The US Open has been a staging point for some of the greatest matches in tennis history. It has also acted as a litmus test for many of the greatest of all time, a rite of passage if you will. A win at the US Open immediately vaulted the victor to a different rung on the tennis greatness ladder.
A look back at history will demonstrate this to be true. For instance, John McEnroe won his first Grand Slam title at the 1979 US Open and, for him anyway, the rest was history. His win at the 1979 US Open would lead to an incredible career that would include seven Grand Slam titles.
Or how about Pete Sampras. Sampras won his first Grand Slam title at the 1990 US Open. This win would set Sampras down the path towards becoming one of the greatest tennis players ever. Sampras would finish his career with an amazing 14 Grand Slam titles, including five US Open championships and seven Wimbledon victories.
And then you have players like Jimmy Connors or Chris Evert, both of whom built upon their budding legacies by capturing the US Open crown.
Evert's win at the 1975 US Open went wonderfully with her earlier win at the French Open and solidified her status as a tremendous player. Evert would go on to win the US Open six times and would finish her tremendous career with 18 Grand Slam titles.
Connors would add the 1974 US Open to his earlier triumphs in both the French Open and Wimbledon securing his status as the best player in the world in 1974. Connors would finish his tremendous career with eight Grand Slam titles, five of them coming at the US Open.
For others, however, the US Open becomes the functional equivalent of the Lost Ark, something constantly sought, yet never found.
Bjorn Borg is the poster child for this fruitless quest. Borg was one of the greatest players of all time—so long as he was playing on grass or clay. Borg won six French Open championships and five consecutive Wimbledon titles between 1974 and 1981.
Yet for all his success in Europe, Borg could not win at the US Open. Four times he reached the Final and four times he was turned aside. Even in 1976, when the US Open was played on clay, Borg could not prevail as he fell to Jimmy Connors.
Borg's failure to win the US Open at a time where he was at the absolute top of his game is something that has always haunted his legacy.
With the US Open being such a prestigious event—and an event that can make or break a career—many of the favorites in the 2012 tournament must be feeling the pressure. For many, it is a golden opportunity to seize. For others it will be an opportunity wasted.
Which of the favorites need to win the US Open the most?
Lets look at the top 10.
Can Serena capture a fourth title?
Serena Williams stands on the precipice of greatness.
In many ways, she is already a tremendous champion. She is the owner of a career Slam, having won the Australian Open five times, Wimbledon five times, the French Open once and is a three time winner of the US Open.
2012 has been a very good year for Serena as she captured her fifth Wimbledon title and also won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
A win at the US Open would therefore make 2012 more than just a really good year—it would make it magical.
Like Evert and Connors, if Serena Williams wins the 2012 US Open, her legacy will be secured and comparisons to the all-time greats will increase significantly.
Will David Ferrer break through at the 2012 US Open?
Looking for a dark horse to root for in the US Open? Then David Ferrer might just be your man.
Looking for someone deserving to, at long last, break through and finally capture a Grand Slam title, than Ferrer is absolutely your man.
Ferrer has been playing professionally since 2000 yet he has never made it past the semifinals of any Grand Slam event in which he has played.
One of those appearances was at the 2007 US Open where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
But Ferrer has been closing the gap lately. He has been consistently ranked at, in or around the Top 5 since 2008 and is currently ranked No. 5 in the world.
And he does seem to be getting closer to that breakthrough having reached the semifinals of the French Open and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.
To get to the next level, Ferrer needs to win the US Open as badly as any of the other top seeds.
Tsonga is another player seemingly on the edge of breaking through.
Another top ranked player whose career would absolutely blast off if he could win the US Open is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Like Ferrer, Tsonga has been knocking on the door of a Grand Slam title the past couple of years but has not yet been able to break through.
He is currently ranked sixth in the world and entered the US Open as its No. 5 seed.
Similar to Ferrer, Tsonga must win in order for his career to take that elusive next step. Thus far, Tsonga's best performance came at the 2008 Australian Open when he reached the Final.
Beyond that though, he has never gotten beyond the semifinals of Wimbledon and has not been able to advance past the quarterfinals of the US Open.
But Tsonga's recent strong showings at the French Open and Wimbledon suggest that perhaps it is time for Tsonga's career to take the next step.
A win at the 2012 US Open would certainly do that.
Does Del Potro have another championship run in him?
Unlike David Ferrer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin Del Potro knows what it is like to break through.
In 2009, he caught lightning in a bottle when he beat Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the US Open and then pulled off one of the biggest upsets in US Open history by beating the five-time defending champion Roger Federrer and capturing the championship.
Unfortunately for Del Potro, he was unable to capitalize on this breakthrough. In 2010 he had to deal with a wrist injury that pretty much forced him to miss much of the season.
Even after he came back from this injury, Del Potro was not able to establish himself as one of tennis' elite. The best he could muster was a quarterfinal berth at the 2012 Australian Open.
But DelPotro did turn in an inspiring performance at the 2012 Olympic Games where he captured a bronze medal.
If Del Potro wishes to build on this achievement and to firmly establish himself as being worthy of the upper echelon of tennis, then he must win the US Open.
A second title would prove that the first was not just a fluke, and it would do wonders for the Del Potro's career.
An up and down year for Sharapova could end on a great note with a second US Open championship.
It has been an odd year, of sorts, for Maria Sharapova.
She may have reached the apex of her career by capturing the French Open championship earlier in 2012 and, in so doing, completed her career Slam.
