Against The Odds

By Jane Voigt

August 28, 2012 -- What if the usual suspects bombed out?

Let’s say Serena Williams’ serve fell apart and her groundstrokes followed suit, and her attitude turned sour ... nothing less than cranky. 

It could happen, even though she's the top pick for the majority of pundits' to win yet another slam title, her 15th. 

Same on the men’s side.

The holy tennis trinity -- Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal -- have won 29 out of the last 30 slams. 

These three breathe rarified air, and with all deference to their combined talents someone might just step on a few toes over the next two weeks and, well, upset the apple cart. 

Ladies first ... who could present themselves as zoned in and unstoppable? How about Angelique Kerber?

She entered the U. S. Open last year ranked 92 and left ranked 32. She defeated Agnieszka Radwanska and Flavia Pennetta, both seeded, on her way to her first major semifinal where the eventual champion, Samantha Stosur, ended her joy ride. 

Kerber has not stopped her upward move.  

She defeated these top-ten players during her whirlwind year post 2011 U. S. Open: Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Marion Bartoli, Caroline Wozniacki (twice), and Petra Kvitova. And although Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams are no longer top ten, Kerber also beat them. 

Kerber has seriously keen competitive senses, relishing the contest and the victories. Topping off her defense as draw wrecker -- she is a lefty.

Her draw is tricky. She'll face Venus Williams in the second round, and, no, she won't seek revenge for Serena's loss to Kerber last week in Cincinnati. That's a myth. On court, each Williams is a separate tennis-playing machine. Asked once about who she'd like to see win in a probable matchup against Venus this year in Charleston Serena said, 'you kidding... I'm not gonna let her win.' 

Venus has been center stage in New York many many times; this is her fourteenth Open. She's won twice in singles and twice in doubles. If Kerber can upset the elder Williams, the horizon heads to a semifinal berth. 

Other possible niggling interlopers have to be Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, and Kim Clijsters. Clijsters might be bidding adieu to tennis after the Open, but she's pulled the rabbit out of a very deep hat not too long ago. She won her third U. S. Open singles title in 2010, having entered as a wildcard. No one else in the Open Era has accomplished that awesome feat. 

As for the men ... who could do the damage? Not challenge Federer or Djokovic, but beat them and fly off into the stellar skies of New York as the Champion while Katy Perry's 'Firework' blasts over the mega audio system in Arthur Ashe Stadium? 

Andy Murray is the logical answer, but logic hasn't been friends with Murray in prior Opens. The Deco Turf surface fits his game to a tee. However, his attitude and his commitment to the aggressive type tennis we saw from him as he trounced Roger Federer in the Gold Medal Finals of the Olympics must be well-greased. 

Federer did in the Scot in the 2008 Open finals. Both Djokovic and Nadal have put the kibosh on Murray, too. But with Nadal home, you couldn't paint a rosier opportunity for Murray. His draw, though, is daunting.

Big servers like Milos Raonic, who squeaked out a win in five today, could seriously hamper Murray's chances. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga looms large on the quarterfinal horizon, too. The Frenchman is another one peering out from behind the curtain as a possible winner take all. 

Talking big serves? John Isner tops the charts. American fans will pour raucous fuel on the six-ten 9 seed, if he even sniffs week two. 

Isner's ground game has blossomed, adding heft to his game. And don't forget he's the one who nixed Novak's expectations in Indian Wells this March. Isner did lose to Federer in the final, but you have to give him tons of credit for taking out the defending champion. Plus ... Isner topped Federer in Davis Cup in Switzerland. The courts weren't topnotch, but beating Federer at home earns merit rewards enough to cash in for a car equipped with lots of leg room, although that's not part of the ATP's award choices. 

Andy Roddick is the last American to have won a major tournament, and he did it at The U.S. Open in 2003. What better headline could there be than 'Big John Isner Wins One for America' come final's day, September 9? 

The crystal ball is tired now. Remember the odds are what they are, predictions based on past results which in these cases is darn strong. That said, the flickering star yet to shine brightly could be landing on Arthur Ashe Stadium soon. It's not entirely out of the question. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013