Three different men and three different women have won singles titles in the year's first three Grand Slam events, leaving a range of top contenders for the 2013 U.S. Open.
The Big Four of men's tennis seems to have been reduced to the Big Three, any of whom could win the U.S. Open, while two players are considered the favorites to claim the women's title.
The withdrawal of Maria Sharapova changes the women's outlook, but only slightly.
If you are looking for long shots, consider Jerzy Janowicz, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov or Kevin Anderson among the men and Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki, Laura Robson, Venus Williams or Madison Keys among the women.
The prime contenders reside in a group of seven men and seven women. We will count down to the male and female players most likely to win the U.S. Open singles titles, with each player accompanied by his or her odds of winning the tournament and a prediction.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 30-to-1
Although Sara Errani is the No. 5-ranked player in the world and the No. 4 seed at the U.S. Open, she does not appear to be a contender.
Errani is primarily a clay-court player, and she has not done anything in the hard-court events leading up to the U.S. Open to suggest she will challenge. She failed to get past the quarterfinals in her two tuneups at Cincinnati and Toronto.
The one encouraging sign is that she got to the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open. But she did not beat any of this year's contenders to do it.
She lost in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open this year and in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open.
Predictions: Errani's semifinal berth in last year's U.S. Open looks like the aberration. She is unlikely to win more than a few rounds this year, and is likely to be the first significant upset victim.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 25-1
David Ferrer has little chance of winning a Grand Slam title on any surface other than clay. But the fact remains that he is ranked No. 4 in the world and has reached at least the quarterfinals of seven consecutive Grand Slam events.
At age 31, Ferrer is still improving, especially on hard courts, getting to the semifinals of the 2012 U.S. Open and the 2013 Australian Open.
However, his recent results are not encouraging. He played just three matches in his two hard-court events since Wimbledon and lost two of them, to No. 44-ranked Dmitry Tursunov and No. 83-ranked Alex Bogomolov Jr.
Predictions: Ferrer's sheer relentlessness should earn him a couple wins at the U.S. Open, and his experience could help him get as far as the quarterfinals. However, his recent struggles suggest he's more likely to lose in the third or fourth round.
Ferrer simply does not have the weapons to beat a top player on a fast court.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 20-1
John Isner opened some eyes and got his name on this list by beating Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro before losing to Rafael Nadal in two tiebreak sets in the finals in Cincinnati in his most recent hard-court tournament.
Isner reached the finals of three of his four hard-court tournaments since Wimbledon and won one of them. The 6'10", 28-year-old Isner is playing the best tennis of his life at the moment.
However, his record in Grand Slam events is not impressive. He has reached the quarterfinals of a major only once, and he lost that lone quarterfinal match in the 2011 U.S. Open.
His huge serve keeps him in matches, and he has played 46 tiebreakers this year, by far the most of any male player on the tour. He has won 32 of those tiebreakers, twice as many as anyone else in 2013, so he is dangerous in tight matches.
Predictions: Isner's slam-bang, erratic style is a double-edged sword. It prevents opponents from getting into a rhythm, so they seldom play their best. But his inconsistency makes it difficult for him to roll through a series of top-notch players in a major event.
Isner could pull off a major upset, perhaps winning three tiebreaker sets against a higher seed, but he makes too many errors to get past the quarterfinals.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 20-1
Li Na is ranked No. 6 in the world and has done fairly well in her two hard-court tuneup events. She got to the semifinals at both Toronto and Cincinnati, losing to Serena Williams 7-5, 7-5 in her most recent hard-court match.
However, she has never fared well at the U.S. Open, losing in the first round two of the past three years and never getting past the quarterfinals.
Her problems at the U.S. Open are perplexing, because she has reached the finals of the other hard-court major, the Australian Open, two of the past three years. Li beat No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and then-No. 2 Maria Sharapova in this year's Australian Open before losing to Victoria Azarenka in three sets in the finals.
