Monday, August 12, 2013

Hot & cold in the warm summer season so far

The US Open Series is like every summer unfolding and when only two weeks are left before the big finish line in New York, some hints about players' form have already been given and the first speculations about what's to happen at the USOpen can be done.
Especially in the men series most of the big names showed up only this week in Montreal, in order to enjoy a few weeks off after Wimbledon to rest and train. That  gave the chance to other names to take advantage to the otherwise "packed" draws and take a good margin on the series' ranking. That was the case with John Isner, who sailed through the mediocre draw of Atlanta's 250 by winning it and then reached the final in Washington's 500, defeated by Del Potro in the final.
A similar situation happened in the women tournaments with world number 1 Serena Williams taking part to the race only this week in Toronto and Maria Sharapova yet to compete.

Hawaiian-like hot form

Rafael Nadal. The Spanish champion, winner of the series a few years ago, after the injury that forced himself out for most of the past season is witnessing one of the best years and after the huge disappointment of the first round loss in Wimbledon, he started his summer campaign with a terrific run in Montreal's Master 1000. En route he had to face very little resistance in most rounds, but could raise his game to edge past Djokovic in the semifinal, decided in a massive tie-break in the third set. Rafael is still undefeated on hard courts this year! Up to now he is 2nd in the series.

Serena Williams. The world number one and French Open champion came to Canada after a winning "holiday" in Bastad, where she decided to end her most successful clay season ever, in order to forget the unexpected loss of Wimbledon. To the ones who might have thought that coming back on clay just before the Hard Court season was a bad choice, she replied with a terrific run in Montreal's Premier 5. On her way to the title she dropped no set and never look on the verge of losing any, not even with Radwanska in the semis, when the Pole played a superb match and forced the American to play her best to win every point. Similarly to Nadal's case, she stands 2nd in the series.

Hot like Florida with chances of storms

John Isner. We've already mentioned his summer season so far. With his big serve and a game suitable to the American courts, John leads the Series thanks to the title in Atlanta, won in a tight service-battle of three tie-breaks with Kevin Anderson and then to the final reached in Washington. After those displays of consistency he was upsetted by local WC Pospisil in the first round of Montreal.

Juan Martin Del Potro. After the injury occurred in Wimbledon it looks like he's back on his feet and ready to compete for the only slam he has previously won: the USO. On his way to the title in Washington he was the first seed, but had to battle with other good names like Anderson, Haas and finally Isner. Maybe little fatigue prevented him from another good run in Montreal, where he was upsetted by eventual finalist Milos Raonic in the 3rd round.

Aga Radwanska. Probably the most solid girl on tour, Aga started his campaign for the USO with a good show of consistency, but she looked not as good as she used to. Despite leading the series, she had to face a couple of bad losses, especially for the implications of those losses. After having reached the final in Stanford, she was defeated by Dominika Cibulkova, in a match that seemed to be in full control of the Pole.
The week after it was Sam Stosur's turn to take her down, this time in a 3rd round. In Toronto Aga sailed through the early rounds and then put up a great fight against Serena in the SF. It's hard to see her winning the Open in this form, but she's a lock for a QF or further.

From Hot to Hailing, it's like the east-coast

Milos Raonic. The young Canadian hope reached the final on the home soil before surrendering to Nadal. On his way to the final defeated good names, but a part from Del Potro hardly any of them falls in the contenders for the title in New York and it's hard to see Milos being ready to challenge any of the big 4 at the moment.

Sam Stosur. The former USO Champion is having not her best season and after finishing out of the top 10 is surely looking for a way back to the top. Her summer started bad though, with a bad loss to Govortsova in the first round of Stanford. She could regroup and unexpectedly go on to win her first title of the year in Carlsbad upsetting Radwanska and even more surprisingly by giving no hope to World n°2 Vika Azarenka in the final. Once in Toronto the form slowly fainted and she couldn't get past Kvitova in the 3rd round.

Dominika Cibulkova. Title in Stanford, R1 in Carlsbad, QF in Toronto. Lika rollercoaster the short Slovakian player as usual shows to be one of the most unpredictable players of the tour as much able to beat anyone on a given day as to self-implode on the bad ones. Her seeding will be low in New York, but for sure she's not well liked on any contender's way.

Sorana Cirstea. Like Cibulkova, consistency has always been a problem for her, but semi finals in Stanford, QF in Washington and final in Montreal secured her a spot close to the top 20 and a career
best ranking, but most of all, her wins against Kvitova, Wozniacki and Li showed how much of a dark horse she may be in New York.

Magdalena Rybarikova. Winning titles is never easy when you are not a top name, winning the same title back to back is something huge at any level and Magda did that in Washington, by defeating players supposedly much better than her according to the ranking. The Slovakian won a tight match against best German Kerber and then destroyed Russian Ekaterina Makarova, before taking over Andrea Petkovic in the final. The following week she was also able reached the QF in Toronto where only a massive Serena Williams could stop her winning streak. That said only two weeks ago she was routined by Keys in Stanford, so it's hard to believe she'll be a safe bet for a deep run in New York.

One more reason why hurricanes have female names.

Olga Puchkova. The Russian player in Washington gave a great show of her hot-temper as after the first round win over local Star Stephens argued via Twitter to a journalist, who tried to justify Sloane's loss by saying she was rusty - "Rusty my &@@" was her reply-. But she could outdo that by getting disqualified the following round because in a moment of rage she hit a ball towards the back fence, but hit a line-man instead.

Is it even summer there?

Andy Murray. Coming from the massive win in London, he decided to have a break, but his first matches on hard courts have been a disaster, a tight win against Granollers and a one sided loss to Gulbis clearly are not the best way to start a run whose aim is to defend last year's USO title.

Janko Tipsarevic. First round in Wimbledon, flying to Bogota on Hard Courts to lose his second round match against Falla, flying back to Europe to lose first round on the Swiss clay of Gstaad and then back to Canadian's hard courts and yet another loss. Hard to believe Janko will be a contender in New York.

Gilles Simon. A losing streak of three matches is never a sign of good form, when the last two of them come on the surface of the next Slam and in both you never seem able to hurt your opponents things can't but look even worse.

Caroline Wozniacki. The two years in a row year-ending world number one has fallen in a negative spiral from the beginning of 2012 and it seems that she's unable to ever climb back close to where she's been for so long. Barely hanging in the top 10 she started her favourite part of the season with a tough loss to Sorana Cirstea in Montreal, when she blew 2 consecutive MPs in the second set. Most of her game looked there and the injured ankle seemed fine, but her mental game seems long gone.

Svetlana Kuznetsova. The former US Open champion hasn't been much of a contending for slams in the past years, but after the good display in Australia her season simply failed to deliver. A couple of injuries forced her out for a while, but in two tournaments played this summer she collected 3 losses -for once being a Lucky Loser wasn't as lucky-.

Jelena Jankovic. For the former number one being 3-2 after two weeks of the American summer season can't but be a disappointment, especially if she's won only against players ranked much lower than her and only after tough battles, while the two losses came to players closer to her ranking, but yet still below her

Angelique Kerber. The German number one is not going through an easy season, her body is always facing injuries and her game suffers a lot for that, but she has a lot to defend now and she seems just not ready for that and her top 10 status is in jeopardy. Like Caroline her losses came after tight matches, but she used to win those mental battles.


There are still two events left to find or lose form though and then the air of slams can change a lot in the motivation and fears of players, so we are still far from being able to make any accurate prediction, which as usual will be proven wrong anyway.

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