Sure, you can pick Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal to win the 2013 U.S. Open, but where's the fun in that?
Considering both Murray and Djokovic are coming off upset losses at the Cincinnati Masters and Nadal was ousted in the first round at Wimbledon, it's safe to say that the world's top three places aren't quite as locked in as tournament champions in New York this year.
If you include Federer, who has slipped a bit recently but is still one of the four biggest stars in the sport, one of those four players has won every major since Juan Martin del Potro won the 2009 U.S. Open.
If this is the tournament that breaks that impressive streak, these are the most likely candidates to break through on the big stage.
At 22 years of age, Milos Raonic has at least one thing going for him—his age.
With three years of Slam experience under his belt, he's at the perfect age where he's experienced enough to make a run but not familiar enough with failure to know he's supposed to lose.
The 6'5" Canadian put together his best run at the tournament yet in 2012 when he made it to the Round of 16 in New York. He was ousted by eventual champion Andy Murray in straight sets, but showed that he is on his way to breaking through at a Slam.
After making it all the way to the finals against Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup and losing to eventual finalist John Isner at the Cincinnati Masters, this could be Raonic's time to make a surprise run. After seeing fellow 22-year-old Jerzy Janowicz make it to the semifinals at Wimbledon, Raonic could be the next of the new-wave players to threaten the old guard.
It's a little difficult to tab someone who is ranked No. 5 in the world as an "under-the-radar" contender, but Berdych still fits the bill. With all of the attention on Rafael Nadal's dominance of late, it's easy to see why Berdych's run at the Cincinnati Masters is being overlooked.
Berdych proved that he can hang with the best players in the world on the hard court by stunning No. 2 Andy Murray in Cincinnati. Now he'll have that momentum heading into New York.
The U.S. Open hasn't been his best Slam historically, but he did turn in his best career performance there last year when he made the semifinals. With two wins over Murray, a win over Federer and Djokovic this season, he's taken down three of the big four.
Don't be surprised if Berdych is a surprise finalist by the time we reach that final week in September.
The 22-year-old Janowicz made himself known as a competitor at Slam events with his unexpected run to the semifinals at Wimbledon. Now it's time for him to prove that he's going to be a consistent threat.
Struggles at the Cincinnati Open and Rogers Cup are sure to have Janowicz flying well under the radar, but he's still a sneaky candidate to break through yet again. He was coming off of a first-round exit in Halle, Germany in his final tournament before Wimbledon and was able to turn things around.
Janowicz's big serve game is perfect for the hard court and he's been to at least the third round in each of the Slams this year.
If the fiery Polish star can get his game together mentally in time for the bright lights of New York, he could prove that his Wimbledon experience was a sign of bigger things to come.
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