Federer aims to put out New York's Bush fires

For once, when the US Open kicks off in New York tomorrow it won't be the biggest show in town. The Republican convention, with its threatened attendant demonstrations, will take top news billing, at least for most of the opening week.

After that, though, things should settle, with Andy and Andre and four leading ladies vying to ensure that Old Glory takes top place on the flagpole of success, just as George Bush would wish, though there are one or two Europeans scheming to upset the apple-pie order of those plans.

For a start, Roger Federer is understandably keen to become the first man to hold three Grand Slams in one year since Mats Wilander in 1988, while the Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne, who put four months of viral problems behind her in golden fashion at the Olympics, is equally determined to repeat her 2003 triumph and pick up the $1 million on offer to both men and women for doing so.

With Wimbledon and the Australian Open already corralled, as well as six other titles this year to underline his unassailability in the rankings, Federer should progress further than in his four previous tilts at the US crown, in none of which has he got beyond the fourth round.

As Federer cruised through the early months, swatting aside all opposition, there had been predictions from some quarters, this one included, that he was in line to sweep all four Slams. Gustavo Kuerten's clay-court wiles put an end to that at the French Open, but the Swiss, who turned 23 earlier this month, will assume, reasonably enough, that three out of four is a decent haul.

Certainly the draw has not thrown anyone of detectable threat into his path until the quarter-finals. Then he may face Andre Agassi, twice a champion (1994 and 1999) and making his 19th, and possibly final, appearance at his home Slam. A hat-trick of US Opens and what would be a ninth Grand Slam title provide enough incentive for Steffi Graf's other half, but at 34 the days are dwindling.

It is in the defending champion, Andy Roddick, that Americans detect more possibilities of glory. Roddick will clock up his 22nd birthday tomorrow, so what better fashion to mark it than by getting under way a repeat of an unforgettable 2003, which brought his first Grand Slam on the way to ending the year top of the rankings?

That No 1 spot was rapidly seized by Federer, who underlined his current ability to take care of his closest rival in the Wimbledon final. The Swiss superiority was emphasised by Roddick after that Centre Court occasion: "I threw the kitchen sink at Roger, but he went and got a tub." Should it get that far, a repeat is likely; but the ability of a New York audience to lift one of their own should never be underestimated, and Roddick won this title in style 12 months back, straight sets over Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Of the rest, Argentina will be formidably represented once more, while the in-form Lleyton Hewitt is in with a shout following his recent win in Washington, his third title of the year. Britain's interest is surprisingly boosted to three by the qualification of Alex Bogdanovic while the familiar duo, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, are on course to meet in the fourth round. Henman has never gone beyond the fourth round, unlike Rusedski, who will be revisiting the scene of his best Grand Slam showing, runner-up in 1997. They face demanding first rounds, with the fifth-seeded Henman up against the 6ft 10in Croat Ivo Karlovic, while Rusedski plays France's Cyril Saulnier.

Such is his enduring genius that Marat Safin, the 2000 champion, has to be accorded a chance, but he is the lone Russian men's threat, whereas in the women's event five Russians are seeded in the top 10 and two of them, Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova, won the last two majors.

Those statistics notwithstanding, it is Americans who are best positioned to reclaim a title they won five years in a row until Henin intervened last September. Her compatriot and opponent in that final, Kim Clijsters, is still out with wrist problems, but otherwise the field is at full strength.

The form bet among the US contenders is Lindsay Daven-port, who has known lean times and suffered assorted injuries since winning here in 1998 and finishing runner-up two years later. Right now the Californian six-footer is on a roll, having won her last four tournaments and clocked up a run of 17 victories. She is seeded fifth, and in the fourth round should meet Venus Williams, should the 11th-seeded and out-of-sorts older Williams sister reach that far.

The eclipse of the Williamses, a process exacerbated by serious injuries to both women, was completed at Wimbledon when Serena lost her title in such sensational fashion to Sharapova. The 17-year-old US-based Russian has not uprooted so much as a sapling since, so the best chance of continuing the exclusion of Americans from Grand Slam honours for the fifth straight tournament would appear to rest with Henin, the toughest of cookies. Foreigner or not, that is the sort New Yorkers appreciate.

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her in Latakia
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report