• US Open

US Open comes at perfect time for Murray

Chris Wilkinson August 24, 2014
Can Andy Murray reign in New York again? © PA Photos

ESPN's resident tennis expert and former British No.1 Chris Wilkinson previews the US Open, giving a rundown of his players to keep an eye on at Flushing Meadows, as well as his thoughts on Andy Murray, Roger Federer's chances of winning yet another grand slam and whether any of the top 10 can capitalise on Rafael Nadal's absence.

The Big Players

Roger Federer

Has Roger Federer got another grand slam in him? © Getty Images

World ranking: 3
Age: 33
US Open best: Five-time champion
Unibet odds: 11/4

This is definitely the best tennis Federer has played in the past two years. After the French Open, he won in Halle and then made the final at Wimbledon. He then made another final in Toronto at the Rogers Cup and won in Cincinnati. I'm not the only one who has written him off - we've all done it - but there is no denying he has been playing brilliant tennis recently.

What is the secret to his resurgence? Well his coach, Stefan Edberg, has made a big impact since his arrival. Federer can't play from the back of the court as effectively as he used to, because the other guys are so good at it now. Instead, he's adapted and is coming to the net more often. His game style is now suited to the way he is playing.

He won so much playing the way he played - it's very difficult to change a winning habit like that overnight, particularly one that has earned him 17 grand slam titles. No doubt he would have been reluctant to change that approach, because it worked.

Yet it's only in recent times he has had to make the change. At 33, he's no spring chicken anymore.

Can he win another grand slam? The way he's playing at the moment, absolutely. If I was asked the same question at the beginning of the year, I would have said no. But on his current form, he's definitely got another slam in him.

I'd put him at joint favourite with the next man.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is looking for back-to-back grand slam wins © PA Photos

World ranking: 1
Age: 27
US Open best: 2011 champion
Unibet odds: 5/4 favourite

Given how Nadal is injured and Murray isn't exactly playing at his best, Djokovic is rightly the world No.1 at the moment.

He won the last slam coming into the US Open, which will no doubt be a massive boost. His record this year has been pretty phenomenal, for the best part, but the last couple of weeks or so he has struggled.

He won Wimbledon and took a few weeks off, getting married and spending time with his pregnant wife. It's perhaps taken him these past few weeks to get back into the swing of things and playing like a world No.1 again.

Will that slump matter much? I don't think so. The top guys playing best of five sets over two weeks are different players. Djokovic will get two or three matches under his belt and he'll be back at his normal level. He'll be there or thereabouts.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray has won at Flushing Meadows before - in 2012 © PA Photos

World ranking: 9
Age: 27
US Open best: 2012 champion
Unibet odds: 6/1

Overall, this year's men's draw at Flushing Meadows is as open as it has ever been. Murray isn't playing particularly well, but I still think he has a good chance. Nadal won't be playing and Djokovic has struggled with his form recently. Andy has won here before; he's going back to a place that he's played very well at. I wouldn't necessarily have him down as favourite, but he's got a good chance.

It's absolutely the right time for him to play in a grand slam. Recovering from his back problem may have taken longer than he expected and losing Ivan Lendl was also a hiccup, but he'll want to get out there and prove to everybody that he can still win a major. If I was him, I'd just want to be out there playing matches.

The last time he beat another top 10 player was his Wimbledon championship victory against Djokovic last year. He needs another scalp to regain confidence.

Ones to watch

Stanislas Wawrinka is already a hard court grand slam champion this season © Getty Images

Defending champion Nadal's absence through injury will not only be a boost to the rest of the big three, but also to the rest of the top 10. Rafa's losing a lot of points, so it's a chance for likes of Murray, Federer, Ferrer and co to make a push for that top three.

Fitness levels are vital - these guys will be playing four hours one day, a day off the next and then five hours the day after that. It's pretty relentless. That's the difference - fitness and mentality. To sustain that level is probably the most difficult thing to do at a grand slam.

So who will be out to impress in the first week? Grigor Dimitrov 15/1 will be full of confidence following his Wimbledon exploits, particularly after he ensured Murray's reign as SW19 champion would end after only a year.

Dimitrov's playing well, but was shocked by Jerzy Janowicz 200/1 in Cincinnati. Janowicz is a player who has struggled recently, but signs of the form that saw him reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2013 are beginning to show. There has got to come a time when his game will click again. He can certainly be one who can make a name for himself in the first week.

John Isner 120/1 is a big-serving player who will be looking to shine on home soil, while the form of Milos Raonic 25/1 could be a big danger. Gael Monfils 200/1 is another name that can test the big three - it took Murray five sets to beat him at Roland Garros earlier this year.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 20/1 beat Federer to the Rogers Cup title and, although his form has waned slightly since, the Frenchman is a different beast at the majors. And let's not forget Stanislas Wawrinka 15/1 - already a hard court grand slam champion this season and well in with a shout.

Nick Kyrgios is a big game player and will need to continue his Wimbledon form here - he faces Mikhail Youzhny in the first round before potential ties with Tommy Robredo and Wawrinka could follow.

The final four

For me, I can't look any further than Djokovic and Federer taking up two of the semi-final spots. I'll say Tomas Berdych will be in there too - along with Wawrinka.

The women's draw

Eugenie Bouchard's Wimbledon hangover is likely to continue in New York © Getty Images

Should Serena Williams (3/2 fav) fall in New York, it will be the first time since 2001 she has not won a grand slam title in a season where she has played in all four majors - a frightening statistic. Serena didn't win a slam in 2004, 2006 or 2011 but missed at least one of the majors in those years through illness and injury.

It is almost unthinkable the American will endure a baron year in four slams, so I think she will be in the mix.

Despite Eugenie Bouchard's (12/1) success this year - Australian and French Open semi-finals and a Wimbledon final - I think she'll struggle at the US Open. That's been a lot for her to take in, in a very short space of time. The Canadian is young and she will be a future world No.1 - but this could come too soon for her.

Maria Sharapova's (6/1) experience will prove vital if she is to add to her 2006 triumph here, while Simona Halep has been a very solid and consistent player this year - I expect her to make big strides in the next two weeks.

One can never rule out Petra Kvitova's (17/2) presence, but Samantha Stosur(50/1) is the pick for me. The Australian is playing well and made the semi-finals at New Haven this week, beating Bouchard along the way. Stosur was crowned US Open champion in 2011, having defeated Williams in straight sets, and I have no doubts she can do the same again.

Samantha Stosur is a US Open champion and will no doubt prove a danger © PA Photos

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.

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Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.