In the 2012 Olympic Games, however, Sharapova was held to a silver medal. There is nothing wrong with that. But it was the manner in which she was obliterated by Serena Williams in the Olympic gold-medal match that left many with a bad taste in their mouths.
Williams embarrassed Sharapova with a 0-6, 1-6 victory. Sharapova and Williams had met many times in the past, but Williams had never beaten Sharapova like that.
Thus, Sharapova should feel as though she has something to prove here in the 2012 US Open. To a certain extent, she is right.
A win at the US Open would go a long way towards redeeming Sharapova's status while at the same time rewarding her with a second US Open championship.
Will Agnieszka Radwanska finally capture a Grand Slam title?
As the No. 2 seed in the tournament, if form holds true, then Agnieszka Radwanska should get a shot at the US Open championship.
And she needs exactly that. Radwanska has been on the upswing as of late.
After debuting professionally in 2005, Radwanska would steadily climb up the rankings and try to establish herself as a true contender.
2012 has been a good year for Radwanska as she reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and got to play for the womens' championship at Wimbledon. She fell short on both occasions.
This is why winning the US Open would be such a big deal. It would give Radwanska her first Grand Slam title and if Victoria Azarenka falters along the way, then Radwanska could very well obtain the No. 1 world ranking.
When she reached the Wimbledon final, she became the first Polish player to reach the finals of a Grand Slam event.
To take the next step in her career, she needs to become the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam event.
Is a first major championship finally in the cards for Murray?
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride?
That could be said in regards to Andy Murray's career so far.
Murry had competed in four Finals events between 2008 and 2012, but he always came up short.
But then something awe-inspiring took place: Andy Murray took home the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
To capture the gold, Murray had to beat Roger Federer, a man with whom he has struggled in the past. To truly hammer home the point, Murray took down Federer in straight sets (6-2, 6-1, 6-4) in front of an adoring crowd in London.
So, in many ways, Murray looks poised to finally advance his career and, at long last, win his first Grand Slam title.
With a new-found sense of confidence, the 2012 US Open may indeed be the proving ground for Murray.
He very much needs to be up to the task if he wants to take an important next step.
Victoria Azarenka looks to add to her trophy case with a US Open win.
Victoria Azarenka is the top-ranked female tennis player in the world and the No. 1 seed on the women's side of the bracket.
Unlike Agnieszka Radwanska, Azarenka has won a Grand Slam event previously, having captured the 2012 Australian Open. So why do I think she needs to win the US Open more so than any other woman in the field?
There are a few reasons actually. For one, Azarenka has never gotten past the fourth round of the US Open. Clearly, she is going to want to win this event if, for no other reason, to change that.
Also, Azarenka can't be that happy about her performance at the 2012 Olympic Games where the best she could muster was a bronze medal.
But perhaps the biggest reason is that a win at the US Open, combined with her win at the Australian Open, would cement Azarenka's status as the best female player in the world and would form the foundations for her to possibly dominate the game for years to come.
Azarenka has been playing professionally since 2003 so the time for her to truly establish her legacy is dwindling somewhat.
With the window of opportunity beginning to close, it is almost vital for Azarenka to win the US Open now and not later.
Roger Federer is in search of title No. 6.
For Roger Federer, whether he wins or loses his legacy is safe.
We are, after all, talking about one of the greatest US Open champions ever, a man who won the title five years in a row from 2004-2008.
So why is it so vital that Federer win the 2012 US Open?
Because that is who he is and what he is all about.
As one of the greatest players ever, Federer will never be satisfied just resting on his legacy. As long as he can still play, he will want to be the absolute best. As far as the US Open is concerned, he has not been able to stake that claim since 2008.
In fact, Federer has not played in the US Open final since his stunning loss to Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009. That is something that can't sit well with a living legend like Federer.
After capturing his record seventh Wimbledon title earlier this year, there is little doubt that Federer would like to begin another run of titles at the US Open.
It won't be easy but Federer has all the tools necessary to accomplish this.
To firmly re-establish himself as the best player in the world, it is essential that Federer win the US Open.
Can Djoker repeat as champion?
Novak Djokovic turned in one of the greatest seasons in tennis history in 2011.
After being a third wheel to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for several years, it was Djokovic's turn to shine. And shine he did, capturing the 2011 Australian Open championship, Wimbledon championship and US Open championship.
2012 started off well with Djokovic repeating as Australian Open champion. From there, however, the wheels have come off the rails a bit.
First he was beaten by Nadal in the French Open Final which, of course, is nothing to be ashamed of as Nadal is one of the best ever on clay.
At Wimbledon though, his old rival Federer got the best of him by beating him in four sets in the semifinals.
At the 2012 Olympic Games, Djokovic was beaten handily by eventual gold-medal winner Andy Murray in straight sets. To make matters worse, he was then defeated by Juan Martin Del Potro in the bronze-medal match.
Not so long ago, Djokovic was the most dominant player in the world. Now, he cannot even medal at the Olympics.
This is why I think it is more essential for Djokovic to win the 2012 US Open than any of the others mentioned so far.
If Djokovic wins, it will serve notice to his competitors, and to the world, that the man known as Djoker is still the man to beat.
If he fails, however, then many will start to wonder if it is time to jump off the Djoker bandwagon, which was a pretty crowded place last year.
To maintain his place as the alpha dog of the men's tennis pack, then Novak Djokovic must win the US Open.