2017 US Open men’s final: Nadal vs. Anderson

FROM THE US OPEN — SATURDAY, SEPT. 9 — Without a doubt, Rafael Nadal is a serious favorite here. He has not lost against Kevin Anderson, and on Friday against Juan Martin del Potro, the Spaniard was very aggressive and enthusiastic.

He pounded his phenomenal forehand and his shots are corkscrew wonders. While it has taken 15 years to improve his two-handed backhand, he can crack it deeper now. That is why Nadal has reached the final at the major again. Last year, at the 2016 US Open, he was nervous and tight, which is why he lost against Fabio Fognini in five sets.
Today, Nadal knows that his body is feeling good again and, because of that, he will take many more risks.

Anderson has never reached the final at the USO, much less at the ATP 1000s. Over the years he has changed a few things. He takes big swings much of the time. Over the past two weeks, he has concentrated and stayed positive when he is off. Not only does he hit the 130s on the first serve, but when he is set up, he can touch the lines with large forehands and backhands.

However, even if he walks on court, and he isn’t shaking, how can he out-hit Nadal if the Spaniard is playing pretty well? Anderson has never beaten him before, he hasn’t really even come close. While his foot speed has improved,  he cannot sprint like Rafa does. Point to point, Nadal is better, which is why he owns 15 Grand Slams and Anderson has none.

Really, if the South African upsets Nadal, it would be a true stunner. Unless Nadal gets hurt on the final at the Grand Slam (like he did at the 2014 Australian Open final versus Stan Wawrinka in the first set and lost, limping), he will win the US Open fairly easy. Anderson wants to be on the court for a few hours, but Nadal will be on top of him right when the start. Nadal will win in three, pretty easy sets.

Nadal vs del Potro: rematch on the US Open

FROM THE 2017 US OPEN, FRIDAY, SEPT. 8 — Do you remember the last time that Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro played in the semis of the 2009 US Open? The Argentine crushed him, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, and he went on to win it all. Then, the Spaniard said that obviously, Del Potro played as well as he could, but that it was very unusual, and that he was in the zone. In a sense, he was right. Now, Nadal has won 15 Grand Slam titles, and DelPo has only won one.

DelPo has been hurt for the past seven years. Had he been healthy the whole time, the tall man might have won 5-10 Slam titles. But he has not, so he has to forget it about it.

In a sense, he put the injuries behind him. He shocked Roger Federer two days ago, and four days ago, when he was sick, he still managed to overcome Dominic Thiem in five classic sets. His huge serve and gigantic forehand are on top of the ball, and he is very smart. His so-called weak backhand has improved, and he really likes to slice and keep it low.

Nadal has improved, too, with his two-hander backhand, which he hits deeper and a little harder than in years past. For sure, the lefty smokes his heavy forehand, and he is extremely fast. Most importantly, he changes his serves: left, right, in the middle, twisted and flattened out.

They have played each other 11 times, all pretty close. Nadal leads 8 to 5, beating him at 2007 Roland Garros, at 2009, 2011 2013 Indian Wells, and at 2011 Wimbledon, among others. DelPotro not only blew out Nadal at the 2009 US Open, but last year in the Olympic Games, he edged Nadal 5-7 6-4 7-6(5) in the semis and in 2013 Shanghai. On Friday night at the US Open, it will be super close.

If it goes five sets, Nadal will exhaust him, but if DelPo starts immediately in the first set and he is touching the lines, then he will frustrate the Spaniard. No one will get nervous because both of them have been around for a long time. You have to think that Nadal will go for it towards the end, hoping that he will tire Del Potro. The same goes for DelPo, who will think that eventually, Nadal will get shaky and he will start to push the ball. Whoever is ready to pounce with the fans jumping up and down will move on into the USO final on Sunday. The winner will be favorite, no matter if Kevin Anderson or Pablo Carreno Busta wins the other semi. 

