There are three stars who are heading into this year's U.S. Open with everything to prove.
No pressure, though.
There are established veterans—one of whom has made a resounding resurgence over the last couple of months, the other of whom is becoming desperate to prove he can be better than second-best. There's a rising star who's never won a Grand Slam, but is looking to sustain his momentum after earning a gold medal for Great Britain at the Olympics earlier this month.
Here's a look at the stakes for the top three contenders at the final Grand Slam of 2012.
Roger Federer (No. 1)
After seizing the world's top ranking with his seventh Wimbledon title last month, Federer earned the top seed at this year's U.S. Open. And, he hasn't really missed a beat since defeating Andy Murray for his most recent Grand Slam victory.
In London this summer, Federer advanced to the gold-medal match but—in a bit of a shocker—fell to Murray 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. He had to settle for the silver medal, which he didn't appear to mind—he bounced right back with a resounding win over Novak Djokovic in the Cincinnati Open this week.
Though, it's important to remember that the Wimbledon win was Federer's first major victory in more than two years, according to the Los Angeles Times. It would be no surprise, at all, if Federer came out on top once again. Lately, he's certainly been playing well enough to suggest he has another Grand Slam win up his sleeve—and he did win five straight U.S. Open titles from 2004 to 2008.
Novak Djokovic (No. 2)
There is nobody who is under more pressure to win the final major of 2012 than Djokovic. After winning at Wimbledon in 2011, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open all in succession, Djokovic finished as the runner-up in this year's French Open, then bowed out in the semifinals against Federer at the All England Club in July.
The Olympics don't really count, but in London, Djokovic fell to Andy Murray, who went on to take home the gold. Now, he has one more opportunity to get himself back on track, and to do so, he will have to face those who have stood in his way over the last two months.
And if Djokovic fails to defend his U.S. Open title, you can bet that he'll be facing more pressure than ever in the aftermath.
Andy Murray (No. 3)
He's never won a Grand Slam, but this could be the year that changes. Murray has certainly proven himself on tennis' biggest stages over the last couple of months, advancing to the Wimbledon final in July before beating Djokovic and Federer in succession to take the gold medal in London earlier this month.
The Olympics may not count for much, but the competition does, and Murray proved—maybe for the first time—that he can hold his own.
And though many are reluctant to buy into the Murray hype, don't count Mats Wilander and Goran Ivanisevic among them. According to The Australian, they think this is Murray's time to shine. Finally.