With the last Grand Slam of the decade kicking off next Monday, here's a look at five of the most pressing questions entering the U.S. Open:
Five-time defending champion
The short answer: yes. More than any one player, the well-documented parity atop the men's tour -- six players already have at least 40 victories this year -- complicates Federer's quest. And
Deposing Federer won't be easy. Since a post-Wimbledon hiatus to welcome his twin daughters into the world, the 28-year-old has won yet another Masters title (at Cincnninati) and seven of eight matches overall, the only smudge a mind-boggling collapse against
Only six men have won each of the four major tournaments, making the career Grand Slam roughly a once-in-a-generation accomplishment. What a story it'd make if Nadal could become the second player
But the Spaniard's patchy form since missing two months with tendinitis in both knees appears likely to preclude a serious title challenge. Yes, Nadal is playing without pain -- but signs of rust linger. Case in point: last week's Cincinnat semis, when Nadal went down in straight sets to
No matter how it plays out, if you read only one thing during the next two weeks -- besides SI.com's U.S. Open blog, of course -- make sure to check out Nadal's
Whether Clijsters' impressive string of victories on the heels of a two-year hiatus speaks to her extraordinary abilities or the mediocrity of the women's tour is a debate best left to the cynics. Instead, just appreciate the Belgian's comeback for what it is.
After defeating three straight top 20 opponents before falling to No. 1
Incredibly, British oddsmaker William Hill lists Clijsters, a wild-card entry, at 8-to-1 to win the U.S. Open, making her the third favorite with Azarenka and
It's ironic Roddick's highly successful 2009 season may be remembered most for a match he didn't win: that spectacular loss to Federer in the Wimbledon final.
In the year since Roddick enlisted
Roddick has not openly acknowledged the sentiment that his legacy depends on winning a second major, but his recommitment to fitness and sharpened play seem to reflect that matured brand of desperation.
That said, a favorable draw might help: Roddick is 46-11 in '09 -- but 0-5 against Federer and Nadal.
The obvious choice in the men's draw is Murray. The 22-year-old Scot and current U.S. Open Series front-runner comes to New York in good form after winning a Masters title in Montreal and reaching the semifinals in Cincinnati. What's more, Murray's runner-up finish at last year's Open stands as the best Grand Slam result of his career.
The popular dark horse is
On the women's side, many expect Safina to play up to her No. 1 ranking sooner or later. Jankovic, the only year-end No. 1 in tour history without a Slam, has rebounded from an uninspired first half and seems primed for a deep run.
But I'll take a flier on Dementieva, the 27-year-old power-baseliner who climbed to No. 4 this week after winning the Rogers Cup. She has advanced to the quarterfinals or beyond in four of the past five Opens and remains eager to win a Slam as she approaches the twilight of her career. If that sometimes-unreliable serve is clicking, watch out.
"My hamstrings are not big fans of sprints... Is it worrying that I've had
"Disappointed and a little frustrated with the match last night, still shows how close I am to Top five level after a few matches back"
"Having a tough day rehabbing and trying to see the light so I'm following the Dalai Lama on twitter now for some inspiration!"