Mischa Zverev: Persevere and volley

FROM THE US OPEN – If there’s anyone still wondering why so few players serve and volley on the tour these days, just play back Sam Querrey demolishing Mischa Zverev during their round of 16 meeting at Flushing Meadows.

Querrey won 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in an hour and 17 minutes. While his exceptional level of play indeed contributed to the scoreline, it also demonstrated why rushing the net has become such a difficult task in today’s game.

With a shoulder problem slightly hampering Zverev’s serving, the tall, free-swinging Querrey could drill back returns and run down Zverev’s deep volleys to send them back in whichever direction. While Zverev had more success using angles and drop volleys to move his opponent forward, Querrey’s power made such shots harder to control, frequently producing balls that sat up for him to put away. Meanwhile, Querrey was sending down 130-mph blasts that were difficult just to return, scarcely return and charge.

Zverev, who broke into the Top 30 this season at age 30, is the highest-ranked player serving and volleying with regularity, and among just a handful in the top 100 in the ATP singles rankings. The German has seen his style of play declining since he first arrived on tour as a teenager, and says it is being squeezed from two sides, not just the slowing down of the courts, but also the speeding up of equipment.

“Even then the courts were getting slower,” Zverev recalled in an interview this season. “The balls were getting maybe a little slow. But, the equipment and racquets were getting more powerful. I always say it became little tougher for s&v because the ball travels [at a higher speed] through the air, but then kind of slows down a little bit when it bounces, which is not good for the serve-volleyer but is good for the baseliner.” 

Slower hard courts tend to be more gritty, and increase the effect of spin-producing poly strings, making it even tougher at net.

“Because the courts are so grippy, it really is good for topspin, the heavy topspin like Rafa (Nadal) or like (Roger) Federer also. So it’s been changing a little bit,” he said.

Hardly any players re eager to contend with this double whammy, but Zverev is still rushing in where others will not tread.

Zverev’s 20-year-old brother, Alexander, plays a contemporary baseline style and is in the Top 10 in the rankings. But it wasn’t for him. 

“I realized I wasn’t as effective from the baseline as I needed to be to win matches,” said Zverev. “Even when I was 15, 16, I felt like, coming in I win a lot of points and a lot of opponents get frustrated. I always felt it’s something I enjoy doing also because it’s like gambling a little bit … crosscourt, down-the-line, is he going to – I like that attitude, that gamestyle.”

Zverev was taught the net game by his father, Alexander Sr., who also played that way in a more conducive era. And despite all the obstacles, he’s found ways to make it work in today’s game. Having almost stopped playing a few years ago because of injuries, he climbed his way back to playing ATP tournaments in 2016 and has notched wins against Andy Murray at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic at Shanghai, and Stan Wawrinka at Basel, also twice making the second week of the majors.

“I just try to read players,” said Zverev, adding that there’s an advantage to having an unusual game. “Which is good for me, because not a lot of players get to play someone like me.” 

And for any youngsters looking to pick up the tradition, he would tell them to commit even if takes a while before they get the hang of it. “To stick to it, do it for a couple of months,” he said.

Seeing him play might get a few of them doing just that.

The Hidden Secrets of Federer’s Game

FROM THE US OPEN — There have been few players like Roger Federer when it comes to inspiring the kind of lyrical praise and glowing adjectives his game regularly receives. Even a casual onlooker just needs to glance at the 19-time Grand Slam champion on a tennis court to know they are seeing something special — the elegant strokes, the feline movement, the way a swing of the racquet can instantly transform the regular into something exceptional. It is a seamless blend of the athletic and the artistic, forged within the intense, swirling midst of competition.

Yet for all the broad appeal of Federer’s game, the players who watch him just as avidly as fans know there is even more in the details. To their trained eyes, it is the little things — a step here, a racquet turn there — that imperceptibly add up to a champion’s repertoire. What is equally striking is that each of these players, asked to identify a subtle feature of his game, selects something different.

It begins from the moment Federer tosses the ball up to start the point. “It’s very tough to read his serve, because the toss goes in different directions,” said Mats Wilander.

