Under-the-radar players to watch ahead of the 2014 U.S. Open
With the U.S. Open just days away, all the talk is focused on the big names and favorites of the tournament (and the one who won't be contending for the title), but what about those potential dark horses that could make an impression on the grand stage? Here's a look at the men and women to look out for as the tournament begins on Monday, Aug. 25.
Svetlana Kuznetsova: The Russian has bounced back from a forgettable season to win the Citi Open this summer. At the Western & Southern Open, she beat Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard and then pushed Ana Ivanovic to three sets before losing in the third round. Her confidence level are high, and since she'll be seeded in New York, she will have some draw protection that could propel her into the second week.
CoCo Vandeweghe: The 22-year-old has been hitting a big, clean ball ever since winning her first WTA title in Holland in June. Never short of swagger, Vandeweghe had a week to remember in at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, beating Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic in three grueling sets to make the quarterfinals as a qualifier. She just narrowly missed out on a top 32 seed at the Open (she's ranked No. 37) making her one of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw.
Garbine Muguruza: Despite her Serena-beating run to the French Open quarterfinals in May, Muguruza is still flying under the radar, even though she followed that up by making two tour quarterfinals, including at the Bank of the West Classic. This week she's already beaten Sara Errani at the Connecticut Open in the opening round. She should make the second week if she has an average draw.
Shelby Rogers: Yes, Bouchard came down with a bad set of nerves, but it's hard to ignore the 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 scoreline Rogers handed down in their match in Montreal, especially when she's been on a run. Since Wimbledon, Rogers has made the final of Bad Gastein (l. Petkovic) and qualified and made the third round in Washington DC. She's a big hitter, so a good draw could give her a shot at the third round.
Taylor Townsend: Ranked No. 103, the 18-year-old earned a wildcard into the French Open by winning the USTA wildcard playoff and then made the third round. She was given a wildcard into the U.S. Open this time and is more than capable of matching her Paris result. She's full of confidence this summer after back-to-back successful qualifying campaigns in DC and Cincinnati.
Feliciano Lopez: The 32-year-old Spaniard is playing some of the best tennis in his career, building momentum through the grass season and culminating in the Rogers Cup semifinals in Toronto, where he lost in straight sets to Roger Federer. He's a top 32 seed.
Gael Monfils: In the last two weeks, Monfils has taken Novak Djokovic to a third set tiebreak in Toronto and pushed eventual champion Federer to three sets in Cincinnati. His match against Federer was the most impressive of the two because he played like a man who wanted to win, not just to goof around and entertain the crowd. If he brigs that attitude into New York and can avoid getting himself in unnecessary four- and five-setters in the early rounds, I like his chances of a quarterfinal run.
Donald Young: Up to No. 46 and less than 10 spots from his career-high ranking, Young has been the most reliable American man at the Slams this year behind John Isner. He started the season with a third round run at the Australian Open and did the same at the French Open. This summer he made his first ATP semifinal in three years by beating three seeds in Washington DC.
Jerzy Janowicz: The former top 20 player has seen his game implode (rather than explode) over the last 12 months,after struggling to win back-to-back matches at tournaments. But he's been playing better this summer, with his big win coming last week over Grigor Dimitrov in Cincinnati. He's a confidence player and could ride that big serve into the second week. Even if he doesn't get that far (now ranked at No. 52) he's a very dangerous unseeded player. If he draws one of the struggling top ten players in the first two rounds, watch out.
David Goffin: No one has done more winning over the last month than No. 62, Goffin. Absolutely no one. After knocking out defending champion Jurgen Melzer from the Winston-Salem Open on Monday and ousting Leonardo Mayer on Tuesday, Goffin is now on a 24-match winning streak. None of those matches have been against the ATP's best, but the Belgian must feel invincible right now.