Federer favorite as absentees offer hope to young guns
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[August 26, 2017]
By Martyn Herman
(Reuters) - An injury-ravaged U.S. Open
men's draw offers the best opportunity yet for a young pretender to
claim a maiden grand slam crown but in this most retro of seasons
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will look to turn back time in New
With the physical demands of modern-day tennis taking its toll the
tournament will start without four of the top 11 in the ATP rankings
including defending champion Stan Wawrinka who ended his season
early with a knee injury.
Twice champion Novak Djokovic (elbow), 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori
(wrist) and Milos Raonic (wrist) are also absent while 2012 champion
Andy Murray and 2014 winner Marin Cilic have been sidelined since
Wimbledon by injuries.
Federer, looking to win three grand slam titles in the same year for
the first time since 2007, withdrew from Cincinnati with a back
niggle and while Nadal, who returned this week to world number one,
is fit, his form of late has been patchy.
All the more reason that Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Nick
Kyrgios -- to name but three -- will be relishing seizing a golden
opportunity in the Big Apple.
Of those Germany's 20-year-old Zverev looks the best bet to shake it
up after rising to sixth in the world after beating Federer in the
Rogers Cup in Montreal -- the biggest title so far for the
"Is Zverev ready to step up best of five?" four-times Flushing
Meadows champion John McEnroe, part of ESPN's commentary team, said
"If he is he's got a great chance to step forward and get to the
final, at least the semis."
Unpredictable Australian Kyrgios has shown signs of delivering on
his potential this year, most recently when beating Nadal in the
quarter-finals in Cincinnati before losing to Bulgaria's Grigor
Dimitrov, another U.S. Open title candidate, in the final.
"You can say he's slowly hopefully but surely going in the right
direction," McEnroe said of the 22-year-old Kyrgios.
Austrian Thiem appears to have left his best tennis on the European
clay, struggling on the North American hardcourts.
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Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates winning the first set during
the final against Croatia’s Marin Cilic REUTERS/Andrew
Jack Sock, John Isner and Sam Querrey will lead the
American challenge in the men's tournament -- hoping to end a
six-year wait for a men's quarter-finalist for the host nation.
"I don't see any of them winning it. I see all of them being
dangerous," McEnroe said.
The 36-year-old Federer, seeded third, will be most people's title
pick having produced a stunning year since returning from a
six-month lay-off in January -- compiling a 35-3 record.
Having claimed a first Australian Open title for seven years, a
first Wimbledon title for five years he could surpass even those
feats with a first U.S. Open since 2008 and take his grand slam
tally to a record-extending 20.
"At the moment we are assuming that Roger is going to pull the
rabbit out of the hat again," McEnroe said.
"If Roger wins this, this will be one of the great stories in the
last 50 years or ever."
Should either the Swiss or French Open champion Nadal, twice a
champion in New York, prevail it would be the first time since 2010
that the duo have scooped all of the year's majors.
However, if fans were hoping for a Federer-Nadal finale, those hopes
were dashed after Friday's draw set them on a semi-final collision
And even before a ball is hit in anger, the countdown to that
possible showdown has set pulses racing.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman in London, editing by Frank Pingue)
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