Commentary

Federer on fire heading to Flushing

Don't look now, but a certain 17-time Grand Slam champ is playing serious ball

Updated: August 19, 2014, 4:03 PM ET
By Matt Wilansky | ESPN.com

Rafael Nadal's withdrawal from the US Open opened the door for a few players, and you know whom we're talking about. But even without the defending champ in the mix, not everyone heads into New York with momentum.

Take, for example, a certain world No. 1. But there's no reason to pick on Novak Djokovic because he could very well redeem himself with two weeks of stellar play at the Open.

Heading into the final Slam of the season, here's who's trending up and down on the ATP Tour.

Djokovic

1. Novak Djokovic: He's a French Open runner-up, a Wimbledon champ, the world No.1 and yet ... uncertainty looms for the seven-time major winner heading into the US Open. He was pretty much skunked by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto in his second match, then Djokovic bottomed out against Tommy Robredo in Cincinnati, also in the Serb's second match. Perhaps some posturing is going on -- or have the dog days caught up with one of the quickest players on tour? Our own Brad Gilbert said he's never seen Djokovic play so poorly in back-to-back weeks.

Federer

3. Roger Federer: Who could ever blame the all-time Slam champ for letting his laurels carry his legacy for a few more years? That's clearly not the case, though. He's reached four straight finals and just won the Cincinnati Masters against a stout field. Dare we call Fed the US Open favorite? If Djoker doesn't return to the top of his game and with Nadal pulling out, who else is going to trouble Federer, especially now that his knack for coming to net is again second nature?

Wawrinka

4. Stan Wawrinka: It hasn't been a horrible existence for Wawrinka since an MVP start to the season. But it hasn't been a great one either. His latest setback came via the eccentric Julien Benneteau in which the Swiss won a total of three games in the last two sets in the Cincy quarterfinals. Now to Flushing, where Stan lost a heartbreaking five-setter to Djokovic in last year's semis.

Ferrer

5. David Ferrer: If Roger Federer had taken up skiing or mountain climbing, Ferrer could have two hard-court titles this summer. In his past two events, Ferrer has suffered losses to the Swiss Slam king, but what are you going to do when facing that kind of serve and net play? Ferrer heads into Flushing with a lot of confidence.

Berdych

6. Tomas Berdych: It's just not going well for him. That's all we have to say about that.

Dimitrov

7. Grigor Dimitrov: Remember way back in July, when Dimitrov made an astonishing run to the semis and we elevated him to top-tier status? Perhaps we were a little premature in our premonitions. Dimitrov did make it to the semis in Canada, where that Tsonga guy quelled his run, then he fell to hard-hitting Jerzy Janowicz in his Western & Southern opener. The US Open will tell us a lot about Dimitrov's lasting power.

Murray

9. Andy Murray: What to make of Murray this season? So far, the biggest news he's made was his coaching hire. In the Cincy quarterfinals, Murray ran into the Fed train a week after Tsonga took care of the Scot in the same round in Toronto. Now it's off to the US Open, where Murray won his first Slam in 2012.

Tsonga

10. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Who has played better than Jo-Willy since Wimbledon? During Toronto, the answer was unequivocally no one. At Cincy, pretty much everyone after the Frenchman lost all his flash in an ignominious opening-round loss to Mikhail Youzhny. Hard to blame Tsonga, though, who scarcely had time to savor wins over Djokovic, Murray and Federer the week before.

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