Her overall results this year have not been as impressive since, however.
Predictions: Li's troubles at the U.S. Open are difficult to explain, especially since her game seems suited to hard courts. But at age 31, she has no reason to have confidence at the U.S. Open.
She has lost her last four hard-court matches to Azarenka, her last three to Maria Sharapova and her last six to Williams.
Li will do well to get to the quarterfinals.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 20-1
No. 4-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska doesn't lose many matches she's supposed to win but doesn't win many she's expected to lose.
She opened the year by winning two hard-court tournaments, and she played well in the three hard-court tournaments since Wimbledon. She had to withdraw from a quarterfinal match in Cincinnati to attend her grandfather's funeral. The surface at the U.S. Open should suit her.
But Radwanska has lost her last eight matches against top-five players dating back to March 2012.
She has reached at least the quarterfinals in five of her last seven Grand Slam events, which demonstrates consistency and improvement. But she has never won a Grand Slam event and got to the finals of only one. She has never gone past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event on hard courts and has not advanced further than the fourth round of the U.S. Open.
Predictions: Radwanska is playing well enough on hard courts to get to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. If things break favorably, she could get to the semifinals for the first time.
But she is a combined 0-13 against Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka since the start of 2012, and until she figures out how to beat one of them occasionally, the semifinal is her limit.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 15-1
Roger Federer has dropped to No. 7 in the rankings and is barely considered a contender in Grand Slam events anymore.
He has reached the finals of just two of the past 14 Grand Slam events, and none this year. His strategy of cutting back his schedule to focus on the majors has not worked out as planned.
It's been four years since he reached the finals of the U.S. Open and five years since he won the last of his five-straight U.S. Open titles.
Federer performed well in his only hard-court tuneup event, taking a set off Rafael Nadal before losing in the quarterfinals at Cincinnati. But he has reached the finals of only two of his 12 tournaments this year, and his only victory over a top-10 player in 2013 came in the Australian Open in January.
Predictions: At age 32, Federer still has the all-court skill to give anybody a challenge at major events on hard courts. But he no longer intimidates anyone.
He has played just three hard-court matches in preparation for the U.S. Open, an unusually low number for him. Furthermore, with his low seeding, Federer probably would have to beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic in the finals to win the U.S. Open. That doesn't seem possible anymore.
If Federer makes it to the quarterfinals, it will represent a good showing.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 15-1
Sloane Stephens is ranked only No. 17 and has never reached the finals of a Grand Slam event. Plus she didn't get as far as the quarterfinals in any of the three hard-court turneup events for the U.S. Open.
Despite all that, there are hints that the 20-year-old Stephens may be ready to emerge at the U.S. Open.
She seems to play her best in big events. She got to the semifinals of the Australian Open, the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the round of 16 at the French Open.
Stephens has hard-court wins this year over No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 3 Maria Sharapova, the latter coming in Cincinnati in her final U.S. Open tuneup.
Finally, Stephens is 10-0 in her last 10 three-set matches, an indication of tournament toughness.
Predictions: Stephens is probably not ready to capture a Grand Slam title, but that day is coming. She is not yet capable of overwhelming weaker opponents as Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka can. Stephens still has to battle to get past rank-and-file opponents. That could take its toll in the later rounds.
But Stephens is improving steadily, and her toughness in big matches makes her a challenge for anyone.
We expect Stephens to pull off at least one significant upset and reach the semifinals.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 15-1
Samantha Stosur is ranked No. 13, but she has an impressive record at the U.S. Open. She won the event two years ago, beating Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3 in the finals. Stosur was a U.S. Open quarterfinalist in 2010 and 2012, losing to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in three sets in 2010 and to finalist Victoria Azarenka in three sets last year.
The fact that she recently split with long-time coach David Taylor, according to FoxNews.com, is not a good sign just before the U.S. Open.
She has played fairly well in her four hard-court tournaments since Wimbledon, getting to the finals at Carlsbad.
