For the big 3.
Our hope, to be quite honest, is that a player not part of this triumvirate wins the Open. The optics would be fresh, the discussion far more interesting (and hysterical among fanboys and fangirls) and the play, I would bet, across the tour would improve, with this infusion of belief.
Here’s basically the backstory of what’s at stake for each of these players, the esteemed leaders of this oligarchy of sport.
He has never defended a major off clay (I think it might be ANY non-clay title major or otherwise). So this gets that monkey off his back, as well as adds another USO, which, for me is the most prestigious major, the most difficult to win, usually won by the most dominant game, given the (historically) quicker courts (not so much anymore), the time of year and the style (more offensive) that generally prevails.
Adding a fourth USO would be huge for Nadal. A WB victory would’ve been more significant, but this would still be quite an accomplishment — again, to defend a non-clay title/major. Last year’s, for me, marked a huge win, so this is still big, but it more or less adds a little weight to his resume, but is not as meaningful as a second AO or a third WB.
This trend of failing to defend has to make some bettors a little concerned? Can he break that trend now? He has the draw for it, for sure. A Nadal win would be pretty large.
Djokovic has the most to prove here in NYC, but I think he’s the favorite given his form and his mental and physical energy he has to have in abundance. WB and Cincy are massive confidence boosts, which, as we said have put this guy back on track. When he’s on track, especially in these bigger events, he’s pretty tough. I will say that his tennis still has a semblance of imbalance, evidence of little dips in form and confidence. He did raise his level in the Cincy final, but Federer was garbage.
But here’s where I am with Djokovic having the most to prove. First, he has only two U.S. Open titles. For the “greatest hard court player” he needs one or two more of these championships. That’s just tennis common sense. If you’re counting majors amongst these three (and Sampras), then he needs to continue to add in this age of abundance. At 13, he’s pretty distant in the rear-view mirror.
Another factor, for me, resides in his play against Nadal. Most money should be on Nadal and Djokovic making the final. They’re the most confident and playing with the most power and hunger. No question.
If he loses to Nadal again in a U.S. Open final, that would be a tough pill to swallow for the Serb. He is 1-2 v Nadal in the U.S. Open final. Losing another one, at this point, would be particularly tough.
He doesn’t have too much to prove other than a win here with Rafa and Novak playing as well as they are would be really too much to even consider or fathom, especially given his play or late (WB — grass as a whole — and Cincinnati). Winning five in a row is a remarkable achievement, but that was ten years ago. So, what he has to prove is any sigh that he can still compete in this kind of tennis tournament. Many of us are sensing a real farewell tour.
So, really not a lot to prove at this point, 37 years of age, other than he might still be the Maestro to which normal rules of age don’t apply.
For the record and any clarification, I’m being a dud and saying the Novak v Rafa final is probably in the cards, with Novak winning.
As for my two wildcards, I have the two Swiss gents. I have been talking about Stan for over a week now; he has a tough R1 v Dimitrov, but I suspect he’s fine (he is up 2-0 sets at the moment). If he gets into a SF with Nadal, all bets are off. A lot of work to do, even closing-out Grigor, but Stan is my darkhorse.
The other is Federer. He’s playing poorly and has a tough draw (there’s rumor from some distant, lost hope that Federer is injured, and he certainly has that look — that’s really the source of Federer ping pong). If he’s really injured, he’s done. But if he can get by Kyrgios, and looks to be finding some form, a QF v Novak would be delicious.
Then again. . .
In sum, this is all about Djokovic and Nadal at this point. The 37 year-old has practically yielded the floor completely, naturally.
Although Stan, Juan Martin, Marin and maybe a break-through from Zverev can challenge this program, we seem to be on a collision course between two greats with, actually, plenty on-the-line.