The U.S. Open will have the same old contenders and pretenders on display. Us tennis fans are used to seeing the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, a Williams sister or Novak Djokovic win it all in a major. But there are other players besides these stars who are out to finally make a breakthrough at Flushing Meadows.
As such, this is a list of the most overdue tennis contenders who could shake things up at the U.S. Open and provide something new for us viewers in the weeks ahead.
All season long, men’s tennis has been dominated by Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Djokovic has made the “Big Two” of men’s tennis into the “Big Three,” but can it become a big four? Like Djokovic before him, Andy Murray keeps reaching semifinals and the occasional final in a Grand Slam and getting no further. Yet since the world’s current No. 1 player finally got over the hump in the end, Murray may have his time soon enough.
Murray just beat Djokovic in Cincinnati — although he didn’t face him at his best or healthiest — and comes into Flushing Meadows with some momentum. He is long overdue to take the next step, as Djokovic started to do when he made the 2010 U.S. Open final. Of course, since Murray is a British player, and no Brit has won a Grand Slam in over seven decades, that may be enough to keep him down.
Although Wozniacki is No. 1 in the world, she still hasn’t won a Grand Slam event — which speaks to how flawed the rankings system and women’s tennis are these days. But despite all the times she has fallen short in Australia, France, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows, Wozniacki is the No. 1 seed once again. Nevertheless, she is a better bet to lose in the early rounds than to win it all.
The women’s game has seen unlikely major champions this year, like Li Na and Petra Kvitova. As such, Wozniacki could be the most unlikely winner of all in the U.S. Open, even as a No. 1 seed. But the field is so wide open that she has to win one of these tournaments sometime.
Zvonareva is the No. 2 seed although she hasn’t won a Grand Slam either. But she did come close in last year’s Open, although she lost in the finals to Kim Clijsters. After losing in last year’s Wimbledon and Open finals, she hasn’t come that close in the 2011 majors yet. In fact, after her semifinal run at the Australian Open, she missed the quarterfinals at the French and Wimbledon altogether. One of these days, either Wozniacki or Zvonareva will have to perform like the No. 1 and 2 players in the world at a major.
Djokovic has broken through almost every barrier this year, yet one still remains. He still hasn’t gone all the way at the U.S. Open, with last year’s run to the final as his best effort. That unlikely charge was the first stepping stone to his practically undefeated 2011 season, so wrapping it up with an Open championship would be fitting. After Djokovic overcame Nadal in Wimbledon, avenging last year’s Open championship defeat to him would be just as special
Every men’s tennis player besides Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray
Even regular tennis fans are hard pressed to name many men’s players besides the “Big Three” and Murray. Other than these four stars, virtually all the other men in the tennis world have been invisible this year. If anyone other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray makes the semifinals, that alone would be a massive upset. But after those four superstars overwhelmed the field all season, can someone like Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick, Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Juan Martin del Potro or another Cinderella finally challenge the established order?