It’s hard to believe how quick the last 12 months have been since British number 1, Andy Murray won gold in the London Olympics and made history by becoming the first British player to win a Grand Slam in 76 years at the US Open.
A year on from an unforgettable evening at the Arthur Ashe stadium between Murray and Novak Djokovic, the man from Dunblane faces a new challenge, which is to defend his Grand Slam title for the very first time.
It can be hard to believe that Murray is going into this year’s US Open with his main goal to retain a Grand Slam after so much doubt from fans and experts.
Unfortunately for Murray retaining a Grand Slam for the very first time is not a walk in the park, as memorable Grand Slam winners such as John McEnroe and Pete Sampras would tell you.
There will be many tennis stars who will get in Murray’s way throughout the tournament but which players have a good chance of lifting the US Open trophy?
Rank – 1
Nationality – Serbia
Age – 27
Best US Open finish – Winner (2011)
Last year’s runner-up will surely be seeking revenge on Andy Murray.
The Serbian last won the US Open in 2011 after a four set win over Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1.
Djokovic is currently going through the same phase than last season with a fourth Australian Open title under his belt and missing out on the French Open and Wimbledon.
With the threats of Nadal and Murray trying to take his world number 1 spot in the rankings the 27 year-old could do with sealing a second US Open title in three years to stay on top of the world.
Rank – 2
Nationality – Spain
Age – 27
Best US Open finish – Winner (2010)
Rafael Nadal is having one of the best seasons of his tennis career so far.
After so much reports of the Spaniard missing tournaments throughout the 2012 season due to knee injuries the 27 year-old has comeback better than ever since the start of the clay court season.
Returning to the sport last February following 222 days injured, the 12-time Grand Slam champion has won nine calendar titles and added an eighth French Open title making it one of the most incredible comebacks in tennis.
At the beginning of the year, Nadal wasn’t even seen in the top 100 rankings and as of now he is the world number 2 overtaking the likes of Murray, Roger Federer and fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
Nadal has only won the US Grand Slam which is going back three years ago after a four set win over Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. The chances of ending the season world number 1 are still wide open and to achieve that winning the US Open for the second time would be a big help.
Rank – 4
Nationality – Spain
Age – 31
Best US Open finish – Semi-final (2007, 2012)
David Ferrer has always been one of those players that reaches the top rankings but rarely seems to win a title no thanks to his fellow Spaniard, Rafael Nadal in the clay court season.
After the fall of Federer in the rankings Ferrer is now in the “big 4″ which has so far helped the 31 year-old at least reach a few semi-finals but ends up losing to one of the higher ranked players.
Back in June, Ferrer reached the French Open final his first appearance in a Grand Slam final. But since he was up against the master of clay, Nadal, the world number 4 was thrashed in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
The lack of experience was against Ferrer on that day but would certainly have gained some.
Semi-finals could be the best bet for Ferrer this year but has had a good season.
Rank – 7
Nationality – Switzerland
Age – 32
Best US Open finish – Winner (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
The great Roger Federer is not having the time of his life in tennis at the moment.
The 32 year-old started the current season as world number 2 after winning last year’s Wimbledon title for the seventh time. As of now the man from Basel has gone down to seventh in the world rankings.
Federer has won the US Open five times so has shown already that he has nothing to prove but I’m sure he would love to add another Grand Slam to his collection.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion is only one US Open Grand Slam away from overcoming Pete Sampras’ record of five US Opens.
But the way Federer has performed throughout the season, finishing in the semi-finals is probably the highest Federer can get this year and may start dropping down the rankings once again. Could retirement be an option very soon for one of the greatest tennis players of all time?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Juan Martin Del Potro
Rank – 6
Nationality – Argentina
Age – 24
Best US Open finish – Winner (2009)
It’s been four years since Juan Martin Del Potro historically won his first Grand Slam at the 2009 US Open. The Argentinian denied Federer’s chance of winning the Grand Slam for six consecutive years building up one of the biggest shocks in tennis history.
Four years on from the 24 year-old’s best moment of his tennis career so far the man still has only one Grand Slam to his name.
Del Potro was very close to meeting Murray in this year’s Wimbledon final but was denied from Djokovic after both players setup the longest semi-final match in Wimbledon history.
The experience Del Potro gained from the 2009 US Open gives him a slight chance of having another memorable final than the one back in 2009. At the age of 24 the world number 6 still has a lot of years ahead of him to win more than just one Grand Slam.
You never know, he could pull up a few more surprises from his sleeves.
Rank – 5
Nationality – Czech Republic
Age – 27
Best US Open finish – Semi-final (2012)
Tomas Berdych will be entering this year’s US Open as the world number 5 and would surely want to overtake Ferrer’s spot as the world number 4.
Berdych is the same age than Murray, Djokovic and Nadal but has achieved a lot less than they have. Berdych has shown to everyone that he is not a player to mess around with especially after Wimbledon in 2010.
The Czech Republican overcame his nerves against Federer and Djokovic in the quarter and semi-finals to reach his first Grand Slam final against Nadal. Just the same situation as Ferrer at this year’s French Open final, lack of experience was not on Berdych’s side.
One of Berdych’s main aims for the next fortnight is to finish higher than Ferrer for a place in the “big 4″.
Murray’s US Open defence begins on Wednesday 28th August.
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