Players typically throw the ball up in slightly different positions depending on whether they want to slice, kick, or hit the ball flat in either direction, often allowing opponents to guess their intentions. Pete Sampras was famous for being able to disguise his delivery by always tossing the ball in the same spot. But Federer can throw the ball a particular way and then hit it another.

“This is next level,” said Wilander.

On top of that, Federer’s serving — on a good day, anyway — is also the most precise on tour. While most players place the ball a couple of feet inside the box, Federer can consistently keep within a foot of the lines.

That helps explain why, despite a delivery that rarely ventures above the low 120 mphs, his winning percentages are similar to the giants serving in the 140-mph range and he has the third most aces in ATP history behind Ivo Karlovic and Goran Ivanisevic.

Even on other shots, it’s not much easier to tell where Federer is going. Germany’s Mischa Zverev is among the very few players on tour still serving and volleying, and he relies on his ability to anticipate where the other player is going next. Except when he’s playing his idol.

“Federer takes almost every ball on the rise, which takes time from you, especially if you try to come in,” he said. “And the other thing is, he can position his feet the same way for down the line, for crosscourt, and for a lob. So that gives me no chance to read where he’s going, where with most other players, I can — based on how they position their feet on the court — if they’re leaning into the ball, if they’re leaning back.

“Federer and Rafa [Nadal], those are the two where I have a lot of difficulty to anticipate where the ball is going, but Federer even more.”

Like his feet, Federer’s hands don’t give much away, with the same swing, a little flick can send the ball almost anywhere on the court. “His wrist is just so creative,” said Zverev. “He can do so many things with his wrist, even when he’s off-balance.”

Zverev might be a Federer fan, but he can’t exactly say he likes playing against him. “I always feel like I am an amateur, and I have no clue what to do,” he said.

Other aspects of his swing and footwork also elicit admiration. As Federer strikes the ball, his arms and legs move in choreographed tandem, assured in their balance and timing.

“To me, he has the best technique on tour,” Feliciano Lopez told journalists a couple of years ago. “I have never seen anyone who moves on court the way he does. He always looks great in photographs. With other players, we’re stretched like this, or look like this [contorted]. Roger’s always show him up straight.”

Those photographs often capture the moment Federer makes contact — eyes locked, watching the ball coming off his racquet. And that is what other players also look at, noticing the way he stays so still above the shoulders. “He hits the ball, and he looks at the ball and he doesn’t move,” noted Fabrice Santoro. “He keeps [looking] on the ball much longer compared to other players.”

It all helps to produce the symphony of shotmaking that has become Federer’s signature. Most famous are the attention-grabbing crowd-pleasers like the “sneak attack,” the tweener, the dropshot and the high backhand smash. Admittedly, there can also be more than few shanks on off days. But even seemingly standard shots reflect an unusual amount of talent.

“He plays low-percentage tennis,” comments Nick Kyrgios, astutely, knowing a few things about low-percentage tennis himself.

Unlike the more volatile Kyrgios, though, Federer can hit such shots consistently and under pressure. That, Tim Henman has suggested on BBC, is because Federer adds “margin” — like by putting topspin on his trademark crosscourt angled forehand so it curls high above the net, allowing him to do it again and again.

Simona Halep especially likes the way Federer moves his feet when running around his backhand to hit the forehand, calling it “efficient” in its motion and positioning.

And while his one-handed backhand is not as big a weapon as the forehand, it has admirers of its own. Since Federer returned this season from an extended layoff following knee surgery, the talk has been largely of his topspin backhand, which he is hitting more often and offensively than before. But some pick the standard version as his most effective shot off that wing.

“His backhand slice,” said Lleyton Hewitt. “He’ll hit it and the other player, often they don’t know what to do with it, and then he takes control.”

Federer possesses five types of backhand slice, according to Santoro. There have also been measurements that suggest he can carve the ball more than any other player.