Predictions: The 29-year-old Stosur obviously feels comfortable at the U.S. Open. That and her experience cannot be ignored. Her results leading up to this U.S. Open are not much different from what they were in 2011, when she won it.
She can probably beat anyone in the tournament other than Williams and Victoria Azarenka, and her tournament will end when she meets one of them. She would play Azarenka in the quarterfinals, so that is as far as she will go.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 10-1
Juan Martin del Potro has made the long, arduous climb in the rankings back to No. 6, which was his ranking when he won the 2009 U.S. Open.
Four years ago, del Potro provided hints of his emergence when he reached the finals of the two hard-court events leading up to the U.S. Open. He beat Rafael Nadal once and Andy Roddick twice in those tuneup tournaments, then knocked off Nadal and Roger Federer to win his only Grand Slam title.
His performance in his three hard-court tournaments this summer have not been as impressive as his 2009 lead-up to the U.S. Open. But he did win the Washington, D.C. event.
Wrist surgery in 2010 sent his ranking spiraling down below 400, but, at age 24, he is nearly back to his pre-injury form.
He got to the semifinals at Wimbledon this year before losing to Novak Djokovic in five sets, and his ranking is at its highest point since the operation.
Predictions: Del Potro knows he can win at the U.S. Open, and his confidence is rising. His semifinal berth at Wimbledon was his best showing at a major since winning the U.S. Open in 2009.
Thanks to his hard, flat groundstrokes, hard courts are his best surface.
If anyone can break into the current monopoly that Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have at the top, it's del Potro.
A berth in the finals is within his reach, but he had the misfortune of being placed in Djokovic's quarter. Del Porto has a chance to beat Djokovic, but we predict he won't.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 5-1
Andy Murray has reached the finals of the last four Grand Slam events he's played and won two of them. He got at least to the semifinals in nine of his past 10 majors, and his steady improvement in the Grand Slam events suggests further greatness awaits him.
As well as he played at Wimbledon, Murray's all-court game is probably best suited to hard courts. Five of his seven berths in Grand Slam finals have been in hard-court events, and he's the defending U.S. Open champ.
However, his milestone triumph in Wimbledon and the attention it brought in Great Britain could have produced an emotional letdown. Murray lost to Tomas Berdych and Ernests Gulbis in his two hard-court tuneup events, and he failed to get past the quarterfinals in either.
Murray slipped to No. 3 in the rankings as a result.
Predictions: Murray's drop from No. 2 to No. 3 in the rankings may not seem like a major issue, but it's the reason we are not picking him to win the U.S. Open. Because he is seeded No. 3 instead of No. 2, he faces the possibility of having to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in consecutive matches to win the tournament. Although both matches would be virtual tossups, having to win both presents a significant physical and mental challenge.
Murray certainly is capable of winning the U.S. Open. But his seeding, his recent hard-court results and the possible letdown following Wimbledon make it unlikely.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 4-1
No. 2-ranked Victoria Azarenka has proven she can beat No. 1-ranked Serena Williams on hard courts. She is 2-0 against Williams on that surface this year, including a three-set victory over Williams in Cincinnati, their final tournament before the U.S. Open.
Azarenka reached the finals of the past two Grand Slam events on hard courts: a victory in the 2013 Australian Open and a taut 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 loss to Williams in the 2012 U.S. Open finals.
She has lost only four matches on the court this year (losing three others in walkovers), and has lost only one match on hard courts.
Her results in Grand Slam events have improved in recent years. She has reached the semifinals in five of her past six Grand Slam events, not including Wimbledon, where she had to withdraw because of injury. At age 24, she should be approaching her peak.
Predictions: Azarenka has a few aches and pains, and her withdrawal from three 2013 events because of injury is a concern. But with Azarenka coming off a victory over Williams in the finals at Cincinnati and the upward trend of her career, we expect her to reach the finals of the U.S. Open.
