Stars spring into action in US Open series

Time to look west as the world’s finest players compete in Canada and the USA on the highway to New York City later this month.

Chaussures Rafa Nadal / Tournée Américaine©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Tennis at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics now seems a distance blur.

The spotlight has transferred Stateside ahead of the US Open. Before the action unfolds on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, it’s time for a bundle of lead up events.

Who can play their way to glory in the Big Apple?

Sinner and Collins collect silverware

The wave of momentum behind Jannik Sinner gained a few more barrels last week. The Italian Next Gen prodigy, up to world No.15, became the youngest ever ATP 500 champion with a thrilling 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 triumph over inspired home charge Mackenzie McDonald in Washington.

“I think there is still much work to do, to be honest. A lot of experience to put in, working hard as we are doing now,” stated the humble 19-year-old.

"When you see somebody is the youngest or whatever, I don't put much weight on that. There are a lot of players who have done much, much better than me.”

Catch some highlights – Sinner is set to sparkle at Flushing Meadows.

Meanwhile, American Danielle Collins hadn’t reached a WTA singles final until three weeks ago. Now the world No.28 has backed up her clay title in Palermo to rule the hard courts of San Jose.

Collins bounced back from seeing five match points dissolve in the second set to edge fourth seed Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-7(10), 6-1.

"It was one of my goals to win a tournament this year, and to now win two, it’s just been incredible," Collins said with 10 wins in a row. "It’s still kind of hard to comprehend that I’ve won two back-to-back."

Tough tests ahead in Toronto

For the first time since May 2017, Rafael Nadal is ranked outside the top three.

The new world No.4 will hope to brush off an early exit in Washington at the Toronto Masters this week.

The five-time champion is defending his 2018 and 2019 titles in Canada, having recovered from a foot injury which forced the Spaniard to take three weeks off wielding a racket post Roland-Garros.

“I am going day by day,” said the 20-time major winner, who lost to Lloyd Harris in a Washington thriller. “The main thing is to try and feel I am improving and feel I am playing better and better, which is the goal at this tournament".

“I need to have a couple of weeks with less pain to have the confidence again with my movement. I am coming here to try and win, but also to keep feeling positive with my foot. I am not at my peak yet.”

Top seed Daniil Medvedev, newly crowned world No.3 Stefanos Tsitsipas and home talisman Denis Shapovalov join contention.

20-year-old Jenson Brooksby is one to look out for. A Newport final and Washington semi-final spot has launched the robust American into the Top 100 for the first time.

Magic in Montreal for Andreescu?

The likes of world No.1 Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek might be absent in Canada, but the Box Office billing hasn’t been diminished in Montreal.

The first WTA1000 event of the summer will bring back special memories for Bianca Andreescu.

Two years ago the Canadian won all of her 13 matches across 33 days to snatch away the Toronto and US Open titles.

Talk about a major introduction.

Since her 2019 breakout Andreescu has suffered two nasty, injury-maligned campaigns, but under the tutelage of renowned coach Sven Groeneveld (on a trial period), the 21-year-old could burst back into prominence on home soil.

"He has great knowledge and I already see a lot of improvement on the court from the tennis aspect and mental aspect," Andreescu explained, hailing Groeneveld. "So I'm feeling really confident."

Simona Halep has been on the sidelines since a calf tear decimated her summer plans. The 2018 Roland-Garros champion returns in Canada after 373 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 came to a halt.

Halep will vie for the trophy in a field bolstered by 11 of the Top 20. The recharged Romanian shoots for a deep run facing the likes of world No.3 Aryna Sabalenka, Olympic bronze medallist Elina Svitolina and Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova. Two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza and Roland-Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will also hope to join the latter stages.

Federer forced to be patient

Unfortunately for his legion of fans worldwide, 20-time major winner Roger Federer remains out of competition.

The 40-year-old has withdrawn from Toronto and the Cincinnati Masters, following on from his absence at Tokyo 2020.

“During the grass court season, I unfortunately experienced a setback with my knee,” the Swiss posted on social media. “I have already begun rehabilitation in the hopes of returning to the tour later this summer.”

That indicates Federer, who underwent two right knee surgeries in 2020, before returning to the Tour in March, is targeting a US Open quest.

It’s a race against the rehab clock, but it would be a welcome sight to see the fan favourite return to Flushing Meadows.