US Open preview

Men

Plenty of history is on the line in the men’s draw as the “Big Four” of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray compete in the final Grand Slam of 2011.

Can Djokovic continue his incredible season by capturing a third Grand Slam title in 2011? Will Nadal bounce back from a decisive loss to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final and win back-to-back U.S. Open titles? Can Federer, at age 30, reclaim his past glory and add a 17th career major to his haul? Or will Murray finally break through and win the first of his young life?

“One of the top four guys … is going to win this thing,” John McEnroe told ESPN. “If you’re not one of the top four players in the world, you’ve gotta beat three of these guys.”

Men to watch
   
Novak Djokovic (1-seed)
The Serb is enjoying one of the greatest single seasons in tennis history.
   
Rafael Nadal (2-seed)
Won four of last six Grand Slam events, including this year’s French Open.
   
Dark Horse Pick: Mardy Fish (8-seed)
Beat Nadal in Cincinnati, playing his best tennis ever.

Women

It isn’t often that Serena and Venus Williams play spoiler in a Grand Slam event.

But with Serena coming in as the No. 28 seed and Venus unseeded altogether, this isn’t your typical Grand Slam.

Three-time Open champ Serena missed nearly a year because of two foot surgeries and blood clots in her lungs. But she is 16-2 overall this season and 12-0 on hardcourts.

She could face No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the third round.

A 13-time Major winner and arguably the toughest competitor on the women’s tour, Serena is a strong favorite despite her seed.

Venus, a two-time Open winner, has managed just three events in 2011 due to hip and abdominal injuries and a virus. 

Women to watch
   
Caroline Wozniacki (1-seed)
The world’s top-ranked player is seeking her first Grand Slam singles title.
   
Maria Sharapova (3-seed)
Coming off a victory in Cincinnati, where she beat No. 2-seed Vera Zvonareva.
   
Dark Horse Pick: Serena Williams (28-seed)
Don’t bet against her … even as the No. 28 seed.


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