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.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

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

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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent