Wally Masur previews the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York

Top guns ... Federer, Williams the players to beat. Reuters

Defending US Opens champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams are the players to beat once again. Fox Sports tennis commentator Wally Masur previews the New York grand slam.
Defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams would appear to be the players to beat once again in Flushing Meadows?

I definitely think Federer is. His wife had their twins not so long ago and he was a bit scratchy up in Canada, but he played awfully well in Cincinnati. And it almost seems as if the effort from Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to catch the defending champion takes its toll in certain ways. They're all playing good tennis, but Federer just seems to have a few more gears to go to.

I also think Roger seems to like the US Open surface - it's a bit quicker, as is Cincinnati, and that plays into his hands because he's by far the best server of all the top players.

And in the women's draw ...

The Williams sisters seem to tune in and tune out a little bit on the tour, and they've been a bit disappointing in their lead-up events. They haven't played particularly well since Wimbledon, where Serena won the title. But the thing about the Williams sisters is they seem to catch fire when it matters most. And that's at the Majors.They've got a great record at the US Open. They seem to sharpen their focus at the US Open, with it being their home grand slam tournament.

I certainly lean towards Serena, provided there's no injuries. If she really wants it, she's the best athlete and the fiercest competitor.

There's question marks, still, over a lot of the Russian girls - Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsovza, Dinara Safina - when it gets to the crucial moment on the big stage. Sometimes they can be found wanting when they come up against the likes of Serena Williams. They've certainly got the game to win, no doubt about that, but ...

We seemed almost to have written off Roger Federer as a force before he won the French Open for the first time; how wrong we seem to have got it!

It's interesting, isn't it. He sets such impossibly high standards, and the moment he dips just a little bit we're all writing him off. I was guilty of that. Ever since he got rid of Tony Roche, he hadn't hired another coach and he didn't seem to be to be ticking all the boxes to get back where he needed to be.

But he knew what he was doing, and he's done it his way. And as I said, the effort for Nadal and Djokovic to catch Federer in the points - it almost seems as if the effort has knocked those two out; Djokovic seems to be struggling a little bit mentally, and Nadal is struggling a little bit physically.

Federer, we have to forgFederer, we have to forgive him for a minor mid-career lapse. He seems to have got his foot back on the throttle, and he's just reminded us of just how good a player he is. The game seems to come easily to him.

You mention Rafa. Do you think he's fully recovered from his knee problems to play well on the hardcourts in New York?

The US Open's never been his best surface because, once again, it's a little quicker and Nadal likes a little time to create and set up on his forehand, in particular. And he gets a little caught up on return; remember that match he played Andy Murray at the US Open last year? Nadal was playing about four miles behind the baseline, and the amount of running he was forced to do catches up with you on that surface.

We know that he can play further up the court - we saw him do that at Wimbledon last year - but he seems reluctant to do that at the US Open, and he's had some losses there because of that. A few years ago, he lost to Mikhail Youzhny, who exploited that fact pretty well. I think he'll be very competitive, and he's always a dangerous player, I'm just not sure that he'll find his best tennis at the US Open so quickly after his layoff.

While everything seems to come to Federer very easily, Nadal's all effort, isn't he. Not only the way he plays but also the way he practises; I've seen him practise, and it's brutal. He only seems to have one gear, and that's flat out. He definitely hurts himself over the course of the year, on all surfaces. I would like to think he's got good people around him, and that he'll be able to manage that injury - patella tendinitis - to remain a great foil for Federer, but, as I said, I don't think he'll find his best tennis straight away. But he'll be back, no doubt about that.

Andy Murray? He made the final last year, and he's had a great season - winning five tournaments to claim the world No.2 ranking, including the Montreal Masters.

He's had a busy year and he's been very successful, but I think he has to be a little bit careful, too, to prevent himself kind of burning out. He just has to manage his schedule. Obviously, we're talking here about the US Open so he'll be right at the top of his game, for sure, and he's another player who's right on the cusp of being the world's best player. And he's got a great record against Federer. But, once again, he's had a very heavy workload so let's hope he's timed it right so he can play his best tennis at the US Open. He's certainly a player who can win it, in my eyes.

What about the Australian challenge? Can we look forward to a level of Australian success?

The exciting thing for us is the way Sam Stosur's been playing. While I think Sam would probably prefer a court slightly slower, and a bit more grippy, I still think she can be very dangerous at the US Open - all on the back of her serve and her forehand. If the rest of her game can come along for the ride, she can be very dangerous.

In the men's draw, Lleyton Hewitt remains our No.1 player. Chris Guccione is playing well; he just won a Challenger Tour title and he won some very good matches in Cincinnati. And Carsten Ball got to the final in Los Angeles.

We've got a situation where I'd like to think we can start to get some players back inside the top 100. Lleyton's made a nice move; he's seeded now and that'll give him some comfort even though he's been drawn to meet Roger Federer again in the third round. At least he's moving forward.

Ball's in the qualifying tournament, and I'd love to think he can make it though to the main draw. He's an awfully dangerous player, nearly 2m tall with a massive left-handed serve a little bit in the Wayne Arthurs mould. He's also competent from the back of the court, and he's gaining in confidence after reaching that LA final.

If Ball gets through qualifying, I can certainly see him and Guccione doing some damage. But we're a little thin on the ground, and obviously we look towards Lleyton in these big tournaments.

He showed us at Wimbledon that he's not too far away from playing some of his best tennis, and he is a player who loves playing on the US Open surface. Again, it's a little faster and the ball comes on to his racquet. It's not all about generating your own pace. You can use some of the pace of the court, and Lleyton does that better than anybody.

I'd love to see Lleyton play some good tennis, and it appears from Cincinnati, where he made the quarter-finals, that his doing well at Wimbledon wasn't just the grass, that he's starting to play well on all surfaces. I would love to see him do well at the US Open.
Wally Masur previews the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York Wally Masur previews the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York Reviewed by Sopheap Chhin on 8:24:00 PM Rating: 5

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