Can Injured Stars Bounce Back at the US Open?
A raft of injuries to some of the top players in recent years has raised questions about the sustainability over the current scheduling of events on the ATP tour.
The balance between striving for points to climb up the rankings and taking appropriate breaks to safeguard long-term fitness is a difficult one to manage. With the last Grand Slam of 2018 fast approaching, there are several players who will be hoping to bounce back to fitness quickly and end the year on a high at the US Open.
Dominic Thiem has become the poster boy for partaking in a rigorous schedule, but the Austrian is an anomaly rather than a model approach. On the other side is Roger Federer, who skipped the entire clay-court swing in the knowledge that his energy is better conserved and expended on other surfaces. Again, Federer is an anomaly purely because he is Federer; not all players can sit out for months and come back at peak level, and not all players can afford to do so because they would otherwise plummet down the rankings.
The spate of injuries has opened the door for new players to seize opportunities to climb the rankings. The rankings may be ever-changing, but these changes are more significant than usual. A string of players have reached new career bests, with Kevin Anderson, John Isner and Pablo Carreno Busta all breaking into the top ten in the past year. For players to move up, others move down. Top twenty staples now have unfamiliar ranking numbers next to their names. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych languish in the 60s and 70s, while Grand Slam winners Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka have fallen more dramatically. Before Murray’s run at Washington, he was as low as 839. This is obviously no indictment on Murray’s ability, but there are inevitable questions over how a player can come back from such a prolonged period of injury. Berdych hasn’t played since Queen’s in June and is ruled out of the US Open, while Tsonga has been absent since Montpellier in February.
Tsonga is a Grand Slam finalist and is the type of player to be touted as a dark horse in Slams in recent years. Yet he is firmly entrenched in his thirties now, with his age making his comeback from injury that bit more strenuous. Tsonga has been reliable and at times brilliant in Grand Slams through the years. In the past few Slams you’d expect to find him at a price of around 20/1, but to win the US Open Tsonga is at a price of 80/1 in tennis betting with bet365. If he can demonstrate a resurgence before the US Open, then that price will quickly look excessive for a player of his quality.
There will inevitably and justifiably be questions over whether returning players can maintain their peak level across a fortnight, especially against a relentless opponent such as Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. Murray and Wawrinka are multiple Grand Slam winners, and the sport will be richer if these two can rediscover their best. In Washington, Murray has demonstrated that he still has his renowned passion for success in addition to his talent.
When Wawrinka beat Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at Wimbledon, it looked like the Swiss star had made the first step on the path back towards his best. A straight-set defeat in the second round to Thomas Fabbiano raised concerns over his endurance, concerns heightened by Wawrinka’s defeat to Donald Young in the first round in Washington. Young had otherwise had a miserable year without any prolonged injuries, so that defeat will trouble Wawrinka. Yet the adrenaline and occasion of a Grand Slam can see quality rise to the fore. Murray, Wawrinka and Tsonga will be dangerous unseeded floaters in the draw. With the promise of a prolonged rest after the US Open, perhaps one of these veterans will use their tactical nous to put together a stunning run.
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