ATP Citi Open 2013: Young Players Under the Most Pressure to Win
The 2013 ATP Citi Open is in full swing, as some of the fastest-rising stars in the world are taking center stage in Washington, D.C. From players looking to build momentum heading into the U.S. Open to young guns simply hoping to build their profile, there's no shortage of stars.
The question is, which young players are under the most pressure to win?
Every athlete involved in this event is due to face a burden of expectations, as losing simply isn't acceptable in any situation. With that being said, there are players who have approached the level of elite but always seem to come up short, thus needing this victory.
Winning the Citi Open could potentially curse those woes.
From Grand Slam winners who need to get back on their game to players waiting to break through, we have it all. Throw in the fact that certain participants are expected to contend at the 2013 U.S. Open and you have a crop of players under indescribable pressure.
The question is, who needs to win this event the most?
Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina
ATP Ranking: No. 7
Best Grand Slam Finish: W (2009 U.S. Open)
In 2009, Juan Martin del Potro shocked the world by breaking through and winning the U.S. Open. Del Potro made a powerful statement, defeating Roger Federer in the finals to seemingly make the leap to elite at the age of 20.
Since then, it's been a long four years.
The Argentinian star has battled injuries, and that's a major reason why he was eliminated in the fourth round or earlier in five consecutive Grand Slam events. With that being said, del Potro has made it to the quarterfinals or better in four of his past six Grand Slam appearances.
That includes a semifinals berth at the 2013 Wimbledon and a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
With the U.S. Open looming, however, the pressure continues to mount on del Potro to win a second Grand Slam event. The ability is unquestioned, but he needs to maintain good health and win another title to join the ranks of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Defeating lesser competition at the Citi Open is a great way to start, while facing defeat would be nothing less than offsetting.
Kei Nishikori, Japan
ATP Ranking: No. 11
Best Grand Slam Finish: QF (2012 Australian Open)
Slowly but surely, 23-year-old phenom Kei Nishikori of Japan has worked his way to an ATP ranking of No. 11. So close to cracking the top 10, the pressure has now mounted on Nishikori to prove that he's not just another flash in the pan.
Dominating tournaments like this are what the best in the world do to set up success in Grand Slam events, so it's time Nishikori does the same.
Nishikori has been successful in the past, reaching the quarterfinals of the 2012 Australian Open. Since then, he's reached the third round in every Grand Slam he's played in and made it to the fourth round in two of his past three.
The dream of reaching the quarterfinals simply hasn't come to fruition—not yet, at least.
The road to the Citi Open title won't be easy, as Nishikori plays Jack Sock in his upcoming match. Should he manage to go deep into this tournament, potentially setting up a clash with del Potro, the odds of Nishikori finding success at the U.S. Open increase significantly.
The question is, can he break through here and create the momentum necessary to take his game to the next level in New York?
Since Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003, no American man has been able to win a Grand Slam event. If not for Roger Federer, Roddick likely would have won at least one other title—three finals appearances at Wimbledon support that claim—but it was not to be.
So who's the next in line?
John Isner and Sam Querrey have heard the hype for years but have yet to break through at a Grand Slam event. Mardy Fish was expected to join Roddick as an American star, but at 31, that window may be closed.
Sock, 20, and Ryan Harrison, 21, are promising young players, but they've yet to perform at an elite level.
With the U.S. Open right around the corner, the home crowd expects an American player to at least reach the quarterfinals. With the current crop of athletes, however, the U.S. may not have the manpower necessary to make that dream a reality.
Isner, a quarterfinalist at the 2011 U.S. Open and fresh off of winning the Atlanta Open, may be the best bet, but at this point, it's unclear if we should put our money on any American male.
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