Will Novak’s summer failures hurt his US Open chances? A look back at how the past 15 champions did on their path to New York.

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August 16, 2014 by Parveer Mann

If July was the best month in Novak Djokovic’s life then so far August has been the complete opposite.  Last week in Toronto, he looked flat in both his matches, a three-set win over Gael Monfils and a blowout loss to eventual champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Most gave him the pass when you accounted for the whirlwind he had gone through the past month (including winning Wimbledon and getting married). Plus, if you saw Jo-Wilfried’s play last week, you knew that he would probably have beat Novak on his best day.

However, Cincinnati was supposed to be different. Novak came in with another opportunity to become the first player to complete the career Golden Masters set and with another week of practice, you expected him to approach his Wimbledon quality. The results instead this week tell a completely different picture, one that even Djokovic has trouble diagnosing.

“Just many, many, many things are not clicking these two weeks on hard courts,” said Djokovic. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s more than obvious I’m not playing even close to what I’m supposed to play. I have to keep on working and trying to get better for US Open.”- atpworldtour.com

It would obviously be premature to doubt Novak’s game at this point as he still is only weeks removed from winning his seventh slam. But, I think he would agree that playing four competitive tune-up matches before the US Open is not an ideal situation for the presumptive favourite. Now, if Rafael Nadal does end up playing in New York, you would have had the top two seeds playing a total of four matches after Wimbledon!

For comparison’s sake, I wanted to look at the past 15 men’s US Open champions and see how they fared en route to New York:

 

Year US Open Champ Tournaments Won Matches won between Wimbledon and US Open
2013 Rafael Nadal 2 (Canada and Cincinnati) 10-0
2012 Andy Murray 1 (Olympics) 8-2
2011 Novak Djokovic 1 (Canada) 9-1
2010 Rafael Nadal 0 5-2
2009 Juan Martin Del Potro 1 (Washington) 9-1
2008 Roger Federer 0 4-3
2007 Roger Federer 1 (Cincinnati) 9-1
2006 Roger Federer 1 (Canada) 7-1
2005 Roger Federer 1 (Cincinnati) 6-0
2004 Roger Federer 2 (Canada and Gstaad) 12-2
2003 Andy Roddick 3 (Canada, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis) 20-1
2002 Pete Sampras 0 3-3
2001 Lleyton Hewitt 0 6-3
2000 Marat Safin 1 (Canada) 14-4
1999 Andre Agassi 1 (Washington) 15-3

As you would assume, most years the player who wins the US Open is one who has been on form through the summer hard courts. For Novak, I want to highlight one instance that might provide hope that little match experience/success can still end with a championship in New York

2008: As an Olympic year, Roger Federer’s post-Wimbledon schedule was fairly lengthy. He struggled in both Toronto and Cincinnati but he still had to travel to Beijing for the Summer Games. There he suffered a shocking 2nd round loss to Tomas Berdych and a deflating trip back to the States. In this case, Federer used the early exit to his advantage by adjusting to the New York courts before most of his main competitors.

However, the majority have played well with 11 of the last 15 US Open champions having won at least one tournament before coming to New York. The recent history would indicate that Novak would be one of the exceptions if he were to succeed in spite of poor precursor results. The one caveat is that of his main rivals only Roger Federer is over performing and we all know that backing Roger at this point comes with its own questions. Nonetheless, I’m sure Novak will be up to the task and try to put himself in position for another US Open run after these forgettable few weeks come August 25th.

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