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US OPEN 2008 - The Tennis Players to Watch

Aug 25, 2008
This year's US Tennis Open is the most fascinating for many years. Men's tennis has been shaken up by the previously invincible Roger Federer's recent form and the dominance of the young tyro's Nadal and Djokovic. The WTA tour is similarly unpredictable with a clutch of Russians, Serbians and William's sisters are all capable of claiming the last grand slam title for the year.

Rafael Nadal has a gold medal and the mantle as the world's numer one tennis player to celebrate as he heads to this year's US Open. His monumental victory over Federer at Wimbledon and subsequent major victories in Toronto and at the Olympics confirms he is clearly the world's best player. He has never had outstanding results at the US Open the hard courts have tended to aggravate Nadal's knee injuries but this year he seems poised to win a third straight grand slam title.

His job will not be made easy by the great Federer. An Olympic gold medal in doubles will have boosted his confidence, but the string of losses to players he once dominated is of major concern. Most recently he has lost to Simon, Karlovic and Blake early in tournaments to concede his number one ranking. Perhaps his illness at the start of the Australian season continues to keep him below his best; or the absence of a full time coach is affecting his preparation and motivation. Whatever the reason it will take a magnificent effort for Federer to reclaim his number one ranking by the end of the year to do so would add to the Federer legend.

The biggest challenge to Nadal will most likely come from Serbia's Novak Djokovic. A win over Rafa on the hard courts at Cincinnati only confirmed Djokovic's US Open credentials. Last year's runners up will be a major contender again. Outside the big three, Andy Murray looms as a wildcard. Murray, the temperamental Scot, beat Djokovic to win the Cincinnati Masters and is a threat to all the main favourites. The question mark over Murray is his Grand slam record, he reached the quarter finals of a grand slam for the first time at Wimbledon this year. He needs to improve his grand slam performances before he is considered a bona fide challenger.

The women's tour remains as colourful and unpredictable as ever. Serena and Venus will be desperate to repeat their performance at Wimbledon in which Venus beat Serena in the singles final and they won the girls doubles. A gold medal for doubles at the Olympics will only improve their frame of mind as they attempt to win their home grand slam.

A trifecta of medals at the Olympics reinforced the strength and depth of Russian tennis. The absence of Maria Sharapova removes Russia's best player and a high degree of glamour from the event but several other Russians will be searching for grand slam glory. Perhaps Marat Safin's younger sister Dinara Safina is best placed. Runner up at the French Open and the Olympics, the previously combustible Safina seems to have found some calm and her results have been impressive since her breakthrough at the French and her ranking has reached 6 in the world.

That the previously war torn nation of Serbia has the world 1st and 2nd ranked female players is extraordinary. Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic bring charisma, glamour and talent to the court and both will be hoping they can complement their superb seasons with a grand slam title. It could be Jankovic's turn; her recent (but short lived) stint as world number one will give her confidence but she can only win if her serve improves and becomes more of a weapon.

While the excitement of the Olympic Games may have led to a subdued lead up to the US Open you can always guarantee New York will serve up the glitz and glamour. The evening session at the US Open is an experience as different from Wimbledon centre court as you can get. Look for the great outfits the players wear, Federer's "tux" and Sharapova's evening gown were the highlights last year. Most of all look forward to some superb tennis as the world's best compete for glory on Arthur Ashe stadium.
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