US Open 2017: Five talking points as pulsating action begins at Flushing Meadows

Just a day more to go. August 28 would mark the kickoff, of the 137th edition of the US Open tennis championships at the Flushing Meadows, New York. And there are already a host of possibilities hovering over the final grand slam of the year.

By Aratrick Mondal | Last Updated: Aug 29, 2017, 00:34 AM IST

New Delhi: Just a day more to go. August 28 would mark the kickoff, of the 137th edition of the US Open tennis championships at the Flushing Meadows, New York. And there are already a host of possibilities hovering over the final grand slam of the year.

Can Karolina Pliskova retain her No. 1 spot after US Open tournament? Can fans finally get to see a Federer-Nadal duel at the Flushing Meadows? Can Maria Sharapova mark a rather commendable return to tennis action? With all such questions to ponder over, we bring you the top five talking points to discuss as the last and final grand slam kicks off in less than 24 hours...

 

Eight contenders for World No. 1 spot in WTA rankings as women's singles battle heads to New York

Apart from the defending champion Angelique Kerber, women's tennis will witness eight other contenders for the top rank slot as battle kicks off at the Billie Jean King Stadium, tomorrow.

Kerber started off the year on a lower note after a spectacular run in 2016 that saw her bagging two grand slam titles and dethrone the formidable Serena Williams from No. 1 spot. But a poor run in the first half of this year, including her shocking first-round exit at Wimbledon, saw the German tennis ace lose the World No.1 spot on WTA rankings. Well, she still stands a chance to revive her faltering form in 2017 if she can manage to defend the title.

Karolina Pliskova was announced the new incumbent of the top honour, but the constant threat from Romanian Simona Halep coupled with her ravishing consistency with the racquet has lowered down the gap between the top two spot to mere five points.

Now mathematically speaking, there are six other contenders for the World No. 1 spot – Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Caroline Wozniacki, Johanna Konta, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and runners-up in two grand slams this year Venus Williams. Based on the points they need to defend and current tally on the WTA rankings chart, Halep, Svitolina, and Muguruza can claim the top spot in women's tennis if they can bag the US Open crown, no matter how others on the list come out. Well, for other players, it depends on how the rest perform as each round unveil at the Flushing Meadows.

 

Can Roger Federer clinch his 20th Grand Slam title?

Right after Wimbledon 2016, Roger Federer had announced his temporary withdrawal from tennis action owing to recovery from knee surgery. Ergo, he had missed the US Open last year. He sat out on the sidelines for the remainder of the season and he bounced back to script history at Australia. He picked up his 18th major title at the Australian Open, defeating arch-rival Rafael Nadal in a pulsating five-setter. He then skipped French Open to hoist back his flag of dominance at the All England Club, lifting his record eighth Wimbledon title in July. People usually said, 'rest' slows down one's momentum, one's pace. And a return to dominance...one can easily laugh that off. But Federer proved the pundits wrong.

And ahead of the US Open, he skipped the Cincinnati Masters. Could it be another for the Swiss maestro? "That would be a joke, if I won three slams this year out of nowhere," said Federer in an interview to CNN after his Wimbledon victory.

Novak Djokovic is out, defending champion Stan Wawrinka is out and now Andy Murray is out too. Federer would have just one opponent en route to his 20th major – Rafael Nadal.

 

Could the Flushing Meadows finally witness a Federer-Nadal duel?

37 times. Yes, 37 times have Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met at a tennis court to script one of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time. But none, not even one was witnessed at the hardcourts of Billie Jean King Stadium.

But this time the American crowd might get their wish fulfilled. With both drawn into the same half of the US Open draw, there are high chances that there might be a semi-final showdown at the centre court.

They have already faced each other thrice this year. Australian Open final, where Federer had defeated Nadal in a thrilling five setter, then at Indian Wells and finally at Miami Open. Unfortunate for the Spaniard, he lost all three of the battles. However, he still leads the head-to-head tie by 23-14 and has been better off than his Swiss opponent at Grand Slam level winning nine out of the 12 such encounters.

 

Can Maria Sharapova mark a blockbuster return to tennis action?

It was back in March 2016 that Maria Sharapova had come forth to say that she was tested positive for a heart and blood boosting drug named meldonium, in the year's Australian Open and ergo faced a suspension for 24 months. However, later the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced it to 15 months.

She marked a return back to tennis action after she received a wildcard to three WTA tournaments – Stuttgart, Madrid and Italian. However, it didn't appeal to fellow tennis players who rather reckoned that she should have worked herself up while some felt she should have faced a lifetime ban.

Grand Slam was indeed her target, but she was denied a wildcard to Roland Garros by the organisers and then withdrew from the Wimbledon owing to injury. She even skipped both the Montreal Open and the Cincinnati Masters t be fully fit to take on the action at the Flushing Meadows.

So whom will she face in the first round? – World No. 2 Simona Halep, the most consistent player this season, who also missed out being the World No. 1 thrice in the last four months. Such is her dominance. But on the other hand, she faces the former 2004 US Open Champion who would surely leave no stone unturned to mark a blockbuster return to tennis action.

Will she prove to be yet another unfortunate opponent for Halep or will the Romanian thump down Sharapova in their first-round battle?

 

Can the young guns break the top two to clinch the last grand slam of the year?

Talking of young guns making a name in the tennis court, 20-year-old Alexander Zverev is the first name to pop up. He has already won five titles this season with his highlight being the straight set victory over Roger Federer in the final of the Rogers Cup 2017.

“I played great on the hard courts so far, won two tournaments, Montreal and Washington back to back, and I felt like I could compete and beat anyone,” Zverev told a news conference at the U.S. Open on Saturday.

Others on the list are unpredictable Nick Krygios who had recently defeated Rafael Nadal in the quarter-final round of the Cincinnati Masters. Then comes 'Baby Fed' Grigor Dimitrov who had clinched the Cincinnati title defeating the Aussie.

Novak is absent, Marin Cilic is out, Milos Raonic will miss out and Wawrinka and Murray too and ergo it is indeed a wonderful opportunity for young tennis players to topple down the top seeded players and ink their name in the history.