Can Andy Murray to defend his US Open title?
Punters are scratching their heads deciding between The Big Three in New York next week as Novak Djokovic (Coral’s 15/8 favourite), Andy Murray (2/1) and Rafael Nadal (5/2) make their final preparations for the US Open.
Yes, that’s right, the Big Three, not the Big Four. It seems almost blasphemous to dismiss the tennis God that is Roger Federer from calculations, but it’s hard to get away from the impression that the player many consider to be the best there has ever been, is now on the wane.
Federer was 32 earlier this month and, sad to relate, appears to be entering a stage of his career when he will be no more than a distinguished member of the supporting cast as his younger rivals carve up the Grand Slams between them.
The Swiss has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles, but has slipped down to seventh in the world rankings since beating Andy Murray at Wimbledon last year, during which time he has lost to a succession of journeymen few outside the sport will have ever heard of.
Those who think that he has another Grand Slam win in him may well be attracted to the 12/1 offered by Coral at Flushing Meadows, the scene of five consecutive triumphs between 2004 and 2008.
But while the heart may yearn for another Federer master class, the head says that the final will be fought out by two of the Big Three – and if that private party is to be gate-crashed, it is more likely to be Juan Martin del Potro (9/1).
The Argentine won the US Open in 2009 and showed what a fine player he still is now fully recovered from injury when taking Djokovic all the way in an epic semi-final clash at Wimbledon last month.
Murray is the reigning US Open champion, of course, and will be full of confidence after beating Djokovic in straight sets in the Wimbledon final.
But the man in form is Nadal, who has been on fire on harder surfaces since his tame exit in London. Back to number two in the rankings (leapfrogging Murray), the Spaniard is clearly at his very best on the clay of the French Open, which he has won for eight of the last nine years, but he also landed the US Open in 2010 and could be ready to strike again.
Nadal has, on paper, a fairly smooth passage to the final, the biggest obstacle in his half of the draw being likely quarter-final opponent Federer, who he has beaten on eight of their last nine encounters, while Murray and Djokovic are due to clash in the semi-final.
As for the women, it’s basically the Big Two now that Maria Sharapova has withdrawn with a shoulder injury. Serena Williams beat Victoria Azarenko in the final a year ago and is 4/6 with Coral to go all the way again, although the Belarusian (7/2) has beaten Williams twice in their last three meetings, including in Cincinatti last week, and will be fancying her chances of taking the American out on the big stage.
Written by Jon Freeman