If anyone other than Williams awaits Azarenka in the finals, Azarenka should claim her third Grand Slam title. However, we expect Williams to reach the finals, and Azarenka's 0-7 record against Williams in Grand Slam events suggests she will fall just short again.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 4-1
Novak Djokovic did not win any of his past six tournaments, and he got to the finals of only one (Wimbledon). Plus he lost to Rafael Nadal and John Isner in the semifinals and quarterfinals of his two hard-court tuneup events.
Djokovic may not be at the top of his game, but he is still No. 1 in the world by a comfortable margin, and his success in Grand Slam events makes him a threat at the U.S. Open.
He has reached at least the semifinals of 13-straight Grand Slam events and won five of them.
His third-straight Australian Open title in January as well as his berth in the finals of the past three U.S. Opens demonstrates his proficiency on hard courts.
Predictions: At this point, only two players seem capable of beating Djokovic in a major tournament: Andy Murray and Nadal. Before the loss in Cincinnati, Djokovic was 4-0 against Nadal on hard courts since the start of 2011, and Djokovic has won his last three hard-court matches against Murray.
Djokovic's road to the U.S. Open title was made more difficult when Murray was placed in his half of the draw. That means he may have to beat Murray and Nadal in successive matches to win the tournament.
Even though he's not as sharp as he was several months ago, Djokovic will find a way to get to the U.S. Open finals. He won't win it, though.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 3-1
Rafael Nadal's inexplicable loss to Steve Darcis at Wimbledon has been dismissed as an aberration after his strong hard-court season heading into the U.S. Open.
He won both his hard-court tuneup tournaments, beating Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych along the way. His victory over Djokovic in Cincinnati ended a four-match losing streak against Djokovic on hard courts.
More significant than Nadal's 16-0 record on hard courts this year, though, is the fact that his knee seems fine.
Nadal is not quite as good on hard courts as he is on clay. However, he's reached the finals of three of the past four Grand Slam events on hard courts, winning the U.S. Open in 2011. He missed the past two hard-court majors (2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Australian Open) while recovering from his knee injury.
Nadal probably will own the No. 1 ranking at year's end if he continues to play at his current level. He has lost only two matches since early April, one to Darcis and the other to Djokovic. He is 12-1 against players ranked in the top eight this year but has not faced Andy Murray in 2013.
Predictions: If his knee holds up, and that continues be a big "'if" in two weeks of best-of-five matches, Nadal is the pick to win the U.S. Open. That prediction is based in large part on Nadal's favorable draw. Because Murray is in the other half of the draw from Nadal, Nadal will need to beat only Murray or Djokovic, but not both, to win the tournament.
We predict Nadal will claim his 13th major title at the U.S. Open, leaving him within reach of Federer's record of 17.
Odds to Win the Tournament: 2-1
No. 1-ranked Serena Williams has lost only two matches since February, and she has won three of the past five Grand Slam events.
Nine of her 16 Grand Slam titles have come on hard courts, including her victory in last year's U.S. Open.
However, four of her five losses this year have come on hard courts, and she is 0-2 against Victoria Azarenka on that surface in 2013.
She lost her most recent match, falling 7-6 in the third set to Azarenka in the finals at Cincinnati on hard courts. Williams' abdominal problems, as noted by USA Today, may have had something to do with that.
Williams turns 32 on Sept. 26, but there is no evidence of a decline. A bigger concern is her health and that stomach tightness.
Predictions: Williams' surprising loss at Wimbledon should make her hungrier at the U.S. Open. Despite the four hard-court losses this year, Williams' game is best suited to that surface.
Her success in New York depends on whether the abdominal problems that limited her serving velocity in Cincinnati have dissipated sufficiently.
If she is healthy, Williams should overpower the field and win her fifth U.S. Open title. We project Williams to face Azarenka in the finals, and in such a big match, we expect Williams to prevail. Williams is 7-0 against Azarenka in Grand Slam events, with five of those matches being played on hard courts.