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U.S. Open (Time Out)

The last grand slam is here. With many big names missing on the women’s and men’s side, (Djokovic, Wawrinka, Raonic, Nishikori, and new withdrawal, Andy Murray), it will be interesting to see if some new faces emerge as the winner. Here are three major storylines for the U.S. Open.

Who will win on the women’s side?

Since Serena Williams announced her pregnancy in April, tennis fans knew this would be the question asked in every grand slam, until her return. Just to show how wide open the game is, for the first time eight women have a shot at leaving New York with the number one ranking. It is anyone’s guess as to who will take home the title.

Currently, Garbine Muguruza is the favorite to take home the trophy. Garbine played impressively in Cincy, where she dominated world number and world number two Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep to take home the title. Garbine also won Wimbledon, crushing Venus Williams in the second set after winning a close first set. Most assume that if Muguruza displays the same form she is a lock to take home the title. However not many players outside of Serena Williams were able to win more than one grand slam in a season (although Angelique Kerber did do it last year).

There is a plethora of other names on the women’s field who have a shot. Karolina Pliskova is ranked number one and did make it to the finals last year, where she defeated both Williams sisters in route to the finals. If Pliskova’s serve is clicking and she hits her groundstrokes cleaning, she could take home the title.

Simona Halep came close to winning her first grand slam at Roland Garros this year but was upset by young gun Jelena Ostapenko.  Halep has had solid results on the hardcourts this summer, so there is no reason why she can’t win. With that said, Simona will have a monster challenge in the first round, having to take on six-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova, who is player in her first grand slam in a year and half, after returning from her suspension ban.  Sharapova received a wild card into the Open and was the last person placed in the draw, right next to Halep.

Venus Williams has played in two grand slam finals this season. With her affinity for playing on faster courts and her resurgence as a consistent top player, she too will have a shot at winning it all in New York. Also in the running are Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki. Maybe defending champion Angelique Kerber will turn her disastrous season around and come out the victor. The list goes on and on.

How will American men play?

Sam Querrey became the first American male player to make to the semifinals since recent hall of famer, Andy Roddick, played. With so many of the top players missing, will the American men be able to ride that momentum and make waves in New York? It seems now will be their greatest chance to make a move.

All the familiar faces such as John Isner, Jack Sock, the above-mentioned Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson will be looking to go deep in Flushing. However, there are also some new faces such as Francis Tiafoe (who unfortunately would have to get pass Federer), Taylor Fritz, Jared Donaldson (who played solidly this summer) looking to make a name for themselves and take the chances available to them.

American players tend to play well at their home slam, so many of the above names are expected to make some noise the next two weeks. The real question is how far will they go and can an American player finally breakthrough and win a grand slam? This is the time to do it.

Will experience trump youth?

This years veterans, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have dominated the season. Roger won his 18th and 19th grand slam in Australia and at Wimbledon. Nadal proved his status as the King of Clay, earning his record breaking 10th French Open.  In New York, Roger and Rafa come in as the favorites to taking home the trophy. That is if a young German by the name of Alexander Zverev decides to say otherwise.

Alexander comes in red hot, taking home two titles (Citi Open and Rogers Cup, a master’s 1000 title). In route to winning the Rogers Cup, Alexander aka Sascha, defeated Federer. Keep in mind that Roger was dealing with back issues. Sascha is the third favorite behind Roger and Rafa and he would only need to face one of them, being that he is in the bottom half of the draw. With the withdrawal of Andy Murray there are not many players standing in the way of Sascha making it to the finals.

Though Roger is without question a strong favorite to win it all, there are no guarantees.  Young players such as Sascha or equally talented and dangerous Nick Kyrgios are looking to have their moments in the sun. Their hunger and will might just be enough to get them across the finish line.

So, as always, the last grand slam will be intriguing to watch. With the number one ranking up for grabs on the men’s and women’s side, the stakes have never been higher. Who will seize this moment to declare him or herself as the top player in the game? Stay tuned to find out.

The U.S. Open starts this Monday on ESPN.

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