It could be a case of last man standing in the US Open because injuries have dominated the build up to the fourth and final Grand Slam tennis championship of the season. Alexander Zverev is one of the few genuine contenders with no injury concerns and he could win one of the titles that matter most for the first time
The favourite is Roger Federer but not by default because the veteran is playing just about the best tennis of his career. If winning a major tournament is ever uncomplicated and easy that was certainly the case for Federer at Wimbledon. He took an extended break and missed the clay court season to be in the best shape possible for Wimbledon and the approach paid dividends.
Federer was suffering through injury leading up to the US Open but he now reports a clean bill of health. He has been reported as saying how much he enjoys playing in New York and the outdoor hardcourts suit his game. Federer has won the US Open five times but not since 2008. Wimbledon is his domain so a 20th Grand Slam title may be beyond him this time.
Novak Djokovic is not playing and Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori are also absent after deciding not to play again this season. Rafael Nadal cannot be ignored but the King of Clay is not at his best on hardcourts. The Spanish player has won 15 major titles but 10 of those are French Opens on clay and he won the US Open twice. The focus of Nadal’s season is always Paris but he was beaten by Federer in the final of this year’s Australian Open on hardcourts.
Andy Murray has not played since Wimbledon where a hip injury meant he struggled in his matches. That means he has been out of competitive action for almost two months and that is a handicap he will find difficult to overcome. Murray has won the US Open in the past so is suited to the surface but winning at this level returning to action after an extended break will be difficult.
Almost by a process of elimination that leaves Zverev as the selection and his time could have come. He is only 20 so has limited experience in the major events but is not afraid of marquee players. Nadal, Murray, Djokovic and Wawrinka are all over 30 and Federer has just turned 36 so a new superstar could emerge. Zverev has the game and temperament to reach the highest level of the game.
Zverev entered the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time this season and won his first and second Masters titles. These events are one step down from the Grand Slams and all the fit leading players compete. The next logical career step for Zverev is a major and he could win his first at the 2017 US Open