cincinnati were tough but more concerning is these losses came to the biggest challengers for the US Open, Roger Federer (Cincinnati) and Andy Murray (Montreal). Another telling stat is the US Open has never been kind to Novak. He only has 1 title here and that was way back in 2011. Now of course the past 3 years have seen him make at least the final four so results are still strong. His draw is favourable this year so expect to see him back in at least the SF. Can he actually get over the hump and back to winning in New York though?
Daria Gavrilova – I honestly thought about taking Dominica Cibulkova here because I think she will go very far this year (see below) but seems weird to pick your dark horse as a former Top 10 player and grand slam finalist (2014 Australian Open). Enter Gavrilova! Oh you haven’t heard much about her? You will...and this will be the week it happens. Currently ranked 36 in the world, I expect to see her seeded in all majors next year. Daria will be making her US Open debut on Monday, coming off her first full calendar year of playing all 4 grand slams. Look at this stat: one year ago Gavrilova was hovering around 368 in the world...she now sits at 36. How is that for a rise in fame? This year alone she has beaten Bencic (twice!), Ivanovic and Sharapova. Oddly enough Maria was supposed to be her first round opponent until she withdrew on Sunday. Again, advantage Gavrilova now! Rather than playing the 3 ranked player in the world in your first US Open match, you now get lucky loser Daria Kasatkina (ranked 132) in a battle of Daria vs Daria. The 21-year old is a former #1 ranked junior girls player and did win the 2010 US Open junior girls title. With Sharapova out of her way, her draw opens up big time....huge opportunity for a career best performance.
Ok there is a brief primer on a few players to keep an eye on...many you probably should be watching already. Now let’s get on to the fun part, the #TwineTime predictions!! Here you go ball boys and ball girls...