As both a former player and coach, ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert has a rare perspective on the state of tennis entering the 2012 U.S. Open. On the men's side, his contenders include the usual suspects in Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, plus an inspired Andy Murray. The women's draw, however, is much less certain.

Is Federer the man to beat at the U.S. Open?

Gilbert »

"First of all, I think he's the youngest 31?year?old ever, and I think he can take a lot of stock in what Andre [Agassi] did about six or seven years ago, seeing somebody that he can remember that played great until he was 35. He takes amazing, good care of his body, and he never seems to get injured. His team does a great job of keeping him ready, and he paces himself unbelievably on the schedule, doesn't overplay and seems to know when to take breaks. Djokovic loves playing at the Open, and the fans like him as well, so he will be a force. And then you have Murray that has confidence and comes to New York with the momentum of an Olympic win. So before you look at anyone else, these three are the class of the field."

How about the women's side?

Gilbert » "I think that my partner on ESPN, Chris Evert, said it, and I agree that on the women's side it is wide open. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova come to New York as favorites but far from locks. The question is can Serena keep a high level of tennis up for over a two?week period consistently? The danger is she can at times be her own worst opponent. She's going to have to work hard the next two weeks because there are a lot of eager players out there ready to beat her. The list is impressive with Sharapova, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka capable of winning. You can't rule out Kim Clijsters, playing her last Open. She's going to have some momentum going in. Serena can be the most dominant woman in tennis, and she loves New York. But a win won't come easy."

Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!, on