Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2019 hard court season.
Do you see the end of the rainbow?
Readers of a long while here have become accustomed to us calling every tennis season a huge, long rainbow with the US Open and the Big Apple acting in the form of the big pot of gold at the end of said rainbow. (Of course, there are still plenty more tournaments ahead after the US Open rolls around, so this analogy isn’t all worked out but, erm, it’s a start.)
Well here we are at the top looking down; we’ve started our descent to the end of this big rainbow, and we can’t wait to arrive in New York for the biggest party in the tennis world.
But before we get there, we have about a month’s worth of events scattered across North America in stadiums and cities of various sizes—with each tournament another occasion for all men and women contenders and pretenders to make their mark.
–Simona Halep. The Romanian is currently working on two straight first-round losses at the US Open, but after rewriting her legacy this summer at Wimbledon could Simona Halep finally breaks through in the Big Apple this year? We’ll know the answer in a few weeks.
–Serena Williams. The great champion proved it over again recently in Wimbledon: mostly everything and anything in women’s tennis goes by and through her. Serena Williams may not have much time left at the top, but she’s still very much there in 2019.
–Naomi Osaka. Will the 21-year-old rediscover her best form in the days and weeks leading up to the site of her biggest triumph, the springboard with which she took over the WTA in 2019? The mercurial and candid Japanese has had an eventful season, first grabbing the Australian Open title and also somehow deciding to split with the coach she had taken over the world with—a decision that’s still as puzzling now as it was then. But Naomi Osaka should be a force to reckon with. Probably.
–Dark horse: Sloane Stephens. Sloane Stephens’s career has been anything but regular and constant, but if there’s been one place where the American has known almost nothing but success—and not injuries—it’s at the US Open. Can she recapture magic in 2019 like she did two years ago? Maybe.
–Real dark horse: Anastasija Sevastova. Quick thinking, who made a semifinal and two quarterfinal berths at the US Open in her last three participations there? Don’t be surprised if Anastasija Sevastova does it again.
–Novak Djokovic. The Serb will be the overwhelming favourite in Flushing Meadows, as he should be. If he keeps playing at this current level, we’re about 18 months away from calling Novak Djokovic as the greatest player in history—with little to no pushback possible against it.
–Roger Federer. The Swiss hasn’t had a coronation in New York since 2008, and yet he’ll see the proverbial seas part every step he takes while he plays there. If nothing else, Roger Federer will be the clear people’s champion in the eyes and hearts of every tennis fan. Not bad for a soon-to-be 38-year-old.
–Stefanos Tsitsipas. For the third choice on this list, you could pick Dominic Thiem as well but we’re rolling with the most-online player on tour. The Greek hasn’t quite played this well at major events, but his game works well on hard courts: he made it to the 2018 Rogers Cup final and the 2019 Australian Open semifinal after all, both times on hard courts.
–Dark horse: Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 18-year-old probably wants nothing more than a redo on his big US Open debut, as his was spoiled a year ago when he had to withdraw from a match with heart palpitations. This year will be different: after playing a full season on tour, he’s more suited to understand the wild atmosphere he’ll encounter in New York. And for what it’s worth, his game is perfect for the bright lights and the hard courts.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG