Players Who Desperately Need a Strong Showing in 2014 US Open Tennis Series

Merlisa Lawrence CorbettFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

Players Who Desperately Need a Strong Showing in 2014 US Open Tennis Series

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    Andy Murray during his quarterfinals match at 2014 Wimbledon.
    Andy Murray during his quarterfinals match at 2014 Wimbledon.Toby Melville/Associated Press

    Already underway, the U.S. Open Series offers ATP and WTA Tour players a host of incentives and opportunities. 

    The series includes a collection of summer hard-court tournaments in North America. Players accumulate points during the series that leads to the U.S. Open, the last Grand Slam of the year.

    Winners of the series stand to gain a $1 million bonus if they also win the U.S. Open. Last year, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal won the series and the U.S. Open. They each won a record-setting $3.6 million in prize money. 

    Money may be the biggest incentive, but playing well in the series has intrinsic value. More than anything, the series serves as tuneup and test for top players hoping to arrive at Flushing Meadows in optimal form. 

    Two key players, Li Na and Rafael Nadal—both ranked No. 2—are out of the running due to injuries. Li withdrew from the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati Open and U.S. Open. She will fall from No. 2 to No. 3.

    Nadal announced he will miss the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Open. He has yet to rule out defending his U.S. Open title.

    Roger Federer, who reached the 2014 Wimbledon final, has little to gain or lose during the series. Federer is securely in the Top Five and has no shot at No. 1 or No. 2 before the U.S. Open. Any tournament win or finals appearance could be considered a successful series for Federer. 

    Meanwhile, players such as No. 11 Victoria Azarenka, who last year was ranked No. 3 around this time, needs a strong showing to break her descent in the rankings. 

    Whether fighting for better seeding or seeking confidence, some players need a strong showing more than others. 

Tomas Berdych

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    Tomas Berdych at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
    Tomas Berdych at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.Associated Press

    Besides his floral-pattern outfits, Tomas Berdych has produced little to talk about this year. He is ranked No. 5, but has fallen out of the conversation for Grand Slam contender.

    In his U.S. Open Series debut, Berdych, the top seed at the Citi Open, lost in the second round.

    Although a mainstay in the ATP Top 10, Berdych seems mired in mediocrity. 

Serena Williams

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    Serena Williams prepares to hit a backhand at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic.
    Serena Williams prepares to hit a backhand at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic.Beck Diefenbach/Associated Press

    Serena Williams won her fourth title of 2014 when she won the Bank of the West Classic. That's more than any woman on tour. She is also 7-0 against top-10 players.

    For anyone else, that would be a career-making year. However, for Williams, this year has been a disappointment. 

    She desperately needs to regain her rhythm during the series. In 2012, she lost in Cincinnati and went on to win the U.S. Open. Last year, she lost in Cincinnati and again went on to win the U.S. Open.

Stan Wawrinka

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    Stanislas Wawrinka looks weary between points during a 2014 Wimbledon match.
    Stanislas Wawrinka looks weary between points during a 2014 Wimbledon match.Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Stan Wawrinka could win the U.S. Open. Seriously, why not? 

    When he is focused and confident, few opponents have an answer for his devastating one-handed backhand. 

    He's a streaky player who blows hot and cold. Wawrinka's season has alternated between peaks and valleys; he won the 2014 Australian Open and made it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, but was upset in the first round at Roland Garros.

    A solid performance in the series is essential for Wawrinka's confidence. 

     

Agnieszka Radwanska

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    Agnieszka Radwanska shows frustration during a loss at 2014 Wimbledon.
    Agnieszka Radwanska shows frustration during a loss at 2014 Wimbledon.Sang Tan/Associated Press

    Once the most consistent players on tour, Agnieszka Radwanska has struggled this year. It's hard to tell if her level of play has come down or if players have figured her out.

    Either way, she needs to snap out of her slump and find an answer for the malaise that has become her game. 

Andy Murray

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    Andy Murray during his quarterfinals match at Wimbledon, against Grigor Dimitrov.
    Andy Murray during his quarterfinals match at Wimbledon, against Grigor Dimitrov.Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Andy Murray needs to reinsert himself into "Big Four" status. After Wimbledon he fell to No. 10. Meanwhile, younger players such as Milos Ranoic and Grigor Dimitrov have moved ahead of him in the rankings.

    With a rejuvenated Djokovic and revitalized Federer, Murray needs to remind people of why they considered him part of the Big Four. 

     

Victoria Azarenka

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    Victoria Azarenka bounces a ball on her racket at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic.
    Victoria Azarenka bounces a ball on her racket at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Azarenka, winner of two Australian Opens, reached the final of the U.S. Open two years in row. Now she's struggling. 

    A former No. 1 player, Azarenka has fallen to No. 11. Beaten by Venus Williams in Stanford in July, Azarenka is finding it hard to get something going since returning from injury.

    She desperately needs to beat a top-10 player. Otherwise she may lack the confidence she needs to move into Week 2 of the U.S. Open. 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during a loss to Novak Djokovic at 2014 Wimbledon.
    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during a loss to Novak Djokovic at 2014 Wimbledon.Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    There is no obvious physical reason that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has yet to win a Grand Slam. However, he's shown that mentally he falls short. 

    Tsonga is starring his "now or never" moment in the face.

    Right now, Tsonga seems to lack confidence in his game. Putting together a string of strong performances during the series could make him dangerous at the U.S. Open.