US Open Preview: Favorites, Dark Horses, and Bad Bets
Well, the story of the 2011 season so far, on both hard courts and everywhere, has been the utter domination by Novak Djokovic. Djokovic is close to on pace to eclipse John McEnroe's 1984 82-3 season. He probably won't play enough to equal Federer's 95 wins in 2006, but should be well ahead of that in percentage. Federer stopped Novak from his chance at the first Calendar Year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 by beating him in the French Open semis, but that shouldn't detract from what an incredible year this has been for him.
1. Novak Djokovic: Honestly, I want to put him as the only favorite on this list. He has not lost a match and has only dropped 8 sets on hard courts this entire year. The faster courts in the US give him a tiny bit of trouble because his serve is usually returnable and his game all starts from his return of serve, but that hasn't caused him to drop a match in these last two weeks. He keeps the ball deep, moves his opponents around, and unloads on big shots at every opportunity. His speed and flexibility also make him extremely hard to hit past. He seemed a little disinterested at times these past two weeks in tune-ups, but he still won 9 straight matches until a shoulder injury forced him to retire in the Cincinnati final against Murray earlier today. It would be foolish to expect anything but his best at the US Open. The only real matter of concern should be his shoulder, but hopefully he will be able to rest and have it at 100% for the US Open.
2. Roger Federer: Federer is one of the top hard court players in US Open history. While he has been susceptible to losing to big hitters over the past few years, it still took his opponents' absolute best performances to take Federer out. Roger's game plays out beautifully on this surface and he does have the distinction of being the only person to have beaten Djokovic so far this year. We've learned never to count Federer out, and with Nadal's recent woes he is probably the first in line to step up if Djokovic falters just a tiny bit.
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