U.S. Open Preview

 New York, New York: A quick look at the U.S. Open

By Michael J. Lewis

It’s Open time! Where we invade the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for two glorious weeks, a place where paying $14 for a hamburger seems normal and fans are packed in line sardines.

Let’s take a quick look at the storylines for Flushing Meadows…

ATP

Three who may lift the trophy:

  • 1. Novak Djokovic: After the Houdini act he pulled off at Wimbledon, the Serbian superstar is flying high and looking for his third major of the year. His draw is dangerous, with Medvedev and Federer lurking.

  • 2. Rafael Nadal: Rested and ready, Nadal rarely lives up to his seeding here but avoids Federer and Djokovic before the final. Tsitsipas and Thiem could give him trouble.

  • 3. Dominic Thiem: If you’re looking for a non-Big 3 choice and aren’t ready to jump on Medvedev, Thiem could be your guy. Has had some epic losses here in New York, but his draw is smooth.

Two who might surprisingly make a run:

  • 1. Stefanos Tsitsipas: I know, I know: His summer results have been worse than the Baltimore Orioles. And last year he flamed out in his opening match, a victim of heat-palooza. But if he can survive Rublev in Round 1, the Greek star might make some noise.

  • 2. Diego Schwartzman: The 20th-seeded Argentine always gets huge crowd support in New York, and he made the quarterfinals two years ago.

Two popcorn first-round matches to watch:

1.   Reilly Opelka vs. Fabio Fognini: The fast-rising 7-foot American has had a tremendous year, and enters the Open ranked No. 42. But he got a tough draw in the 11th-seeded Fognini, who’s highly volatile on the court but possesses a huge game. These two have never played, but it should be a fascinating match Monday.

2.   Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Andrey Rublev: This one ought to be circled on every serious tennis fan’s schedule. Tsitsipas bowed out early last year and has had a rough summer, and the draw gods did him no favors with Rublev, a big-hitting Russian who just beat Federer in Cincinnati.

One who will be on the first flight home:

  • Denis Shapovalov: For the second straight year he drew fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in opening match. FA-A is having much better year, should get his revenge after 2018 defeat.

WTA

Three who may lift the trophy:

1. Naomi Osaka: This may be a “blind faith” pick in the defending champ, since she’s looked very mortal in the last few months. But her draw is Betty Crocker-like, and she’s due to feel some NYC love after last year’s final.

2. Ash Barty: The Aussie feel-good story from Roland Garros has been a bit spotty since, but she loves hardcourts and shouldn’t get threatened until a possible 4th-round match against Serena.

3. Serena Williams: I mean, would you be surprised? She’s got oodles of motivation after last year, and she knows her window to win Slam 24 is shrinking. 

Two who might make a surprising run:

  • 1. Madison Keys: She looked outstanding in winning Cincinnati, and she did make the finals here in 2017.

  • 2. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Hey, look who’s back! The longtime vet looked tremendous in getting to the Cincy finals, and she did win here in 2004 (by the way, that’s the year Coco Gauff was born).

Two popcorn first-round matches to watch:

  • 1. Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova: This one will probably be Monday afternoon on Court 15… yeah right. Two huge names playing for the first time at the Open will be a Monday night showcase. The tennis itself should follow the familiar script with these two (Williams d. Sharapova 15 straight times), but it’ll be fun to watch.

  • 2. Katie Volynets vs. Bianca Andreescu: This one is under the radar but could be loads of fun. Volynets, 17, won the USTA National Championships to get a main-draw wild card, while Andreescu, 19, has had a sensational season, winning Indian Wells and Montreal. Two rising stars facing off.

One who will be on the first flight home:

  • Aryna Sabalenka: The No. 9 seed reached the fourth round here last year, but has had a rough Slam season and faces Azarenka in Round 1.