There is plenty more to pay attention to: his anticipation, his touch, his variety. Watching Federer has become something of a collective exercise within the game. But for a lot of pros, his conduct is just as remarkable as his play.

“As the player who has won the most Slams on the men’s side and been No. 1 for so many years, he’s incredibly relaxed … talking to everybody in the locker room,” said Michael Chang, recalling, “When I came on tour, the [John] McEnroe, [Jimmy] Connors, [Ivan] Lendl generation, everyone was in different corners, and not talking to each other, and so we learned from those guys, what you were ‘supposed’ to be. Roger’s very much not like that, and I think he’s created an atmosphere in the locker room where guys are a lot more friendly.”

Whether it’s on the court or off, fellow players see a lot in Federer.

Picking the US Open Women’s Draw

The First Quarter

No.1 Karolina Pliskova almost won the 2016 US Open, but Angie Kerber took her down, 6-4 in the third set. The Czech has played pretty well recently. She has improved a lot over the past two years. She is a little bit faster, she crushes the ball and she is very good at the net. Here, she is one of the favorites to win her first Grand Slam. But, at times, she can get angry and be off her game.

Pliskova might have to face against Shuai Zhang in the third round, which could be difficult, but she should get through. In the fourth round, then she will have to play ball. Assuming that Kristina Mladenovic gets through, then the Frenchwoman will be set to attack Pliskova. Mladenovic loves to come into the net, and while she isn’t very fast, she can create angles.

In the quarters, there are five players who can challenge the Czech: the good veterans – Svetlana Kuznetsova, CoCo Vandeweghe and Lucie Safarova – and the two very young players, CiCi Bellis and Anett Kontaveit. Pick the teenager Bellis, who is rising super fast, to move through the early rounds. But, by the time she hits the quarters against Pliskova, she will tap out.

The Second Quarter

There are lots of possibilities.

Elina Svitolina has played extremely well this season. She recently won Toronto, smoking her backhand and forehand. She is very determined. However, she has yet to go deep at the majors.

She might have to face Daria Gavilova in the third round, who has reached the final in Connecticut. She is small, but she loves to play and she is super fast. But Svitolina will move on, and then she will go up against Madison Keys, who is finally happy again. The American is ready to go on the court and stay there for hours. Both Keys and Svitolina want it bad, and in the end, Keys will hit harder and she will reach the quarters.

Guess who will play against Keys? How about the RG champion Jelena Ostapenko? The young big swinger hasn’t played great on the hard courts, but she knows what to do: powder the ball and hope it goes in. Without a doubt, if she faces against Angie Kerber, she will win in the fourth round, because the German is mentally gone.

Can Keys beat Ostapenko? Toss-up, as both of them are aggressive all the time. Give it to Keys, in a great marathon.

 

The Third Quarter

Ms. Garbiñe Muguruza is the favorite, hands down. She won Wimbledon, and she just won Cincy. She is on fire, and while she can get mad and pout, her first serve, forehand and backhand are very, very good.

Who can upset Muguruza? Maybe Petra Kvitova, if she is really back. But the two-time Slam champion hasn’t played well at all during the last five weeks and she has a tremendous amount of work to do. Possibly Venus Williams, but the former No. 1 is up and down on hard courts. Caroline Garcia has gotten better, but is not yet a real threat to top players. And then there is Caroline Wozniacki, who has played very, very well this season, but once she reaches the final, she really backs off.

It has to be Muguruza, hands down.

The Fourth Quarter

Well, well, what a great contest coming up in the first round with the five-time major champion Maria Sharapova versus the No. 2 Simona Halep. Sharapova is just coming back, and if she can be healthy, maybe then she can win another major. But until she is 100 percent physically, she will struggle.

But she is better than Halep. The Romanian is 0-3 in matches this year when one win would have given her the top ranking. She has frozen and played very badly, going down very quickly. Just last week, Muguruza destroyed her in the Cincy final, dashing her third shot at No. 1.

