US Open Tennis 2013: Underdogs with the Best Shot to Win Annual Grand Slam Event
The U.S. Open is often unlike any other Grand Slam event—underdogs rise, and favorites experience early exits. The 2013 tournament has been no exception, as dark-horse contenders have emerged with legitimate opportunities to strike gold.
Which underdogs have the best shot to win the annual Grand Slam event?
Some players have experienced reasonable success at past U.S. Open events but need to break through. In most cases, that requires escaping the rounds they've been unable to escape in recent years.
For others, it comes down to being undervalued on the ATP or WTA Tour. They consistently experience success but fail to garner the recognition of the players ranked ahead of them.
One way or another, the following players have something to prove and may just shock the world.
Richard Gasquet, France
ATP Rank: 9
Opponent: No. 4 David Ferrer
Best U.S. Open Result: Quarterfinals (2013)
Prior to the 2013 U.S. Open, Richard Gasquet had reached the fourth round in 16 separate Grand Slam events but only made it past that point in one appearance, which was Wimbledon 2007. At the 2013 U.S. Open, Gasquet decided to create a better future for himself.
Why stop now?
Gasquet had four fourth-round appearances entering the 2013 U.S. Open but never managed to reach the quarterfinals. In one of the gutsiest performances of the event, Gasquet came back from a set down to defeat No. 10 Milos Raonic 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 7-6 (11-9), 7-5.
It was a long time coming.
Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic bounced in 5 sets by Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who had lost his last 11 4th-round matches at Majors.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) September 3, 2013
Now, Gasquet will face No. 4 David Ferrer with revenge on his mind.
Gasquet lost 5-7, 6-7 (2-7), 4-6 to Ferrer during the fourth round of the 2012 U.S. Open. Unlike what we've seen in years past, however, the Frenchman is in excellent physical and mental shape and no longer breaks at the first sign of defeat—just ask Raonic.
It'll take a mentally strong set of performances, but of the true underdogs on the men's side, Gasquet has the best chance of shocking the world.
Li Na, China
WTA Rank: 6
Opponent: No. 24 Ekaterina Makarova, Russia
Best U.S. Open Result: Quarterfinals (2009, 2013)
When a player is ranked No. 6 in the world and seeded No. 5 at the U.S. Open, it's hard to label her an underdog. When she is slated for a potential meeting with Serena Williams, however, that underdog status makes sense.
Such is life for Li Na.
Na is one of the most underappreciated players on the WTA Tour, and she has experienced consistent success at Grand Slam events. She won the 2011 French Open and owns nine career appearances in the quarterfinals of major tournaments.
She's now making her second career quarterfinals appearance at the U.S. Open.
Na will face No. 24 Ekaterina Makarova, who has put on an absolute show en route to the quarterfinals. She defeated No. 16 Sabine Lisicki in the third round, earning a 6-4, 7-5 victory, and she followed that up by taking down No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska by a count of 6-4, 6-4.
Just don't think that makes Na the next logical opponent to be defeated.
Na has quietly worked her way into the top 10 and doesn't appear close to relinquishing her grip on that position. She took down No. 9 Jelena Jankovic by 6-3, 6-0 and defeated No. 30 Laura Robson by a mark of 6-2, 7-5.
If anyone can take down Williams, it's Na. And that makes her one of the most likely underdogs to win the title.
Flavia Pennetta, Italy
WTA Rank: 83
Opponent: No. 10 Roberta Vinci, Italy
Best U.S. Open Result: Quarterfinals (2008, 2009, 2011, 2013)
Flavia Pennetta has never made it further than the fourth round of the Australian Open, French Open or Wimbledon. Due to injury, she also missed the 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Australian Open, thus dropping to No. 83 in the world.
For the fourth time in her past five appearances, Pennetta is now in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.
Can Flavia Pennetta win the 2013 U.S. Open?
In 2013, Pennetta has reminded the world of her mastery of this event. She in the quarterfinals, and a case could be made that she has traveled the most difficult path of any player remaining.
Thus far, she's defeated No. 4 Sara Errani by a count of 6-3, 6-1, No. 21 Simona Halep 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) and No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1.
Up next for Pennetta is a match against countrywoman Roberta Vinci of Italy. Through eight previous clashes, the two sides are 4-4. No woman has been able to win two consecutive matches against the other.
Unfortunately, Pennetta won their most recent match. But this will be as a case of the fourth time being the charm for one of the best U.S. Open competitors of our generation.
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