2017 US Open Preview: One Wide Open Slam! 2
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 27: Rafael Nadal of Spain returns a shot while practicing prior to the start of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 27, 2017 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USTA)

Who’s ready to capitalize on a golden opportunity at winning the US Open, tennis’ last major of the year in Flushing Meadows?

My second favorite tennis major, the US Open, (Wimbledon is No. 1 for me) is upon us and has kicked off in Flushing Meadows, New York. One thing I love about how the sport of tennis has their majors scheduled throughout the year is that the very last one takes place on American soil.

All the fun and thrills from the US Open takes place right in our backyard, in the biggest and brightest city in this glorious country.

I always look forward to the US Open this time of the year as we move closer to the end of summer with the temperatures still skyrocketing and both college football and the NFL on the horizon.

However, going into this year’s US Open, my anticipation-and-energy level is fairly low.

Why, you ask?

Because so many of the top men’s and women’s players are not participating in the grand slam that produces a better atmosphere than any other major and an amazing fan experience, especially at night.

The greatest female tennis player ever, six-time US Open champion Serena Williams, is out due to pregnancy. Two-time US Open finalist and former No. 1 ranked player Victoria Azarenka will be out due to a child custody dispute.

Five of the top 10 ranked men’s players (two-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic, defending champion Stan Wawrinka, 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori) will miss the year’s final major due to injury.

Roger Federer, who has had a resurgent year in 2017 and looks like the front-runner for Player of the Year, is coming into New York with back issues at age 36.

The second-best men’s player in 2017 and Federer’s rival, Rafael Nadal, has always struggled to stay healthy post-Wimbledon/North American hardcourt season. He is the No. 1 seed but is coming in with knee issues.

I’ve never seen a US Open where the men’s field looks this vulnerable, weak and out-of-sorts heading into the tournament.

And check out the women’s field.

There are eight women (Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Venus Williams, Johanna Konta, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Caroline Wozniacki) who have a chance to leave New York with the overall No. 1 ranking, which is crazy in its entirety.

You know what that means, right?

The 2017 US Open will be wide open these next two weeks.

Sports fans that love parity will be digging this tournament. In all my years of watching the US Open, I’ve never seen a weaker field on both the men’s and women’s side.

Federer, the No. 3 seed, is the men’s favorite but honestly, I wouldn’t feel 100 percent confident that he will be the last man standing. One rising player to look out for is the No. 4 seed, Alexander “Sascha” Zverev, who is coming off beating Federer in the final at Cincinnati a week ago.

Every tennis fanatic is rooting for a Federer-Nadal clash in the semifinals (they’ve never met in the US Open) but I wouldn’t hold my breath, due to the nature of Nadal falling apart physically during the second half of the season.

Who do I favor on the women’s side? Not even I know.

I like the chances of two Americans—Madison Key and Coco Vandeweghe—on the fast hard courts. The big-serving Karolina Pliskova, a finalist last year, will be a threat. Venus Williams will be a fan favorite and could make another deep run in a grand slam (she made the finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year).

All those players rely on their power, hefty serves and big groundstrokes, which gives them an advantage on the courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Others that I could see making a deep run and advance into the second week—if the draw opens up and everything falls into place—are Dominika Cibulkova, Kristina Mladenovic, Sloane Stephens, CiCi Bellis and five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova, who was granted a wild card after plummeting in the rankings after coming back from her 15-month doping suspension in April.

So who’s walking away with the trophy in two weeks?

For the women’s side, I’m taking No. 2 seed Simona Halep to beat No. 15 seed Madison Keys in the final to win her first grand slam title.

For the gentlemen, I’m riding with Roger Federer to defeat 20-year-old Alexander Zverev in the Sunday final and capture his sixth US Open title, his 20th grand slam victory (extending his already all-time major lead in men’s tennis history) and claim three majors in a single year for the record fourth time of his illustrious career.

Let Tennis’ grand slam Finale begin!