Remember in the 2014 final at Roland Garros? Sharapova beat Halep 6-4 in the third. Maria rose up at the end, and Halep pushed the ball. At the USO, both of them will be nervous, but Sharapova – if she isn’t hurt – will continue to attack. Halep will back off. Sharapova will win.

Who will reach the quarters? Look to Jo Konta, Ana Konjuh,or Sloane Stephens. Pick Stephens, who is lights out right now.

Elina Svitolina wins Toronto, smacks Wozniacki

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, SUNDAY, AUGUST 13: Now Elina Svitolina is the top of the charts.

The 22-year-old blasted Carolina Wozniacki 6-4, 6-0 to win Toronto. Admittedly, she was tired, because day after day, she has to run back and forth, side to side, forward and back. She is very strong and determined. She barely slept last night, maybe three to four hours, which is incredible. She was showing the effects of beating three strong players: Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.

During the first set, Svitolina was up and down. Her forehand and backhand were pretty good, but she was a little late. Her serve was decent, but she could not kiss the lines. She was terrific at the net, bending very low and going the other way. At 4-4, Wozniacki looked pretty tired, too, while Svitolina kept pushing. She broke taking won the first set,

In the second set, the Ukrainian was almost perfect. She woke up, her legs returned, she attacked quickly against the Dane. She rarely hit an unforced error, while Wozniacki was super frustrated. She wasn’t going anywhere, and she was totally gone.

The former No. 1 Wozniacki has reached six finals this season — which is fantastic — but lost them all. She doesn’t know why she can read her opponents’ strokes. Overall, she isn’t aggressive enough and she freezes.

Svitolina has won five titles this year and thinks she can win the US Open. She hasn’t been close, but now, she knows that if she really believes that if she can play 100 percent, then she can knock down anyone.

Incredibly, the No. 1 ranking will be up for grabs by five women, according to TV commentators. Besides the Toronto finalists, current No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber and the almost-there-but-can’t-convert Simona Halep could all be the top woman by Sept. 11.

She wants to sleep soon, but she is so, so happy.     

“I was very, very tired after the first game of first set. And I knew that I need to give everything because Caroline doesn’t miss much,” she said. “You have to work really hard to get unforced error from her. I just decided I’m going to just play every ball and just leave everything on court. And that’s why, emotionally I was relieved when I won the first set, and then was playing better and better in the second. I really couldn’t believe that it all finished and I’m holding the trophy.”

Karolina Pliskova: ‘Maybe the pressure is a little bit bigger’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, WEDNEDAY, AUGUST 9: Karolina Pliskova is now No. 1. But she hasn’t won a Grand Slam yet, the monkey also on the back Caroline Wozniacki who went years with that notorious distinction.

Obviously, this situation can be awkward, because she has come close to winning the major, like last year at the US Open, when she lost against Angie Kerber, 6-4 in the third. She didn’t choke, but she hesitated, and she got a little bit nervous, and she backed off.

Pliskova is so much more consistent now. Three years ago, when she wasn’t playing well, she would check in and out. Now, she is composed and can keep her flat shots in the court. Her consistency has increased and she can mix it up, deep and very short, and on the lines.

“I feel more experienced now,” she said.

This season, she has been pretty good, but not great. She won Brisbane, but then she lost in the quarters against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the Aussie Open. She won Doha, beating Wozniacki. At Roland Garros, she reached the semis, but then she went down to Simona Halep in three sets. On grass, she won Eastbourne, taking down Wozniacki. At Wimbledon, in the second round, she lost to Magdalena Rybarikova. Bye-bye.

“Everything still the same,” Pliskova asked about being No. 1. “Still going out for practices and still want to win every match. So, maybe the pressure is a little bit bigger, but that’s normal, you know. So, just counting with that and nothing has changed.”

She will play against Naomi Osaka on Thursday.

