US Open build-up: Murray set for Grand Slam comeback
|2018 US Open|
|Dates: 28 August-9 September Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website|
Britain’s Andy Murray is set to play at a Grand Slam for the first time in almost 14 months as he continues his comeback from hip surgery at the US Open in New York.
The 31-year-old has not played at a major tournament since losing in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year.
The Scot pulled out of this year’s Wimbledon on the eve of the Championships, saying he was not ready to compete in five-set matches following surgery in January.
The former world number one, who won his first Slam title at the US Open in 2012, is now ranked 378th in the world but will compete at Flushing Meadows because of his protected ranking.
Murray has played tournaments in Washington and Cincinnati in preparation for the fourth and final major of the tennis season.
He won three matches at the Citi Open in Washington, including a second-round victory over new British number one Kyle Edmund, but lost to France’s world number 17 Lucas Pouille in the first round at Cincinnati.
Konta and Edmund lead British hopes
Johanna Konta is the only Briton to have gained direct entry to the women’s draw, but the world number 46 is outside of the seedings after a year during which she has tumbled down the rankings.
Konta, 27, was the seventh seed at Flushing Meadows last year and could have ended the tournament as the world number one, but lost to unseeded Serb Aleksandra Krunic in the first round.
She has struggled for consistent form since being beaten by Venus Williams in last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals, losing five matches in a row at the end of the year and reaching just one final in 2018.
The American hard-court season has given her some positivity going into the US Open, Konta inflicting a career-worst defeat on Serena Williams in San Jose before beating Grand Slam winners Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka in Montreal.
Konta is continuing her Flushing Meadows preparations by playing in the Connecticut Open for the first time in her career.
Edmund, the highest-ranked Briton in either draw and seeded 16th at the US Open, is looking to at least match his run to the last 16 two years ago.
The 23-year-old Yorkshireman has only managed one victory in three tournaments on the American hard courts, leading to him accepting a wildcard at this week’s Winston-Salem Open.
Cameron Norrie is the only other Briton to gain direct entry into the main draw, while Jay Clarke, Heather Watson and Katie Boulter are among the others trying to earn a place through this week’s qualifying tournament.
Djokovic aims to equal Sampras tally
Murray is one of seven former US Open champions in the men’s field and all – except perhaps the Briton and wildcard Stan Wawrinka, who is also returning from long-term injury – are expected to be among the main challengers.
Novak Djokovic: After winning his 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last month, the 31-year-old Serb is the favourite to win on his return to Flushing Meadows.
He missed the tournament last year with an elbow injury but his triumphs at SW19 and Cincinnati – where he beat Roger Federer to complete the career ‘Golden Masters’ – show he has recaptured his best form.
Now the sixth seed hopes to match the Grand Slam tally of Pete Sampras, whom he describes as his “biggest role model”.
Rafael Nadal: The world number one has only played in the Rogers Cup since his semi-final defeat by Djokovic at Wimbledon – and won the title.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters last week, saying he wanted to rest his body before the US Open.
Roger Federer: Like Nadal, the 37-year-old Swiss has been smart with his scheduling as he continues to defy the ageing process.
The world number two, a 20-time Grand Slam winner, made his comeback at Cincinnati, reaching the final in his first outing since Wimbledon.
Juan Martin del Potro: When the giant Argentine won the US Open as a 20-year-old in 2009, many expected him to challenge for more Slams over the following years.
His career has been hampered by serious wrist injuries but he has battled back and reached a career-high third in the rankings last week.
Marin Cilic: The 2014 champion has won five matches in his two tournaments on the hard courts, losing to Rafael Nadal in Toronto and Djokovic in Cincinnati.
Williams ‘not going to New York to lose’
Despite reaching the Wimbledon final, where she lost to Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams says she is still at the start of a “long comeback”.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion has climbed back into the world’s top 30 after giving birth to daughter Olympia last September, and will be seeded at Flushing Meadows.
She fell to the heaviest defeat of her career against Konta in San Jose last month, later revealing she discovered shortly before the match that the man convicted of killing her half-sister had been released on parole.
The 36-year-old American is bidding for a seventh US Open title.
“I’m not going in there thinking I’m going to lose. That’s not being Serena. That’s being someone else,” she said.
Which other women will challenge?
Simona Halep: The world number one lifted her first Grand Slam trophy at the French Open in June which, according to the legendary Martina Navratilova, has increased the 26-year-old Romanian’s confidence and belief.
“I think Halep’s new confidence and attitude are going to make her more proactive during rallies, and that’s going to help her to play better on the US Open hard courts,” Navratilova told the WTA.
Sloane Stephens: The defending champion has a formidable record on the North American hard courts, having won 32 matches and lost eight on the surface in the past year.
The 25-year-old American, who is ranked third in the world, is aiming to become only the fourth woman to retain the title since 2000 after the Williams sisters and Kim Clijsters.
Angelique Kerber: Current form and past pedigree mark out the Wimbledon champion as one of the main contenders.
Only Halep stands above of her in the year-to-date rankings as the 30-year-old German continues her renaissance under Konta’s former coach Wim Fissette, and the 2016 champion has already shown she can win at Flushing Meadows.
Caroline Wozniacki: Like Halep, the world number two won her first Slam this year – with victory at the Australian Open in January. But she has been unable to build on that in recent months.
An early exit at Wimbledon has been followed by a knee injury which forced the 28-year-old Dane to retire during the recent Cincinnati Masters – not the ideal build-up as she aims to go one better than runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2014.
Schedule of play (all start times BST)
Monday, 27 August: Round one (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Tuesday, 28 August: Round one (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Wednesday, 29 August: Round two (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Thursday, 30 August: Round two (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Friday, 31 August: Round three (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Saturday, 1 September: Round three (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Sunday, 2 September: Round four (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Monday, 3 September: Round four (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Tuesday, 4 September: Quarter-finals (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Wednesday, 5 September: Quarter-finals (day session 16:00, night session 00:00)
Thursday, 6 September: Women’s semi-finals (00:00)
Friday, 7 September: Men’s semi-finals (21:00)
Saturday, 8 September: Women’s final (21:00)
Sunday, 9 September: Men’s final (21:00)