By Erik Gudris | Monday, August 11, 2014
Last week in Canada gave us a ton of unexpected results. Does that mean the US Open will be just as unpredictable?
Photo Credit: AP
That's what many tennis fans kept saying all last week as they kept track of the dual Rogers Cup tournaments happening in both Montreal and Toronto. While we were treated to multiple surprise results, does that mean we can expect the same at the US Open in a few weeks time?
The answer? Yes and no. Bear in mind, a lot of players arrived in Canada after a long post-Wimbledon break. So watching some of them shake off the rust, or not, wasn't that big of a surprise. However, that doesn't take away from the final results, nor does it mean that some of them still don't have a lot of work to do in Cincinnati this week.
It's odd to realize that the reigning world No. 1s, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, are on the "room for improvement list," but they are. Djokovic struggled in his two appearances in Toronto. Why Djokovic entered this event looking so sluggish is open to debate. Lack of matches? Or perhaps still recovering from his recent wedding? In any event, Djokovic will definitely want to buckle down in Cincinnati and get some wins under his belt.
For Serena, the debate continues if she can be called the clear-cut favorite for New York. Despite her Stanford win, the WTA's No. 1 again looked great and then not so great up north. First, against her friend Caroline Wozniacki and then in her 25th career meeting versus big sister Venus Williams. How Serena plays is still the barometer for any tournament she enters. If she blazes through Cincinnati this week, then her "must-beat" status is assured for New York. If she stumbles again, then it's time to call the final Grand Slam of the year on the women's side wide open.
But what everyone really wants to know is this: Are Agnieszka Radwanska, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Venus Williams true contenders for the US Open title?
Let's start with the Frenchman first. Despite being 0-7 against the top 10 this season entering Toronto, Tsonga reeled off four wins versus players in that elite tier to win his biggest title since 2008. Tsonga remains one of those players who confounds and delights on any given day. We all know he can beat anyone. But that doesn't happen every week, or, let's face it, every year.
While it's exciting to see Tsonga play the kind of tennis we all know he can produce, can we really expect him to repeat this same form in New York? Watching him play up to his potential any week is like seeing a comet streak across the night sky. We marvel in both since we know we might never see it again. That's why it's probably safe to keep Tsonga in darkhorse status for now.
Radwanska survived a week of upsets to win her first title this season in Montreal. The crafty Polish star hasn't been talked about a lot, but we can't count her out. Especially if she gets the right draw and takes advantage when power hitters can't find their mark.
Venus Williams and her climb up the rankings remain a compelling story this summer. Now back inside the top 20, the seven-time Grand Slam champion is showing the kind of form and firepower she did a decade ago. Now that her much talked about health issues no longer seem to impede her, Venus is able to play the kind of tennis that can threaten anyone. But, she will still need a kind draw in New York and continue firing down winners as she did this week. If she gets both, then don't be surprised if she once again becomes a big story at the US Open.
"Tennis is Canada" was the popular social media hashtag last week. If the results up north filter down to its southern neighbor in the coming week is anyone's guess. But if they do, then more surprises will be in store before the last major of the year.