THE 4th and final grand slam of the calendar year is about to kick off in New York City, but the field is very different to what tennis fans may be used to. Notable names like Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic will be absent from action which may lead to some new names establishing themselves as household names. Will we see another epic Rafa vs. Roger match in the semis? With seven different finalists in the last four Grand Slam finals can one of those women stand up and demand a berth in the US Open big dance? The answers to your questions along with the usual features (dark horse, bust and bold predictions) are all below.

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Women’s Bracket

WITH Serena Williams missing out, the race for a Grand Slam title is tight yet again. There are plenty of contenders, but don’t be surprised if we see an unknown emerge as a contender (ala Jeļena Ostapenko in the French Open). Garbine Muguruza is the favourite in most people eyes after her victory at Wimbledon and another triumph in Cincinnati in the build up the US Open. Reigning champ Angelique Kerber, who will be out for revenge after a shitty season, world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep aren’t going to go down without a fight though, along with the likes of Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta. Oh and Elina Svitolina. Oh and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Actually on second thoughts I have no idea who is going to win this…

Dark Horse – Maria Sharapova
18 months since her last Grand Slam appearance five-time major winner and 2006 US Open winner Maria Sharapova is back! Sharapova claimed a wild card berth to return to the big time and the main round of 128 after serving her 15-month suspension for a failed drug test. She doesn’t have a great record at New York and faces second seeded Simona Halep in the first round, but Sharapova will be out to prove she has plenty left in the tank.

US Open Preview 1Image from theconversation.com

Bust – Johanna Konta
STATISTICALLY speaking this should be the best tournament of Konta’s young career. With consecutive fourth round exits in 2015 and 2016 and her best calendar year to date, all signs point to her performing at Flushing Meadows. However and uninspiring 2-2 record in the lead-up and a disappointing showing in her high profile Wimbledon campaign my guess is she crashes out early.

Bold Prediction
REIGNING US Open champion Angelique Kerber goes on a deep run all the way to the final after a dismal 2017 to date.

Final – Angelique Kerber vs. Garbine Muguruza
AS mentioned at the start of the piece Muguruza is the expected champion given her form, but I’m not joining that bandwagon. I still think that Kerber can prove she deserves to be the World No. 1 in the post-Serena era, but she is going to have to start impressing others ASAP. A win at the final Grand Slam of the year could certainly do that and help to restore confidence in herself for next season too.

WINNER: ANGELIQUE KERBER

Men’s Bracket

WITH plenty of prominent names missing from this Grand Slam the big question in the tennis world is circulating around the new world No.1 Rafael Nadal. After his triumph at the French Open, he made it to the 4th round of Wimbledon before being ousted by Gilles Müller. Nadal hasn’t claimed a Grand Slam title on a hard court since 2013 and with generation next (Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios) and his greatest rival in you know who (no not Voldemort) breathing down his neck can Nadal taste victory? Or can one of the forgotten few (Murray, Cilic, Tsonga, Dimitrov) dethrone the other top contenders?

Dark Horse – Denis Shapovalov
WILDCARDS automatically qualify as dark horses right? Well after picking Nick Kyrgios for 183 straight Grand Slams to take the next step I’m opting to put my faith in the 18-year-old Canadian instead. After defeating the like of Rafa and Juan Martin del Potro in Montreal a few weeks ago. Frances Tiafoe is another one to keep an eye on as he faces a daunting first round match with Roger Federer, but with back issues and at the age of 36 Federer isn’t invincible.

Bust – Seeded US Men (John Isner and Jack Sock)
PLAYING in front of your faithful countrymen should for most competitors up and drive them to success. Unfortunately for John Isner (world #14) and Jack Sock (world #17), I don’t see that playing out. A combined 31-17 record at the US Open and just one finish higher than the fourth round between them in 56 Grand Slams mean that neither of them is in for a deep run in 2017. In fact, I’m tipping that neither player will make it out of the third round as they then turn their attention to 2018.

US Open Preview 2Image from atpworldtour.com

Bold Prediction
NEITHER Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal will make their highly anticipated semifinal matchup with the effects of their incredible 2017 taking them down.

Final –  Grigor Dimitrov vs. Alexander Zverev
DIMITROV has finished as a semi finalist twice and quarterfinalist once in his 28 Grand Slam appearances, so why am I predicting he will make the final? An impressive 24-6 mark on hard courts this year is a start. Both players are in form, winning recent ATP tournaments in the build up to the Open, but Zverev will earn the ultimate prize this year. Every part of me feels ashamed and sick for not backing Federer and I hope he proves me wrong. I just can’t see the German being up seeded though. This tournament will finally be the one where he takes the leap to Grand Slam champ*.

*Full disclosure this is the fourth time I have made this prediction, don’t let me down Zverev.

WINNER: ALEXANDER ZVEREV

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