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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Can anyone break the dominance of Federer and Nadal? US Open predictions

With one remaining grand slam of the tennis season, we predict the outcome of the men's event in New York.

Roger Federer is chasing a sixth US Open title, a 20th grand slam overall, and his third major this season. Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press
Roger Federer is chasing a sixth US Open title, a 20th grand slam overall, and his third major this season. Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press

The final tennis grand slam of the season is nearly upon us as the best players in the world head for New York to contest the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

A host of star names are missing from both the men's events, including Novak Djokovic, defending champion Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and former finalist Kei Nishikori. However, it should not take away from what promises to be an open and exciting tournament.

The National's sports desk offer up their predictions for who will excel, surprise and struggle over the next two weeks. Do you agree with their picks? Or do you have some of your own? Be sure to let us know.

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Graham Caygill, sports editor

Winner: Roger Federer

It has to be Federer's year to win a sixth US Open title. He has been the man to beat all season, and with the majority of his opposition either injured or inexperienced, he is the obvious choice. Yes, he lost to Alexander Zverev in Montreal, but that should be a useful wake-up call. He lost to Tommy Haas in Stuttgart before Wimbledon and that did not do him any harm, did it? The back tweak in Montreal that meant he missed Cincinnati could well have been a blessing in disguise in affording him more rest, and it will be a major shock if major No 20 is not his on September 10.

Surprise package: Nick Kyrgios

Aaron Doster / Reuters
Aaron Doster / Reuters

The world No 18 is actually the 14th seed thanks to all the injury withdrawals, and that opens him up to have a great chance of making the second week in New York for the first time. His run to the final in Cincinnati, beating world No 1 Rafael Nadal along the way, confirmed that when he keeps focused he can be a contender. There is a real chance over the next two weeks for some new faces to get to the latter stages at Flushing Meadows and he should be one of them.

Disappointment: Rafael Nadal

Since winning the French Open the Spaniard’s form has been a little underwhelming to say the least, and while he got to No 1 last week, it was his form earlier in the year on clay, and not his current efforts, that got him there. It feels, at least from the outside, that he has run out of gas a little. In many ways, it is already mission accomplished for Nadal in 2017 by winning a first major since 2014 and getting the No 1 slot back. It is hard to see him getting beyond the quarter-finals in New York, given how ordinary he has looked over the past couple of months.

Chitrabhanu Kadalayil, assistant sports editor

Winner: Rafael Nadal

John Minchillo / AP Photo
John Minchillo / AP Photo

Nadal will arrive at Flushing Meadows as one of the title contenders, but maybe not an outright favourite. His recent form has been patchy, losing in the third round of the Montreal Masters and the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Open. Granted the 31-year-old Spaniard had to play two matches on one day in Cincinnati, and there is no shame in losing to Nick Kyrgios. But it translates to less-than-ideal preparations. Having said that, Nadal won the French Open this year and only recently returned to the top of the rankings. He is facing a field far less threatening than the one at Roland Garros. Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic are all out injured, while Roger Federer and Andy Murray are recovering from their own fitness concerns. And even though he will be wary of the young and emerging trio of Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Kyrgios, this is the ideal year for Nadal to win a third US Open title.

Surprise: Grigor Dimitrov

Tannen Maury / EPA
Tannen Maury / EPA

Tennis is always easy on the eye when Federer and Dimitrov are in full flow on court. The similarities in playing styles are so uncanny they have prompted fair, and sometimes unfair, comparisons between the two. Unfortunately for Dimitrov, the pressure of having to justify his talent has got the better of him whenever they face each other. Remember how Federer dismantled his younger rival’s game at Wimbledon this year? Nevertheless, this has been something of a breakout season for the Bulgarian, who has won three of his seven titles in 2017. Crucially, he claimed the Cincinnati Open last week to put his hand up as a contender for the US Open title. Despite being only 26, he has the experience of playing close to a decade on the tour. Which should come in handy as he looks to considerably improve on a personal best fourth-round appearance at Flushing Meadows. With the field not as strong as in past years, he could make as far as the semi-finals.

Disappointment: Roger Federer

Having won a record 19 grand slam titles, including five at the US Open, Federer really has nothing left to achieve in tennis. And yet in a strange way it will be disappointing if he does not lift a sixth trophy in New York. He has already won the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles in 2017 and, even though he says the prospect of bagging three majors in a season at his age of 36 is a “joke”, it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if he does. The field is depleted, and he reached the Montreal Masters final. But it feels like his back is not a 100 per cent and it might play up, like it did in Montreal, especially if he is forced to spend more time on court than he needs to. Fans would love to see another Nadal-Federer final, but the lefty from Mallorca will be eager to pay back for his defeat in the Melbourne final.

Jon Turner, assistant sports editor

Winner: Alexander Zverev

Aaron Doster / Reuters
Aaron Doster / Reuters

Since backing Zverev as the next first-time grand slam champion, it would be remiss not to tip the German to triumph in New York. Given the depleted field, there is a shortage of title contenders ahead of Zverev in the pecking order. The high-profile withdrawals also means the world No 6 has seen his seeding boosted to fourth, which in theory should give him a nice run through the first week. Granted, his majors record is far from exemplary, but he's only 20-years-old and a breakthrough to the latter stages of a grand slam is inevitable. Zverev is playing the best tennis of the American hard court swing with successive titles in Washington and Montreal, he possesses a potent serve, power on both wings and the sort of temperament often associated with his compatriot footballers during a World Cup penalty shootout. This is Zverev's time to deliver.

Surprise: Juan Martin Del Potro

Aaron Doster / Reuters
Aaron Doster / Reuters

It is mentioned time and again that, were it not for a succession of wrist injuries, Del Potro would undoubtedly be among the elite-level, multi-grand slam champions of the modern era. However, even with his remodelled game - that has left the Argentine largely devoid of his dominant top-spin backhand - Del Potro remains a force to be reckoned with, particularly at the US Open. The 2009 champion made the quarter-finals in 2016 and with a kind draw can go deep again this year.

Disappointment: Andy Murray

Tim Ireland / AP Photo
Tim Ireland / AP Photo

Only one title, a 25-10 win-loss record, losing his No 1 ranking and frequent time spent on the treatment table has meant 2017 has been a rather forgettable season for Murray. The three-time major champion continues to battle against the hip problem that hindered his Wimbledon title defence, and it is still unclear whether he will be fully fit in time for the US Open. The fact he has not yet withdrawn suggests Murray will take his place on the starting blocks, but it is difficult to see how he can make a significant impact in New York. A first week exit could be on the cards for the double Olympic champion.

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