The 2013 U.S. Open draw won't be released until Thursday, but based on the current ATP rankings, things should get quite interesting.
Although Roger Federer has dropped to No. 7 in the world due to his recent struggles, he is still considered to be among the "Big Four" of men's tennis along with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
A Big Four player has won each of the past 15 grand slams and 33 of the past 34, so it's fair to say that the talented quartet is dominating the sport. The U.S. Open has been known to produce some surprising winners in the past, though, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility that someone will come from nowhere to take the title.
Here are three players in particular who have the skill set necessary to cause a shock and exit Queens, N.Y. with a grand slam championship to their credit.
Juan Martin Del Potro
Only one man has been able to disrupt the "Big Four's" string of dominance since the 2005 French Open, and that is Argentinian star Juan Martin del Potro. The 6'6" power player shocked the tennis world at the 2009 U.S. Open when he easily eliminated Nadal in the semifinals and beat Federer in a thrilling five-setter to take the title.
Del Potro hasn't achieved that same success since due largely to injuries, but he is arguably playing the best tennis of his career right now.
Del Potro is currently sixth in the rankings, which is the highest he has been ranked in quite some time. He has been especially impressive during the U.S. Open Series as he is third behind Nadal and John Isner.
He won the Citi Open title a few weeks ago as he defeated Isner in the final, and he has victories this year over Djokovic and Murray. Del Potro isn't afraid to play the best players on the biggest stages, and that makes him very dangerous in this tournament.
In addition, Del Potro is at his best on hard courts. That was apparent when he ousted Nadal and Federer in 2009, and it remains true today. Del Potro has a big serve on any surface, but he can really blast away on hard courts, which puts his opponents at a significant disadvantage.
He very nearly beat Djokovic to reach the Wimbledon final this year, and while he couldn't close the deal, things may be different in New York.
One player who has never quite reached his immense potential is Isner. Many expected Isner to take the torch from Andy Roddick and become the next great American tennis player, and while Isner has certainly had his moments, he has been unable to translate his ability to grand slam success.
Perhaps that is changing, though, as Isner has been on fire lately as evidenced by his second-place standing in the U.S. Open Series behind only Nadal. Isner has also moved up eight spots in the ATP rankings to No. 14. Not only is that a reflection of his excellent play, but it should help him to a more favorable draw in the U.S. Open.
At 6'10" and 238 lbs., Isner arguably has the best serve in tennis. That will certainly help him on the U.S. Open hard courts. It also gives him a major advantage in tiebreaks, which could play a huge role at Queens. Isner's tiebreak dominance was on full display this past week in Cincinnati as he went on a remarkable run through the Western & Southern Open, according to ESPN's Chris Fowler.
In that tournament alone, Isner beat Richard Gasquet, Milos Raonic, Djokovic and Del Potro, all of whom are ranked 11th or better currently. He also gave Nadal all he could handle in the final as he lost 6-7 (8-10), 6-7 (3-7).
In fact, Isner had a few chances to close out Nadal in the first set, so things could have been very different. Isner has been fantastic of late and he always seems to play better in the United States, so he's definitely someone worth watching in the U.S. Open.
Like Isner, Raonic seems to have all the tools necessary to be one of the best players in the world. While Isner is 28 years old, though, Raonic is still just 22, so he still has plenty of time to fulfill his potential.
Raonic has taken some big steps toward that this summer as the big Canadian reached the top 10 for the first time in his career, and currently sits at No. 11 in the ATP rankings. The next step for him could be a deep run and perhaps even a title at a grand slam event.
Raonic is fourth in the U.S. Open Series ahead of Djokovic, Federer and Murray, and he has some impressive victories to his credit. He upended Del Potro in the Rogers Cup before losing to Nadal in the final a couple weeks ago, and he has racked up some big-match experience in recent weeks as well.
Raonic has never gone further than the fourth round in a major, but he is equipped to do so at the U.S. Open. A big reason for that is his 150-mph serve, according to ESPN The Magazine.
The 6'5" Raonic reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open last year, and there is no reason why he can't improve upon that this year. He still struggles against the very best players in the world, but there is no question that he has the talent necessary to beat them.
He may have to play a perfect match to beat the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Federer, but it isn't an impossibility. Raonic is going to breakout at some point, and the U.S. Open is as good of a tournament as any for it to happen.
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