Flavia Pennetta. Marin Cilic. Samantha Stosur. Dominic Thiem. Sloane Stephens.
The US Open has thrown up its fair share of first-time major champions in the last 10 years. On the men’s side there has been more variety than at any other major while Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are the only recent multiple winners on the women’s side.
With a number of big-name withdrawals this year and players feeling the effects of a difficult season, there appears to be the prospect for more upsets in New York. But who could make a shock run at winning their first major?
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A month ago Shapovalov looked primed for a big summer after making his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon. Things haven’t gone to plan since as he has lost three straight matches, including a frustrating defeat to Benoit Paire in Cincinnati that left Shapovalov in a contemplative mood.
“Today was pretty terrible. I’m just going to review with my team and see what changes I can make, because today’s performance was pretty bad from my side. That’s really all I can say, I need to change my game.”
If Shapovalov can get himself back together then he should be a threat in New York. After all, it wasn’t that long ago – just a few weeks – that the Canadian was waxing lyrical about his own game.
“I’m super excited, the momentum is great from Wimbledon and I just feel like the past couple of months my game level has improved a couple more steps up. I just feel like a confident player right now, I feel like I’m able to compete with anyone. I feel like I’m becoming a really big threat.”
The US Open was Shapovalov’s most successful Slam prior to his Wimbledon run, having never lost before the third round. He went down in a tough five-setter in the quarter-finals last year and will be a top-eight seed for the first time at a major next week.
It wasn’t long ago that Collins was unbeatable, racking up a 12-match winning run that saw her win titles at the Palermo Open and Silicon Valley Classic, and beat Simona Halep in a thrilling three-set match. Although she did seem to run out of steam after the win over Halep, she should hopefully be fit and firing for the US Open.
Collins underwent emergency surgery in April for endometriosis but says she now has “full confidence” in her body when she steps on the court. She also appears to be striking the ball with plenty of confidence and has enough power in her game to cause opponents problems.
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The 27-year-old has enjoyed Grand Slam success before, making the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2019 and quarter-finals of the French Open in 2020, but she hasn’t made it past the second round of her home major yet.
Look for that to change if she is firing on all cylinders.
Pablo Carreno Busta
Think back to Carreno Busta at the 2020 US Open and the first thing that springs to mind is that he was on the other side of the net when Novak Djokovic was disqualified for hitting the ball towards a line judge.
But there’s more to his story than that. After getting past Djokovic, the Spaniard battled through a five-setter against Shapovalov to reach the semi-finals in New York for a second time and was two sets to love up against Alexander Zverev before losing in five. It should also not be forgotten that he was giving Djokovic problems before the disqualification and had just broken to give himself a chance to serve for the first set.
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Carreno Busta, who also recently beat a bad-tempered Djokovic to win bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has enjoyed some of his best results on American hard courts, making the semi-finals in Indian Wells and Miami, as well as the quarter-finals in Cincinnati last week. He is also into the quarter-finals of the Winston-Salem Open this week as the top seed.
If he’s on form he will be a dangerous opponent, and probably not one that Djokovic will want to face again.
Sara Sorribes Tormo
World No 43 Sorribes Tormo comes into the US Open in decent form, making the quarter-finals or better at her last four WTA hard-court tournaments.
She won her first tour-level title earlier this season in Guadalajara and made the quarter-finals at the Miami Open and National Bank Open. She also upset world No 1 Ashleigh Barty in the first round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and is into the quarter-finals of the Cleveland Championships this week.
Barty described Sorribes Tormo as a “tough competitor” after losing to her in straight sets, and that is reflected in the nature of many of her wins this year. She has been involved in two of the four longest matches of 2021 and has played four matches this year which have passed the three-hour mark. She could be a tricky floater in the draw in New York.
Hurkacz has made big steps this year, climbing from outside the top 30 to No 13 in the world, winning two titles and making his first Grand Slam semi-final. Can he follow up his run at Wimbledon, which saw him beat Roger Federer in straight sets, with another good showing at the US Open?
So far he is yet to impress in New York, failing to make it past the second round on three previous appearances. However, he has shown some encouraging form on hard courts over the last month; he was two points away from beating eventual champion Daniil Medvedev at the National Bank Open and then fell to Carreno Busta in a tight match at the Western & Southern Open. He will likely not be an opponent that anyone is keen to face at the US Open, where he will be aiming to become the first Polish man to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open era.
Sakkari enjoyed her Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open earlier this year as she made the semi-finals. While her defeat to Barbora Krejcikova was crushing – losing 9-7 in the final set after having a match point – it could prove to be a platform for further major success.
Sakkari said recently that this period of the season is one of her “favourite swings of the year” and she impressed in New York in 2020, making the fourth round and pushing Serena Williams close in a three-set contest. She also made the last 16 of the National Bank Open earlier this month, losing to Victoria Azarenka in a tight match, and has the power to be a hit at the US Open.
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Source: Euro Sports