MORE FROM THE ROGERS CUP

Wozniacki and her close friend Aga Radwanska will face off on Thursday. They have played each other 16 times, with the Danish being a little bit better, up 10-6. In 2016, Wozniacki beat her in Tokyo, 6-4 in the third. In Wuhan and Beijing, Radwanska was the victor. In 2017 in February, Caro beat Aga in Doha. Last year, they were both pretty hurt but are in much better shape now. We say it’s 50-50 between there fantastic friends on Thursday.

Venus Williams will go up against Elina Svitolina tomorrow night. Venus came pretty close to winning Wimbledon again, but she is getting slower. While her first serve and backhand are phenomenal, her problematic forehand is still up and down. She is better than Svitolina. Maybe Venus is looking to grab the No. 5 spot from Svitolina. … Garbiñe Muguruza was so-so last week, but she is incredibly confident. She can still get too frustrated. Can she win Toronto and the US Open? Maybe, but first off, she has to face Australian Ashleigh Barty who is getting better and better. … Sloane Stephens is back, upsetting Kvitova 76 36 62. She was out for nine months but returned at Wimby and now showing constituency and strength again.

Bouchard: ‘Some days I feel like I’m better at dealing with it’

FROM THE ROGERS CUP, TORONTO — Genie Bouchard is up and down this year. When she is into it, she can move from corner to corner and be effective. But, when she is mentally out of it, she can spray the ball. Hopefully, in the next five weeks, she will play great on the court and she will start belting the ball.

In the court, that is.

Three years ago, Bouchard was coming fast. She went deep at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She didn’t win, but she was right there. She was young and fresh. She was ranked No. 5. But at the end of that year, she began to slip. She fell, way down. She has yet to comeback. Somedays, she looks pretty good. Other days, she collapses.

Let’s look at the good news: If Bouchard becomes more consistent and confident, then she can return to the top 10. But she has a long way to go. She is currently ranked No. 70, which is not great, but at least she has put together two good tournaments: she reached the semis at Sydney, upending Dominica Cibulkova, and she reached the quarters in Madrid, surprising Maria Sharapova.

Those were two good wins, but other than that, she can get extremely nervous.

“Well, look, Serena still says she feels nervous before matches. So I don’t think it’s ever something that any athlete completely masters. I think it’s more about how well you deal with it,” Bouchard said. “And it’s just an ongoing battle, really. Some days I feel like I’m better at dealing with it than others. I’ve learned more and been able to maybe detach it a little bit and really make it. ‘Okay, this is my job and it’s not, so personal.’ But it’s an ongoing process. It’s something I’ll always have to deal with for the rest of my career.”

NOTES
Sloane Stephens took out Yulia Putintseva in three sets. Stephens is just coming back. Slowly, slowly. … Petra Kvitova didn’t play very well in California, but she looked aggressive and consistent on Monday in Canada. I would think that very soon, she will come back into the Top 10. … Domi Cibulkova has had a very tough year. She is straining. … Barbora Strycova wiped out Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman looked spry in May and June, but now she is backing off. … What a great win by the 31-year-old Varvara Lepchenko, who upset the RG champ Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 in the third. Lepchenko has been playing at the WTA for 16 years, which is a very long time. But without a doubt, she plays as much as she can and if she locks in, she could push herself extremely deep at the end of the summer.

Everybody hurts, sometimes

It is August now, which is wonderful, because in the United States, it can be very sunny and warm. Almost everyone loves the summer. Who wouldn’t?

However, the players have played on court for six months. They have played on the hard courts, on clay, on grass. It’s taking a toll on some of the marquee players, who are resting their legs, arms, stomach, back and eyes. If you are very tired, then why not stop for a month? Many players, men and women, will continue to practice almost every day. For the entire year. That is very risky. 

The top men are pretty darn hurt. Stan Wawrinka announced he would not play Montreal, Cincinnati and defend his US Open title, due to a knee injury. The former No. 1 Novak Djokovic is done for the year. Andy Murray withdrew from the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The same goes with Marin Cilic. Only Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal will play Montreal, which is great, because they are the best two players ever. But, can they be healthy when the US Open begins in a month?

