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SPORTS STORY

Fedís got form

Rafa Nadal may be the hot favourite but, as Kevin Hatchard explains, Roger Federerís recent record at the US Open is exemplary. And there are some other interesting prices too

The US Open at Flushing Meadows is the final Grand Slam of the 2010 tennis season, and itís an even more mouthwatering prospect than usual. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are all desperate to win the tournament for different reasons, and there is an array of quality players ready to spring a few surprises.

After winning the French Open and Wimbledon titles this year, World No 1 Rafael Nadal is the favourite (11/4 various). Iím not sure thatís great value, as there are several reasons why the man from Majorca may not prevail.

The US Open is the only Grand Slam that Nadal has failed to win in his illustrious career, and heís yet to even reach the final in New York. In 2008 the Spaniard lost in the semi-finals to Andy Murray, and he fell at the same hurdle last year, as eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro crushed him in straight sets. Itís worth considering that the hard courts at Flushing Meadows make the US Open arguably the most physically demanding Grand Slam. Nadal looks in good shape after a series of knee problems, but his susceptibility to injury is a persistent concern.

At a best-priced 3/1 (various), Roger Federer seems a much better bet. After disappointing displays at the French Open and Wimbledon, the Fed Express dropped out of the worldís top two for the first time in seven years. However, those who fear the Swiss is on the slide should note that he has reached the last six US Open finals, winning all but last yearís final against del Potro. Federer has also bagged a record 16th Grand Slam title this season, winning the Australian Open.

British hopes will once again rest with Andy Murray (51/10 Bwin), who is chasing an elusive first Grand Slam title. He has struggled for form at times this year, but his record in the Grand Slams has been good. He lost to Federer in the Australian Open final, a result that could have been different had he not spurned some good opportunities. He reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, and looked in great touch at Wimbledon until he encountered an inspired Nadal in the semi-finals.

Murray certainly has the tools to win in New York. He is one of the best shot-makers on the tour, with the ability to mix up his game. He must find consistency on his first serve, and avoid falling into the trap of playing defensively. At previous Grand Slams Murray has sometimes allowed opponents to dictate the pattern of play, such as when Marin Cilic dumped him out of last yearís US Open in straight sets. Murray has shown ruthless determination by dumping coach Miles Maclagan, and if he can play positively on his favourite surface heís definitely worth a punt.

For some reason Sportingbet are offering 16/1 on world number two Novak Djokovic, which is far more generous than their rivals. Despite such benevolence, Iím not convinced the Serb is worth backing. He has failed to build on his Australian Open win in 2008, and hasnít reached a Grand Slam final since then. All three of his Grand Slam exits this year have been to players ranked below him, and his mental strength has been questioned.

Big-hitting Robin Soderling (16/1 Sportingbet) fluctuates between the sublime and the ridiculous, but has Grand Slam wins over Federer and Nadal on his CV. Tomas Berdych (20/1 Sportingbet) is finally fulfilling his potential, and reaching the Wimbledon final will have boosted his confidence. Marin Cilic reached this yearís Australian Open semis and last yearís US Open quarters, so 52/1 with Bwin is too big to ignore.

As for defending champion Del Potro (25/1 Sportingbet), heís struggled all year with a wrist injury, and may not be fit enough to defend his crown. If he does play, I canít see him making an impact with so little preparation.

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