The US Open starts today (Monday) and while picking title favourites may be a fairly routine task, spotting the draw sleepers is slightly more challenging. Here are a few names who can cause some upsets this fortnight in New York.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
ATP ranking: 10
Best US Open result: Quarter-finalist (2011)
Marin Cilic (CRO)
ATP ranking: 16
Best US Open result: Quarter-finalist (2009, 2012)
Cilic has won two titles this season and has racked up 40 match wins in 2014. He has been closing in on the top guys and has had some tight matches against the big guns recently, including a close five-set defeat to Djokovic at Wimbledon. Has a manageable draw in the first week with a real shot at coming through his quarter which includes Berdych and Ferrer.
Gael Monfils (FRA)
ATP ranking: 24
Best US Open result: Quarter-finalist (2010)
The Frenchman came close to beating both Federer and Djokovic in recent weeks but can just as easily turn off the magic and lose to an unknown player. Could face Grigor Dimitrov in the last 16 and Federer in the quarters. He’s a true entertainer and the
atmosphere in New York usually brings out the best in him.
Sloane Stephens (USA)
WTA ranking: 22
Best US Open result: Fourth round (2013)
Stephens’ season has not been the greatest but since she split with Paul Annacone and teamed up with Thomas Hogstedt, she’s been showing signs of revival. Despite her two losses to Jelena Jankovic in Canada and Cincy, she still showed lots of fight and she has a chance to avenge those losses should they both make the third round.
Venus Williams (USA)
WTA ranking: 20
Best US Open result: Winner (2000, 2001)
It’s hard imagining Venus lifting the trophy but she can still have a good run. She was stellar in Montreal, where she beat her sister Serena en route to the final, and landed in the same section of the draw as Halep and Sara Errani, two players she has a good record against. She could end up being the person standing across Sharapova in the quarter-finals.
Madison Keys (USA)
WTA ranking: 28
Best US Open result: Second round (2011)
Of all the young Americans, Madison Keys is the most exciting prospect. She’s capable of pulling off upsets (beat Li Na and Kerber before) and has recently stretched Sharapova to three sets in Cincinnati. She’s in the same section as Kvitova and Azarenka, two vulnerable seeds (Kvitova has a relatively poor record at the Open, Azarenka’s out of form).
The US Open starts today and with an array of big players missing out, it is difficult to say who will be crowned champion in the men's and women's. Here are the top three aces in both genders to keep an eye out for.
Roger Federer (SUI)
ATP ranking: 3
Best US Open Result: Winner (2004-2008)
Novak Djokovic (SRB)
ATP ranking: 1
Best US Open Result: Winner (2011)
Briefly regained his confidence after winning Wimbledon last month but has suffered unexpected losses in the build-up to the Open. Still, he has made five finals in New York and is definitely a contender for the title. Has a tough draw with both Murray and Tsonga in his quarter.
Andy Murray (GBR)
Best US Open Result: Winner (2012)
Has a lot to prove now that he has fully recovered from his back surgery and is searching for his first title since Wimbledon 2013. New York has always been his favourite slam and it is where he captured his first major. Has to overcome a brutal draw though, with both Tsonga and Djokovic in his path to the semis.
Simona Halep (ROU)
WTA ranking: 2
Best US Open Result: Fourth round (2013)
Has been the second most consistent player in majors this year having made the quarters in Melbourne, the final in Paris and the semis at Wimbledon. Heads into the Open with just four hard court matches under her belt in the build-up though. Has Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova in her quarter.
Maria Sharapova (RUS)
WTA ranking: 6
Best US Open Result: Winner (2006)
Has had a tough build-up to the US Open, with five of her seven matches going to three sets. Has shown good form this year following a four-month break end of last season which saw her skip the US Open with a shoulder injury. Her quarter of the draw resembles a minefield.
Serena Williams (USA)
WTA ranking: 1
Best US Open Result: Winner (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-2013)
The two-time defending champion is looking to salvage her season after not making it past the fourth round in any of the majors in 2014. Her warm-up for the Open has been great, having picked up titles in Stanford and Cincinnati. Has Sam Stosur and Ana Ivanovic in her quarter of the draw.
Serena Williams is taking nothing for granted as she vies for a third straight US Open title, which would put her alongside two greats of the game.
The 32-year-old, once known for stepping up her game when it mattered most, has thrice been thwarted in 2014 in her bid to join Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova as 18-time major singles champions.
Although she has lifted five WTA trophies this year, she has failed to make it past the fourth round at the Australian Open, French Open or Wimbledon.
So she sounded wary of the suggestion that a return to Flushing Meadows, where she has won five US Open titles, would produce major number 18.
“Yeah, Australian, Wimbledon, and French also could have been 18,” she said. “Didn’t quite happen.”
But Williams was firing on all cylinders as she won two hardcourt titles in the buildup to the Open.
Her straight-sets win over Ana Ivanovic in the final at Cincinnati showed Williams at her dominant best. It was a long way from Ivanovic’s fourth-round victory over Williams at the Australian Open, where the American was hindered by back pain.
Fitness woes, a second-round exit at Roland Garros, and the vir-us that left her weak and woozy in doubles after her shock third-round singles exit at Wimbledon, are all in the past, insists Williams.
“I’m in some of the best shape I’ve been in,” said the world No1. “I can play long points and be ready to go again. I feel really fit – 32 is the new 22, right?”
An actual 22-year-old, Simona Halep, will be among those trying to topple Williams in New York. The Romanian has been knocking at the door of a first Grand Slam title this year, finishing runner-up to Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros. Halep also reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and the semi-finals at Wimbledon as she climbed to No2 in the world.
Also putting up a challenge will be Sharapova. Her appetite is only greater after she missed last year’s US Open with a shoulder injury that brought her season to a premature close. She sealed yet another return from injury by capturing her fifth Grand Slam in Paris, but she has never won two majors in the same year.