The final Grand Slam of the year starts Monday as the 2017 US Open takes place in the Big Apple.
It’s America’s showcase tennis event which will no doubt be complete with its trademark humid weather that could melt the fake tan of Donald Trump’s face.
Defending men’s champion Stan Wawrinka will miss the tournament in Flushing Meadows due to a knee injury. Other notable exclusions will include Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishkori and Milos Raonic who are all nursing injuries.
Then, late last night news broke that Andy Murray had also withdrawn citing an ailing hip injury he picked up in his quarter-final defeat at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey.
Never in recent memory has a Grand Slam been so depleted of its star attractions. Alas, it will continue with those less brittle athletes.
Roger Federer was dominant in the last Slam at Wimbledon proving age is just a number whilst his long-time rival and friend Rafa Nadal has surged to the no.1 seed in the world, thanks to titles in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Barcelona earlier this year.
Federer is not at full fitness for this tournament, however he still remains our favourite to capture his sixth US Open title, where we have him at 15/8.
Apart from the much publicised injuries, the story of the main draw has been its top-heavy nature.
With both Rafa and Federer in the top half, many peoples dream final is unattainable with a semi-final meeting between the two the best-case scenario.
However, the accumulation of these injuries and lob sidedness offers up huge opportunities to outsiders with aspirations of becoming first time Grand Slam champions and big John Isner is one that could benefit from this.
The American is in a rich vein of form and if there was ever a year for the fans to see some homegrown talent in contention, this could be it.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) August 21, 2017
This year’s draw also seems to be primed for Sasha Zverev to make a run deep into the second week, but don’t be surprised to see the flamboyant Aussie Nick Kyrgios or the Sergio Garcia of tennis, Gael Monfils in contention at the latter end of the tournament this year.
The next gen stars we see making it into the second week would have to include:
Russian Karen Khachanov, who seems to be improving with every tournament he plays. He gets this week underway against tricky appointment Yen-Hsun Lu, but seems to have a favourable draw if he overcomes the first obstacle.
American Jared Donaldson has found some excellent form over the past few weeks and the hard-hitting youngster opens his account to Nikoloz Basilashvili.
John Isner most tournament aces – 11/10
**Stats Alert ** Isner hits an average of 1.34 aces per game on hard courts (compared to the tour average of 0.5) and if he gets a decent run, making it to at least the quarter-final, we can’t see anyone coming close to him on this metric.
The fact that his matches usually have a lot more games than most doesn’t has chances of landing this punt any harm either. Let’s remind you that this 6’11” behemoth has the record for most aces in a Grand Slam match with 113, which is probably more than David Ferrer has in his career.
Bluntly put, Isner has a cannon of an arm and his monster serve is 100% of the reason he was a top 10 player in the past. Stick with him here and let him serve you a winner.
Nadal to win Quarter 1 – Evens
It is hard not to see Rafa steamrolling his first few opponent’s here, with Dusan Lajovic first up and then a possible tie with Tommy Paul in the second round. He is in the same quarter as last week’s winner and form man Grigor Dimitrov.
However, the Bulgarian has proven to have the composure of John Terry taking a penalty in Moscow in all the Grand Slams he has played thus far, so we’re not overly concerned. Their head-to-head currently stands at 8-1 in Rafa’s favour, if you needed any more convincing.
For the brave: Kokkinakis to win Quarter 4 – 18/1
This quarter is wide open and possibly one for punters to take advantage of. Andy Murray was the clear favourite, but the Scot has since pulled out (throwing our preview into chaos in the process).
Marin Cilic will now take over as the man to beat in this quarter and his biggest tests come from the French man Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at 7/2 and the entertaining young Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis.
He is close friends with Nick Kyrgios and when both mature a bit we’ve have no doubt they will both be multiple Grand Slam champions.
Kokkinakis hit a milestone only three weeks ago, making his 1st Main Tour ATP final in the Los Cabos Open. Still only 21, his powerful serves will be a bonus here and for anyone feeling lucky, he could be a tournament darkhorse as well as a nice value bet to win this quarter.