US Open 2012: Ranking the Top 11 Americans to Watch
Grand Slams can create pressure like no other, especially if it's a player's home Slam. Just ask Andy Murray, who earlier this summer had all of Great Britain cheering for him to defy a historic drought and a Olympic medal.
Based on the 2012 season, Serena Williams looks to hoist her 15th major at the U.S. Open, and on the men's side, it would be a good tournament to get three or four men into the second week.
Let's look at 11 Americans that hope to shine at their home Slam.
11. Sam Querrey
Sam Querrey is on the mend after suffering an elbow injury for most of last year, including the summer hard court series and the US Open.
With that in mind, Querrey has had a good return to the hard court, winning Los Angeles and reaching the semifinals of Washington, D.C., taking advantage of the wide open field due to the Olympic games.
Once the competition returned, things didn't go as well for Querrey, who bowed out to Novak Djokovic in the round of 16 in Toronto and looked even worse against Andy Murray in Cincinnati. Like his American compatriots Andy Roddick and John Isner, Querrey has a strong serving game, but not much else.
The US Open is probably the best shot Querrey has to reach his first quarterfinals at a major, should his forehand and serve not let him down.
10. Ryan Harrison
Ryan Harrison is one of the more promising American young guns. Though he is still growing on tour and with his attitude, Harrison is most successful in New York, having won his first Grand Slam match in the main draw back in 2010. Harrison portrays similar firepower of a young Andy Roddick, which could propel him into the draw, like it did in the early 2000's for Roddick.
Similar to the young American women, Harrison should excite the outer courts.
9. Christina McHale
Christina McHale, along with Sloane Stephens are the rays of hope for the future of American women's tennis, and are having a great Grand Slam season. Both would like to continue their success on home soil, playing on a surface they grew up on.
McHale has an imposing game, such that she could outplay a counter-puncher, like Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati, and Marion Bartoli at the US Open last year. Though McHale's summer this year has been less successful, with an early loss at Toronto and Cincinnati, look for her to rebound at the Open.
8. Sloane Stephens
America's newest tennis darling, Sloane Stephens will want to compete as well as she did at the French Open this year, reaching the fourth round. Stephens' game is big with explosive backhands and serves that bode well on the hard courts.
With experience from this year and a whole New York crowed behind her, look for Stephens to electrify the outer courts and try to match her best Grand Slam result.
7. John Isner
John Isner has been tricky to figure out this 2012 season. He was one to watch after ousting then world No.1 Novak Djokovic at Palm Springs, and a rare four set win over Roger Federer on red clay and in Federer's own backyard during Davis Cup action. Going into the European clay swing, Isner was poised to get some top notch results, but fell completely flat and discouraged in both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Although his summer has had highs (Newport title, Atlanta semifinals, Olympic quarterfinals), Isner is a big question mark for the US Open.
It doesn't help that he has points to defend (reached his first major quarterfinals last year, bowing out to Andy Murray) but if Isner can find that spark and level he had to beat Djokovic in March, he should easily make the second week and just might push a top seed in the later rounds.
Isner still needs a defining weapon besides his serve to make it to "Super Saturday" and beyond, and along with Mardy Fish, will be the American men's best hope.
6. Mardy Fish
Mardy Fish will be one of the freshest American males on the list simply because he opted out of the Olympics. Same goes for Sam Querrey.
His summer has had highs and lows, reaching the quarterfinals in Toronto and Cincinnati, but injuring himself in Atlanta.
Surprisingly, Fish's best result at the Open was back in 2008, losing in the quarterfinals to Rafael Nadal. Fish has the hard court game, but with his ranking currently slipping into the 20's, he will likely meet a top seed early in the tournament.
Despite his mediocre summer, Fish has made a heroic comeback from his heart complications and surgery earlier this spring and will be a great storyline for the Open.
5. Andy Roddick
Why is Andy Roddick ranked high on this list? Mainly due to his impending retirement and if it could be his last time playing on Arthur Ashe. Seeing this man carry the American men expectations for eight plus years deserves a right farewell, and New York can do that. It would be full circle for Roddick, ending his career where it began.
Although no statements alluding to retirement from Roddick or his camp, there are many telling signs that point to the end for him. First off, Roddick is still fighting off physical problems in his back and shoulder, which was apparent in Cincinnati. He plans to play Winston-Salem this week which is good for the tournament, but could make his injury worse. Secondly, excluding his win over Roger Federer in March, Roddick can't grab wins over the top five players in the world anymore. He was just recently demolished by Novak Djokovic at the Olympics and by Rafael Nadal last year at his home court.
Just before Roddick gets written off, his press conference at Cincinnati last week after a second round defeat was surprisingly very positive. Roddick said he was not down, and believes he can back up his early summer success at the US Open. So, the drive is still there, which is good news for Roddick fans.
Should Roddick depart the US Open like he did at Wimbledon with tears in his eyes, it will be the answer to the retirement question.
4. Venus Williams
Venus William's best results have been on hard court this season, reaching the quarterfinals in Miami and the semifinals in Cincinnati, finding her form just a week before the Open. Like Andy Roddick, Venus is one to watch simply because it's uncertain how much longer she will compete on tour. After being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome at last year's Open, her energy levels vary day to day, making it hard to compete in a two week long event.
This could potentially be her last US Open, however she seems to be handling her autoimmune disease better than earlier in the year. If she could post a second week result, it could be enough to put her retirement on hold.
3. Serena Williams
Although a little sluggish last week in Cincinnati, Serena has been dominant in the last two major events (the Olympics and Wimbledon) and is most likely on track to another US Open title. She hasn't won since 2008, and last year's debacle should fuel enough firepower.
Look at her latest Wimbledon: she came into the tournament needing to prove herself after a first round French Open defeat, and came out with a title.
With Kim Clijsters on the downward slope towards retirement, Serena's biggest enemy will be herself.
1 & 2. Bob and Mike Bryan
In American tennis, 2012 belongs to the Bryan brothers. If they capture the US Open title, they will surpass Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde with 12 Grand Slams, the most Grand Slams of any men's doubles team.
Meanwhile, the dynamic duo is having a dream summer swing, winning in Toronto and capturing their first gold medals in London.
Generally, doubles gets overlooked, but the Bryan brothers are in position to bring home the title and become the most successful doubles team to date.
That deserves our attention.