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U.S. Open tennis starts tonight: Australians in the mix

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2011 winner Sam Stosur is the top ranked Australian at the U.S. Open (Image via samstosur.com)

The U.S. Open tennis tournament starts at Flushing Meadows today (late tonight/early tomorrow morning Australian time) with Australians having promising prospects in the men's and women's draws.

The final major of the tennis year, the U.S. Open starts today at Flushing Meadows in New York and runs for the next fortnight.

For the women’s singles, American Serena Williams is seeded 1, Romania’s Simona Halep, is seeded 2, Czech player Petra Kvitova is the third seed, while Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska is fourth and Russia’s Maria Sharapova, is seeded 5.

World Number three ranked player, China’s Li Na is out of this year’s event with an injured knee.

Despite favouritism, Williams has had a chequered 2014, culminating in a semi-final loss to older sister, Venus, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal just two weeks ago.

At the time Serena said (via The Guardian):

“I haven’t been able to get into the quarter-finals of a grand slam this year. At this point I’m really just looking forward to next year, to be honest.”

However, the defeat, Williams seemed to feel, had helped in an odd way, as she added, in reference to the upcoming U.S. Open:

“In a way I don’t feel like, you know, a ton of pressure going into the Open. I almost feel like it’s lifted."

She seemed to be on the money with this, as she won the Cincinnati Masters, the final lead-in event for the Open, and so has some form.

Of the challengers, Sharapova won the French Open, defeating Halep in three sets.

Kvitova won Wimbledon, while Na won the Australian Open.

Of the men, the top seed is effervescent Serbian Novak Djokovic, while Switzerland’s perpetual gentleman of tennis, Roger Federer is seeded second.

Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka is the third seed, while Spaniard David Ferrer is fourth.

The other big name in men’s tennis, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, the reigning US Open champion, has withdrawn from the tournament because of an injured right wrist.

Of the top four, Djokovic is the reigning Wimbledon champion, after defeating Federer earlier this year in four sets.

Nadal won the French Open, while Wawrinka won the Australian.

Federer has the best recent form of the top four, winning the Cincinnati Masters, and so his form resurgence lay be well timed.

And so to the Australian tilt.

Our highest ranked player is Samantha “Sam” Stosur at 25, she is seeded 24 for the US Open.

Sam won a place in our hearts when she won the US Open in 2011, defeating Serena Williams in the final.

Since then, she has struggled somewhat with form and has not been able to repeat that grand slam success. However, she pushed Serena Williams hard at the Cincinnati, eventually going down 7-6 (7) 7-6 (7).

And in the Connecticut Open, held last week, she won her first round fixture, defeating Japan’s Kurumi Nara in the first round, went on to defeat Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard in the second, before notching a gritty win over Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in the quarter-final. She exited the Connecticut at the hands Kvitova, 6-3, 6-1, in the semi-final.

Next ranked of the Australian women is Casey Dellacqua at 30, seeded 29 for this tournament. The signs aren’t good for her this time around, losing lost her first round fixture at the Connecticut, going down 6-2, 6-4 to American Alison Riske.

However, Dellacqua is more a doubles player and she achieved grand slam success in the French Open Mixed Doubles in 2011, partnered by American Scott Lipsky. She also has finals appearances to her credit, making the last match in the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in 2013, partnered by Ashleigh Barty, and the French Open in 2008, partnered by Francesca Schiavone.

The doubles draw has not gone up at the time of writing, but Dellacqua will most likely be partnering Ash Barty – who is currently competing in the qualifying tournament there – in the women’s doubles this time round at Flushing Meadow.

Other Australian women entered for this tournament are Ajla Tomljanovic ranked 55, but unseeded for this tournament, and Jarmila Gajdosova at 102 , and likewise unseeded for this tournament.

Of the men, the Australian tilt is led again by Lleyton Hewitt, ranked 41. Hewitt started out well in the Cincinnati, defeating Jürgen Melzer in the first round, but then went down in the second to Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-4, this defeat blowing his chances of being seeded for Flushing Meadows.

However, for this tournament the second Australian male player in order of ranking, rising star Nick Kyrgios (59), is thought to be Australia’s best chance. Only 19, Kyrgios made it to the quarter finals at Wimbledon this year, and many, Todd Woodbridge for one, predict he could move deep into the later rounds in the US Open this year.

Kyrgios is best known for his two great wins at Wimbledon 2014, against thirteenth-seed Richard Gasquet in the second round and, more significantly, against World No. 1, and second-seed, Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.

Kyrgios was defeated at Wimbledon by eighth-seeded Milos Raonic, but it was terrific effort by the young Greek-Australian.

Next in order of the Australian men is Gold Coast's Bernard Tomic, ranked 67. Tomic is at Flushing Meadow as a wild card and never has the first part of that appellation been more precisely applied.

A player of unquestionable talent, Tomic is probably better known for a series of off-, and on-court incidents. Put it this way, the list under ‘controversies’ at Tomic’s Wikipedia page stretches for 1,000 words on its own. (This whole article is 1200 words).

Off court, there have been a series of alcohol-related incidents, including failing to stop for police – the conjecture being he was over the limit and didn’t want to be breath-tested – along with numerous speeding infringements. 

On court, he has been accused of lack of effort, and has had numerous angry confrontations with officials and even his own father, who is his coach. 

Tomic’s recent form has not been good, with a first round loss at Cincinnati 6-3, 6-2, to France's Gilles Simon. But with Tomic, a long run to the semis, or a first round loss involving screaming at an official, or another player, or the crowd, seem like equal possibilities. 

The other men from downunder in the tournament are Marinko Matosevic, ranked 77, Matthew Ebden at 95, and Sam Groth at 105. Matosevic lost 6-3 7-6 (7-1) to American John Isner in the second round at Cincinnati. And just a note here, if Tomic is a grenade without a pin, pray he doesn’t get matched against Matosevic.

Marinko’s nickname is 'mad dog' and recently he abused an umpire at Cincinnati — and please note he won that match. God knows what he’ll get up to if he loses and losing is a likelihood, as Matosevic faces the immortal 'Fed Express' in his first match.

Ebden has no recent singles form to note and will be looking to the mixed doubles, most likely with Jarmila Gajdosova, for his best chance at a title. This pairing – Ebden and Gajdosova – won this event at the Australian Open in 2013.

Sam Groth has the accolade of having recorded the fastest recorded serve in tennis using accredited equipment, 263 km/h (163 mph) in May 2012. His highest grand slam finish is the semi-final of the doubles at the French Open in 2014, partnered by Andrey Golubev. This is Groth’s first US Open and if successful in his first match faces the giant hurdle of Roger Federer in his second.

So it’s all to play for in New York, with good prospects in both the women's and men's draw, with the Sam Stosur and new star Nick Kyrgios having most Australian eyes upon them.

Lachlan Barker blogs at cyclonecharlie88.blogspot.com.au. You can follow him on Twitter @cyclonecharlie8.

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