Battle for men’s US Open crown brings some welcome unpredictability

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The man to beat: Novak Djokovic.

With five different men’s singles champions in the past six years, the US Open has emerged as the most ‘open’ grand slam compared to the other three in recent seasons.

Ever since Juan Martin del Potro ended Roger Federer’s five-year reign in Flushing Meadows by shocking the Swiss in the 2009 final,  a real sense of opportunity seems to have transpired amongst the field each year in New York and this season, that is greater than ever.

Marin Cilic’s surprise title victory last year has certainly cemented the notion that New York is a place where anything is possible.

While Novak Djokovic remains a strong favourite, his inability to win more than one US Open title so far means his challengers know he is beatable there more than many other places.

The world No1’s build-up to this Open has seen him lose twice in finals, to Federer in Cincinnati and Andy Murray in Montreal, and while Djokovic tends to be tougher in best-of-five matches, it’s hard to see him as the clear-cut favourite for the title.

Federer reclaimed the No2 spot in the rankings by playing some fearless, attacking tennis in Cincinnati, where he was returning second serves standing closer to the service line than the baseline, taking time away from his opponents and wowing the crowds with his style and flair.

If he can be as aggressive in New York, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

– Also: Who is tennis' greatest? Federer, Nadal or Djokovic?
– INTERVIEW: Grigor Dimitrov talks ahead of the US Open
– Related: Serena claims another title with victory over Halep

Murray is also up there in the list of contenders having finally ended an eight-match losing streak to Djokovic by beating the Serb to win the title in Montreal. 

The US Open is where Murray won his first major, and it’s where he also triumphed as a junior back in 2004, so the Scot certainly has a special relationship with the place and has said before it’s one of his favourite tournaments in the world (it’s probably his favourite but he wouldn’t want to admit Wimbledon isn’t his No1). 

French Open champion Stan Wawrinka is a potential road block in Murray’s path as the pair could clash in the quarters. 

The Swiss has made the last eight or better at the US Open in the past two years and if he manages to leave his off-court drama behind him, could end up being the one facing Federer in the semi-finals instead of Murray. 

Kei Nishikori may be injury-prone, but the Japanese is the second-most successful player on hard courts this season and as a runner-up at the Open last year, will fancy his chances this fortnight and has a clear path to the semis having landed in the same quarter as Cilic and an out-of-form David Ferrer. 

Add to those names a Rafael Nadal who is desperate to prove he is still a threat, a Cilic who is not getting the respect he deserves despite being the defending champion – he is shockingly not scheduled on Centre Court for his opener today – and draw sleepers like Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov, and you get an incredibly unpredictable men’s singles draw.

With many already picturing the engraver carving Serena Williams’ name on the trophy, the competition on the men’s side is providing some much-needed mystery to the plot.

For those keen to get a taste of the future, make sure to write down the names of Alexander Zverev, Elias Ymer, Borna Coric, Hyeon Chung and Thanasi Kokkinakis who will all be in action this fortnight.

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