At Stanford, Maria Sharapova won a match, but the next day, her left arm was super sore, so she had to leave. She won’t play at Toronto, or maybe not in Cincy. She returned in April, and she really wanted to play again. On court, she looks pretty good. But immediately, her body froze and she couldn’t play on grass.

Her arm has to be 100 percent to play, or she will get hurt again and she won’t be able to win another Grand Slam. She is a great player, but Sharapova has figure out what is wrong with her health.

The two-time Slam champ Garbine Muguruza says she can be consistent and super powerful this summer on the hard courts. At this point, she’s the favorite at the USO. 

In Washington, Nick Kyrgios retired with a shoulder injury. He retires all the time. He is great to watch — when he is on — but he doesn’t take advice.

Milos Raonic versus Jack Sock should be a terrific contest. … Kevin Anderson is playing extremely well as he upset Dominic Thiem 7-6(7) in the 3rd. … Some pretty decent players are in Los Cabos, with Tomas Berdych and Sam Querrey.

CoCo Vandeweghe once reached the final in Stanford. Can she do it again? As long as she concentrates … We would assume that Petra Kvitova can win the tournament, but it will take a few weeks until she locks in again. 

Djokovic announces he’s taking rest of year off

Novak Djokovic is now gone this year as his elbow is way too sore and he can’t hit as hard as he can. So, next year, he will return in 2018 — we think. When he gets used to playing again, the 12-time Grand Slam champion can eventually win another major.

He hopes.

In the past year or so, all the great players pulled out for quite a while. In 2016, Roger Federer stopped playing after Wimbledon and and needed to rest his body. In October, Rafa Nadal decided to stop playing the rest of the year. His legs were super sore. This season, Andy Murray might pull out of the US Open. He is hurt, too, with a lingering hip injury. Only Stan Wawrinka is physically OK, but it has happened before, and it could happen again.

All of them are 30 years old and above. All of them are fantastic players. Since 2003 — 14 years ago — they have combined for 52 Grand Slam titles. That is a phenomenal.

But eventually, all of them will retire. It could be soon, it could in a few years, or possibly longer, but at some point, it is time to go.

You cannot be perfect all the time. Not just the strokes, but your legs and arms will break down … and the wrists are event more susceptible.

The good thing is that the great 35-year-old Federer has rarely been hurt. At the start of this year, he was fresh, fast and oh-so quick. He won the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami. Then he stopped for two months — on clay — just to rest. That was a great move, because when he returned on grass, he was as fresh as a daisy. He won Wimbledon without dropping a set.

The same goes with Nadal. He came back at the start of this year, and he looks very fast and strong. His legs and his arm were muscular and, once he got on clay, he was ready to race. He easily won Roland Garros, his 10th.

Djokovic never looked great this year. He was mediocre at the Australian Open, Roland Garros (he almost gave up) and Wimbledon, he was mentally out of it. Today, he is pretty upset. However, when he gets his surgery, he will eventually heal. Will he return to his championship form? He can, if the doctor will do it the right way. But we don’t know that yet. 

Will keeping Andre Agassi in his camp help lift him out of this funk, even though Agassi has no coaching experience?

Murray has had a tough year. His first serve is OK, but it is not great and his second serve is right down the middle. His backhand is phenomenal, but his forehand lands too short. He is confused and he might stop until his arm is powerful again.

Wawrinka seems to be OK, but he was pretty flat at Wimbledon. Whether he can mentally rise up again and win the US Open once again? We will know when he returns to the courts of Flushing Meadows.

Look, the elders are the favorites until they retire, but maybe someone else can win the US Open in six weeks: Marin Cilic, who won the tournament in NY three years ago. Juan Martin Del Potro, who won it in 2009. All four of the big guys have won the USO: Federer, Nadal, Murray and Wawrinka. It could be them again.

There are a few outsiders who have a chance: Thiem, Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov and Zverev.

But not Djokovic, who will not play in August in New York. That is too bad, because the Serbian loves to slide on the hard court. He must rest and let it heal.