By Sally Milano
The road to the 2015 US Open officially kicks off with the start of the Emirates Airline US Open Series. The five-week series of tournaments features the biggest stars in tennis competing for the Series title, with the winner having the chance to pick up an extra $1 million in bonus prize money at the 2015 US Open.
The 12th year of the Series begins with this week’s BB&T Atlanta Open in Atlanta, followed by stops in Stanford, Calif.; Montreal; Toronto; Cincinnati; New Haven, Conn.; and Winston-Salem, N.C. The US Open is the culmination of the Series and gets underway in New York on Aug. 31.
Past Series champions have included some of the game’s greatest players, starting off with Lleyton Hewitt and Lindsay Davenport, who won the inaugural Series titles in 2004. Since then, other winners have included Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Petra Kvitova. Last year, Milos Raonic captured the men’s title, and Serena Williams won her second straight crown (and third in four years).
So who will reign supreme in 2015? It’s anyone’s guess, with the world’s top players and rising young stars competing throughout the summer, but let’s take a stab at it and give our predictions on who will take home the men’s and women’s trophies this year.
Winner: Novak Djokovic.
The world’s No. 1 player has had a tremendous season in 2015, winning six titles, including two of the three Grand Slam tournaments played so far this year – the Australian Open and Wimbledon – as well as back-to-back hard-court titles in March at Indian Wells and Miami. Djokovic last won the Series in 2012 and will be playing in two Series tournaments this summer – the Rogers Cup in Montreal and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Runner-up: Kevin Anderson
Anderson reached a career-high ranking of No. 14 in June and is now at No. 15 after a year that has included reaching finals at Queen's Club and Memphis, the semifinals at Acapulco and Auckland and the round of 16 at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and Miami. The 6-foot-8, big-serving South African has a 15-8 (.652) record on hard courts in 2015 and is scheduled to play three of the four men’s events on the Series calendar: in Atlanta, Montreal and Cincinnati.
Third place: Roger Federer
Seventeen-time Grand Slam champion Federer finished in third place in the Series standings in 2014 and won the men's title in 2007, the same year he won his fourth straight US Open championship. (He won five consecutive titles in New York, 2004-08). The 33-year-old Swiss has been in great form in 2015, compiling a 40-7 record so far this season and winning four titles (Halle, Istanbul, Dubai, Brisbane). Currently second in the ATP World Tour rankings, Federer will play next month’s Series events in Cincinnati and Montreal.
Winner: Serena Williams
It’s hard to pick against Williams, arguably the greatest women’s player of all time, who just keeps getting stronger over time. Williams, 33, won her 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon to complete her second Serena Slam – four Grand Slam tournaments in a row. She recently surpassed $70 million in career earnings and just last week became the fourth woman in WTA history to hold the No. 1 ranking for 250 weeks. Williams will be going for her third straight and fourth overall Series title this year. (She also won in 2011.) She comes into the Series with a near-perfect 40-1 record in 2015 and kicks off her 2015 Series campaign in Stanford, where she is a three-time champion. She will also compete in Toronto, which she has won three times (2001, 2011, 2013), and Cincinnati, where she is the reigning champion.
Runner-up: Petra Kvitova
Serena may be the player to beat for the Series title this year, but she could get some stiff competition from Czech lefty Kvitova, who handed the American her only loss of the season, in Madrid in May. Kvitova, ranked fourth in the world, won the Series title in 2012 and has performed well during the U.S. summer hard-court season over the last few years, claiming the Montreal title in 2012 and winning at New Haven two out of the last three years (2012, 2014). The two-time Wimbledon champion will play in three Series events in 2015 – Toronto, Cincinnati and New Haven.
Third place: Caroline Wozniacki
Former world No. 1 Wozniacki has reached the quarterfinals or better at seven tournaments this year, including a title win at Kuala Lumpur in March. The 25-year-old from Denmark has won 23 WTA singles titles in her career and has one Series title under belt, winning the women's championship in 2010. Wozniacki will be making her debut at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford this year and is also set to compete in Toronto and Cincinnati.