Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks ahead at 2020 US Open.
Who should be widely hailed as the 2020 US Open favourites?
The above is a fairly simple and straightforward question, one with a fairly simple and straightforward answer if you want one: the 2020 US Open favourites should be determined the same way they are every year, by looking at both tours’ respective rankings and picking the top players there. But really, you’re just picking the seeded players, not the favourites, if that’s what you do.
Picking favourites for any given event is a little more subtle than that. You need to look at the players competing in the tournament, the way the draw is set up, who is playing who and when and, perhaps above all, who has been playing well in the lead-up to the event.
In other words, you identify any given tournament’s favourites by looking at what came just before it. But what if nothing came just before it?
As the tennis world somehow decides to move forward with its plan to return against seemingly all odds, us columnists, fans, pundits and just overall tennis folks can start looking ahead at the second-but-would-be-fourth Grand Slam event of the season and identify some of the players who would be the most dangerous players as this year’s US Open favorites.
But we haven’t played tennis since March; what happens when no one can be in-form since everyone starts over again from the same vantage point? Okay sure, this isn’t exactly true: once tennis starts again and the US Open rolls around, players will still be slotted on the main draw as reflection of their now-unfrozen frozen ranking points.
Another way to put it: both Novak Djokovic and, say, Pablo Cuevas might not have competed on the ATP since March, but only one of the two will arrive at Flushing Meadows ranked around No. 60—and it won’t be Djokovic.
In any case, let’s draw upon a whole lot of different factors, maybe even some witchcraft, and identify a few favourites on both main draws.
Women’s US Open Favourites
–Serena Williams. As far as we know, the American hasn’t announced that she is withdrawing from this event. Any day now, we’ll likely enter the post-Serena Williams era in women’s tennis—and really, we’re probably already there if we can be entirely honest—but let’s say we can hold off history for one more time. One more year.
–Petra Kvitova. Perhaps the most puzzling statistic of the great Petra Kvitova’s career is that her results at the US Open have historically been rather pedestrian: other than two quarterfinal berths, the latest coming in 2017, the Czech hasn’t performed that well in New York on a surface that should suit her well. Before the 2020 season halted however, Kvitova was having a great run—maybe she can rekindle the magic this month?
–Simona Halep. The great Romanian player is working on three straight disappointing performances in Flushing Meadows, including two where she won just as many matches as you and I. So far in her career, Halep has lost in the first or second rounds of the US Open six times in 10 occasions. Simply put, if the 28-year-old is a favourite in New York it’s because she’s due. In a normal time, this type of analysis wouldn’t mean anything. But again, this is far from a normal time.
Men’s US Open Favourites
–Novak Djokovic. Look, this is fairly simple: Novak Djokovic is the greatest men’s player and, pandemic or not, should be the favourite at pretty much every event he enters and competes in.
–Daniil Medvedev. Remember the 2019 US Open men’s final and how utterly close the bad guy Daniil Medvedev came of closing things out and lifting the ultimate prize against Rafael Nadal? We’ll go out on a limb here and say that the next man to win a Grand Slam event under the age of 30 will be this Russian, who spent the latter half of the 2019 season running every single opponent through the roughshod.
–Stefanos Tsitsipas. Call this hedging our bet on the above on Medvedev if you will, but we’re also riding high on Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 21-year-old tore through the ATP last year to the tune of three titles (culminating in his coronation at the ATP Finals); the only thing left for the Greek is to be a bit more regular and clutch on the sport’s biggest stage.
Well, there may not be a bigger stage in tennis than the US Open.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG