ATP Tennis: Countdown to US Open 2013

The US Open 2013 begins at Flushing Meadows New York on August 26th. It is the final Grand Slam of the year, a final opportunity to assert major dominance towards the fag end of a grueling season. There is still more tennis (2 Masters tournaments) to be played after the US Open- especially for the players still in the running for the season ending World Tour Finals- but Flushing Meadows has historically been the Major with maximum chances of a surprise winner/upset. 
Much like 2012, 2013 has seen the first 3 Slams won by 3 separate players- with usual suspects Djokovic, Nadal and Murray sharing one each. Federer is missing from the list, and will continue to do so on current form. The US Open could be an opportunity for one of these 3 players’ to win more than 1 slam this calendar year, and also try to finish the year as the number 1 ranked player in the world. 
With the Cincinnati Masters yet to be played (this week) before the US Open, let us have a closer look at the favorites and ranking scenarios:
Andy Murray (2) and Novak Djokovic (1)
The Wimbledon and Australian Open finalists did not enjoy much success at the American hard court seasons’ first event at Toronto last week. Djokovic fell to archrival Nadal in 3 tight sets in a semi-final he was expected to win after Nadal’s 1st round exit at Wimbledon. But the Spaniard turned the tables on their hardcourt rivalry record by winning the match and eventually the tournament to fire an early warning before New York. Djokovic has been erratic after his Australian Open win early this year, sharing a bizarre rivalry with Murray that has seen them sharing 2 Majors a piece in their last 4 Final face offs. Nadal’s return has only made things more complicated for him. His intense rivalry with the Brit has seen him drop his standards against players like Nadal and Del Potro, and he must definitely feel like the man everyone is gunning for after finding himself in a threeway battle for domination with Nadal and Murray. 
Murray, meanwhile, looks to be the man dominating- if only just- men’s tennis over the last few months. But the word domination is a bit too extreme for the Brit, considering the fact that he is never a major contender during claycourt season. He poured all his energy into Wimbledon, succeeding finally, winning his second Slam (both finals against Djokovic). He is defending Champion at Flushing Meadows, and will look to brush his recent Toronto defeat against Gulbis behind him to sound a real challenge at Cincinnati this week. 
Rafael Nadal (3)
Nadal made yet another comeback after yet another disappointing Wimbledon season, to claim his record 25th Masters title at Toronto last week- after thrashing Raonic in the final. His victory was unexpected, but the Spaniard has been pretty stellar in his play this season except the one blemish. His 8th tournament win in 2013 puts him on top of the ATP Race to London, a good way ahead of Djokovic and Murray. He will be a major contender at New York, but his ability to last on hard courts over 5 sets is still a question mark after his comeback from injury in March. 
Dark Horse
Roger Federer (5)
For the first time in more than a decade, Federer might enter a Major ranked 5, and could face one of the top 3 in the quarterfinals itself. His troublesome back has seen him go through a tumultuous time at Hamburg and Gstaad with early exits to unseeded players, but he is confident of his fitness ahead of Cincinnati- his last Masters Win in 2012 where he bageled Djokovic on his way to a dominant win. He is no 32, and his skills are not necessarily on the wane- but his shots are being picked up clearly by younger upcoming players. He is no more the man that could beat everyone but Nadal, with everybody fancying their chances against him now. He will look to dispel notions of an early retirement with a good hardcourt season after pulling out of Toronto, fresh to defend his title at Cincinnati. 
The ATP Race to the World Tour Finals in London has Nadal, Murray and Djokovic already slotted in, but sees- shockingly- the likes of Federer battling with Del Potro, Tsonga, Berdych and Warinka for the final 4 spots. Even Ferrer is way ahead at no. 4 with 4450 compared to Federer’s paltry 2695 points in 14 tournaments. An early exit at the US Open could see him drop out of reckoning, paving the way for the first season-ending Masters played without him in over 10 years.   

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