The U.S. Open, the last of the four Grand Slams, begins today in New York. With defending champion Juan Martin del Potro sidelined by injury, conventional wisdom says this year’s champion will be one of the Top 4 players. That’s a safe bet. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have combined for nine titles coming into the U.S. Open, including the first three majors. Nadal leads the pack with an ATP Tour-best five titles and a 52-7 record. The Spaniard won his fifth French Open and second Wimbledon, along with three Masters Series clay-court titles, earlier this year. Federer kicked off the year with his 16th Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open in January and won the Cincinnati Masters a week ago. Djokovic captured his lone title at Dubai in March. Murray, the runner-up to Federer in Melbourne, won his first title of 2010 two weeks ago in Toronto. Based on record, Nadal would appear to be the favorite. But none of the Spaniard’s titles this year have come on hard courts, his least-favorite surface. Nadal has played just two tournaments this summer and has not looked like the dominant player he was earlier in the year. It must be said, though, the limited schedule was by choice to rest his troublesome knees. Mired in a seven-month title drought, Federer was having a so-so season until last week. Cincinnati should undoubtedly boost the Swiss Maestro’s confidence. Djokovic has had an unpretentious year, reaching numerous quarterfinals and semis, but only one final. Murray, competing without a coach for the last five weeks, has improved his results by playing more aggressively. The Scotsman lost to Sam Querrey in the finals at Los Angeles and defeated Nadal in the semis and Federer in the final to take the title in Toronto two weeks later. So what does all this mean? To me, it says Federer and Murray are the co-favorites. Conveniently they’re on opposite sides of the draw. I see both in the final. “You can never count him out,” said American Mardy Fish of Federer. “It seems like every time someone says he’s having a down year or a bad time in his career, he just comes right back and wins two or three Grand Slams in a row. And there’s really no reason he can’t do that again. He’s the best player to ever play. He’ll go down, in my opinion, with at least two or three more Slams.” The No. 19-seeded Fish, who’s playing the best tennis of his life, lost to Federer in three tight sets in the final at Cincinnati. Murray has a 7-5 career record against Federer, but two of the losses are in major finals — Australia this year and the U.S. Open in 2008. Now it’s time for redemption. Murray’s ready to win his first major. “Nothing drastic has to change,” Murray said. “I just need to play my best tennis for the full two weeks.” I see that happening.