Juan Martin Del Potro won the US Open in 2009 and that was the last time a Grand Slam tournament was not won by one of the four players that have dominated the sport over the last ten years. Del Potro is a best priced 10/1 to win the final major of the season again and subscribers to the Bet Enthusiast service will be advised if he is worth backing before the tournament begins next Monday.
In a break with tradition the final is being at 5pm local time on the third Monday. The thinking behind moving the match back one day is to make it fairer for the winner of the second semi-final which has traditionally been played on Saturday to fit in with the host broadcaster’s peak time schedules. The semi-finals will now be played back to back on the second Saturday which means both finalists will have most of two days to recover and prepare for their match.
Since the 2009 US Open there have been 15 major tournaments. Rafael Nadal is the winning most player with six titles, Novak Djokovic has won one less and both Andy Murray and Roger Federer have won two each. The previous Grand Slam winner not part of this quartet was Marat Safin who won the Australian Open in 2005.
An indication of the dominance of the leading players is that in all Grand Slams from 2005 onwards the leading four have won 33 of 35. The most dominant player in any one major is Nadal who has won the French Open in eight of the last nine years. That is a record for the number of times any one player has won the same major.
After winning the only Grand Slam title of his career to date in 2009 Del Potro dropped down the rankings through injury and loss of form. He was unable to compete for three of the four biggest prizes in the sport the following year and didn’t reach another semi-final until Wimbledon this year.
Del Potro finished 2009 as the youngest player in the top 10 of the world rankings, the highest ranked Argentinean and statistically the best player from South America for the second successive year. A persistent wrist injury disrupted his season in the following year. He missed nine months of his career which caused his ranking to fall to a career low of 485.
During 2011 and 2012 De Potro steadily moved back up the rankings and he looked just about back to his best at the London Olympics. He beat Djokovic in the Bronze Medal match and the four titles he won throughout the year helped him reach number seven in the rankings. His final position could have better if he had beaten Djokovic in the semi-finals of the ATP Tour Finals, a match he lost after leading by a set and a break.
In one of the greatest matches in the history of the sport Del Potro all but beat Djokovic again at Wimbledon this summer. Their semi-final match was an epic which Djokovic just edged after five sets of intense tennis. The Serb was mentally and physically drained at the end of the match and it’s effects must have contributed to his relatively moderate effort against Murray in the final two days later.
Once the short grass season is completed players turn their attention to the US Open which is the final event of the late summer North American hardcourt swing. In preparation for the national Open of the United States Del Potro won the hardcourt event in Washington and reached the semi-finals in Cincinnati. He is not playing at Winston-Salem this week so will be rested and refreshed ahead of the US Open.
The usual suspects head the betting for these championships. Novak Djokovic is a marginal favourite which is just about right in the context of his recent form and liking for the hardcourts. Djokovic is just about the best player in the game on the surface and five of his six majors have been won under these playing conditions.
If Djokovic does not win this year’s US Open the most likely alternative is Murray, the defending champion. The Scot finally won that elusive first major after a five set match against Djokovic in New York. Confidence gained from that breakthrough was significant in the context of Murray’s prospects for the Wimbledon championships this year.
Murray’s form ahead of the US Open has been somewhat below his usual high standards. The reason so few players can compete in the latter stages of Grand Slams is that the better players are so much more consistent. Tomas Berdych is a top 10 player who can beat the best players in the game at his best. However, he tends to lose his desire and focus if things do not go his way. Murray will be totally prepared for the challenge over the next two weeks and more.
When Djokovic or Murray lose the first set they manage to raise their game and eliminate the unforced errors. Berdych seems to go the other way and doesn’t appear to have the fight to come from behind in the key matches in Grand Slams and Masters events. David Fererr is another leading player who comes up just short in key matches against the best players.
This was a criticism made of Murray in the past when he didn’t seem to have the mentality to cope with adversity, However, with experience has come a determination to fight for every point regardless of the match situation, especially in the Slams. Unfortunately his game is not suited to clay so a career Grand Slam could be elusive but he could definitely win three of the four majors at least once during his career.
Ahead of the draw being announced the likely matchups cannot be predicted. However in order to win the title any player must beat at least two of the four dominant players over five sets. Del Potro is part of a small group with the game to do just that.