The 2020 US Open is going to be a strange one with so many top players missing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given how open the field is, it will be interesting to see who will rise to the top.
2020 US Open: Women’s Favorites
Osaka is probably the biggest hitter on tour at the moment. She has always had the ability to flatten out the ball, but her stint with Sascha Baijin as coach helped her add topspin to her arsenal as well, which has propelled her to the top. Her serve is also a huge weapon for her. Unforced errors, caused usually by poor shot selection, are Osaka’s achilles heel; however, her recent form suggests she can win the whole tournament.
Personally, Kvitova is my favorite tennis player. Her serve and groundstrokes are as elegant as they are powerful and her net game when in form is sublime. She will never cover the court like the Svitolinas and Haleps of the game, but her court coverage has improved considerably. The real weakness in Petra’s game is her footwork. When you start seeing her lunge for the ball, you know it is going to be a bad day. This is what causes her to become erratic. It doesn’t help that Kvitova hits the ball so flat. Unfortunately, she isn’t capable of hitting a really heavy top spun shot like Ash Barty. I’ve seen her try to slow things down and give the ball more flight and it isn’t effective. She just doesn’t have the defense to back it up. So with Kvitova it is all or nothing. While I would love to see her progress, I think her inconsistency will stop her from going all the way.
Given all the power on the women’ side, it was nice to see a clever counterpuncher like Sofia Kenin break through at Grand Slam level in January. A former child prodigy, under the tutelage of her father Alex, Kenin has quietly risen through the ranks. While her results haven’t been outstanding since that achievement, expect her to rise to the occasion in her home Slam. Kenin needs to remember she is a great ball striker first and a great defender second, and make sure she plays with purpose.
The Queen: Serena Williams
No Grand Slam write up would be complete without a reference to Serena Williams. She has shown an eagerness to compete by playing the lead up events and is match tough after a few difficult matches. While I expect the likes of Osaka and Pliskova to handle her, she should always pose a threat.
2020 US Open: Men’s Favorites
There has never been a more clear cut favorite in the history of the tournament. Literally daylight separates Djokovic from the rest of the tour. While Nadal’s defensive skills are mythic, in my opinion Djokovic is the most efficient defender in the game. You rarely see him meters behind the baseline and if he’s there, he is able to quickly get himself back to the baseline. Djokovic is also extremely strong hitting off an open stance position. This makes it easier for him to push off the outer leg and then recover. He is clearly motivated to break the current record of most Grand Slams held by Roger Federer and at this rate, most must back him to do so.
Of all the players outside the “Big 3” of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer, it is Thiem who looks the most likely to break through to win a Grand Slam. His powerful, heavy game should suit the conditions at the US Open. In order for him to do well in this tournament, I think Thiem needs to work on using the front portion of the court, using drop shots and angles to finish off his good play. I expect him to go far in the tournament, though am not sure if he can knock out Djokovic.
Tsitsipas has a great all-round game with the capability of performing on all surfaces. His backhand is definitely his best shot as it is fluent and free-flowing, with a beautiful take back. The conditions at the US Open should suit him; however, his results at the US Open in the past haven’t been great, with his best finish a second round. The raucous crowds in New York seem to get under his skin. Of course, crowds aren’t an issue this year. While he did lose to Milos Raonic in the lead-up event, expect him to step up a notch in Flushing Meadows this time around. He is older and more experienced, so this should leave him in good stead.
Men’s final: Djokovic vs Thiem
Women’s final: Osaka vs Kenin