Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych face major obstacles
The question of the day at the U.S. Open really is the theme of men's tennis for most of the past decade: Can anybody -- anybody! -- loosen the stranglehold of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (and now maybe Andy Murray) on the major events?
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a 27-year-old Frenchman seeded No. 5, has been mentioned lately. He won his first-round match Tuesday over Slovakia's Karol Beck, a 30-year-old qualifier ranked 142nd, 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (2).
Czech Tomas Berdych, who is 26 and seeded No. 6, also has been tossed into the conversation. He dispensed with 21-year-old Belgian David Goffin, ranked 58th, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3, and Djokovic began defense of his 2011 Open title with a 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 romp over No. 59 Italian Paolo Lorenzi. (Two Americans not really in the revolution discussion, No. 20 Andy Roddick and No. 27 Sam Querrey, both won, as well.)
"For the moment," Tsonga said, "we don't have Frenchmen who win a tournament like this. If I have to bet, I would not bet on it. But anyway, we work on it, and I hope one time it will come true.
"If I want to win a tournament like this, I have to beat maybe Murray in quarterfinal, Federer in semifinals, and Novak in final. It's already something good if you win one match against one of these guys. Two, it's amazing. Three, for the moment, it's impossible. I will work on it."
Berdych, too, is careful not to get ahead of himself. "On one hand," he said the reality of a Grand Slam tournament breakthrough for him "is very far. On the other, it's quite close, you know. It's really tough to say.
"I'm doing what I think is best, trying to do it every day, work hard and, hopefully, one day I can say that, yeah, maybe it happens. Maybe not. I mean, the majors are not for everyone. This time, it's just probably for three guys. It's how it is. We are probably in the best era of our sport."
Only one of the last 30 Grand Slam events has not been won by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. That went to Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in the 2009 U.S. Open, and del Potro -- finally back from wrist surgery -- while rising to No. 7, faces a difficult first-round match against veteran countryman David Nalbandian Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Tsonga judged that to catch the top four, "I still have to improve a lot of things in my game. Not also in my game, but physically, I have to be a bit quicker. I have to move a bit better to win against these guys. So I work on it.
"In my heart, I know it's difficult, but it's always in my mind. I play tennis to win big tournaments like this. I mean, since I'm a kid, I dream about it. This is what gives me motivation. It's to win something like this. I will work until I cannot work anymore."