Wimbledon may have just concluded on Sunday, but it's already time to start looking ahead to the next Grand Slam, the 2014 U.S. Open.
Arthur Ashe Stadium will play host to the final Grand Slam of the calendar year. The sport's top competitors will be on the hunt for a big-time win to close out their respective seasons, but only one man and one woman will prevail in Flushing, Queens.
Grand Slam tournaments are often where the sport's brightest stars rise up and display their dominance. That said, these majors are also where sleepers reel off upset after upset.
This two-week tourney is going to be exciting, and the following predictions are indicative of the type of tournament we are in for.
Milos Raonic Will Make the Finals
Canada's Milos Raonic has been on the rise of late, as he made it to the semifinals at the All England Club before falling to Roger Federer. Prior to this tournament, he had yet to advance to a quarterfinal in a Grand Slam.
Now, the sky's the limit for the Toronto native.
Sally Milano of USOpen.org even pinpointed Raonic as a player to watch in the U.S. Open because of his arsenal:
The recipient of the ATP’s Newcomer of the Year Award in 2011, Raonic has won five career titles and has reached five career finals – all on his favorite hard-court surface – since turning pro in 2008; last year he compiled a solid 36-12 record on hard courts. Always a threat in any draw, he owns one of the game’s most feared serves, has a huge forehand and is not afraid to approach the net.
Raonic excels on hard courts because of his monstrous serve. Soft courts like grass slow his serve down. Hard courts cause the ball to gain speed when it hits the ground, and the ball often skips more than hops when it touches down. This makes returning the serve extraordinarily difficult. Getting to the spot of the ball is an issue but so is returning the ball accurately.
Hard-hitters do well on hard courts, and that gives Raonic a big advantage.
Given his rise to the semifinals at Wimbledon (on a grass surface), I'm picking Raonic to make it to the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Andy Murray Will Disappoint Again
Fans of Andy Murray were pulling for the Brit at the All England Club, but he appeared quite off in his match against Grigor Dimitrov. Murray told Chris Green of The Independent that he didn't start the match off well, and that carried over throughout each set:
"My start to the match was poor. I started the match badly and I think that gave him confidence. I should have done a better job at the beginning of the match of making it tougher for him, and I didn’t manage to do that."
After winning at Wimbledon in 2013, Murray was pinned as one of the favorites heading into the event. He has struggled mightily this year, though, and that apparently carried over to this year's installment of the event.
Murray has yet to play in a tournament final this year. He reached the quarterfinals at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open and reached the semifinals at the French Open. Those are decent finishes, but they're not emblematic of we've come to expect from Murray.
I think we'll see more of the same at the U.S. Open from the 27-year-old. I predict that he'll again make it to the quarters before bowing out, possibly to another top-seeded competitor.
An early loss might not be all that bad, however, as it might give him an excuse to sit back and reflect on his rather pedestrian Grand Slam season. When it's time to get going for the Australian Open in January 2015, Murray will be ready.
Serena Williams Will Prevail
Serena Williams didn't have a good Wimbledon tournament. She lost in the third round to France's Alize Cornet, but that wasn't even the worst of it.
In doubles play, paired with sister Venus, Serena looked disoriented during their first-round match and was forced to retire after just three games. Wimbledon's official Twitter account tweeted a video of Serena warming up and looking a bit out of it:
Half-sister Isha Price claimed that Serena would not have taken the court if she knew she wasn't well, via Douglas Robson of USA Today:
Price said Serena did not appear ill before the match, and she wasn't aware of any medication she might be taking. Price said the five-time Wimbledon winner would not have taken the court if she were not well.
'She seemed emotional, sad, you know what I mean?' said Price, who declined to speculate on whether Serena's state of mind had anything to do with her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, who said in a text message he had not seen Serena in two days. 'But before the match she was fine.'
This incident might actually be good for Serena, however. This gives her an excuse to step away from the court and focus on getting better both physically and mentally. Her loss to Cornet didn't appear to be affected by this strange disorientation, so it's clear that she wasn't up to snuff during this tournament.
Serena is one of the best women's competitors in the world. With a few weeks off to regain her strength and focus, she'll have success at the U.S. Open. Serena might not win, but she'll show us all that she's just fine.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR.