At the 2013 U.S. Open, tennis' biggest stars have been on full display.
Serena Williams won her fifth U.S. Open title on Sunday afternoon, beating rival Victoria Azarenka in an epic three-set match. The victory was Williams' 17th career Grand Slam title, moving her closer to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert on the all-time list.
The U.S. Open's official Twitter account chronicled Serena's game-winning point with this post:
There's only one match left on the schedule before the tournament is a distant memory. In the men's singles final, ATP World Tour No. 1 Novak Djokovic will square off with 12-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal on Monday evening.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the rivalry between the two champions is approaching new heights:
Rafael Nadal advances to US Open Final. Will be 6th time Djokovic-Nadal will meet in a Grand Slam Final (tied for 2nd-most all-time)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 7, 2013
While the stars have been out in full force at Flushing Meadows, players not quite yet in that category have put together some strong performances of their own.
We'll look at a few of those performances below, with a mind toward those poised to breakout in future Grand Slam appearances.
The Canadian youngster has still not been past the fourth round at a Grand Slam event, but he showed signs of progress yet again at the 2013 U.S. Open.
He cruised through the first three rounds before facing No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet in the fourth round. Here, the Frenchman took him down in a five-set thriller to move on to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. Open Twitter account used the word "spellbinding" to describe the battle:
As noted by Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline account, Ranoic had the stats and a match point in his pocket but failed to close the door on Gasquet en route to the loss:
Most players have to take their lumps before finally breaking through.
The match against Gasquet should serve as motivation for Raonic moving forward. If he channels his disappointment from Flushing Meadows and continues to improve, there's no reason why he can't be a steady contender at each major moving forward.
After all, he's still only 22.
Pennetta might be 31 years old, but it's never easy to pinpoint when a tennis pro is going to be in the prime of her career.
After years of futility and only a handful of quarterfinal appearances at Grand Slams in her pocket, Pennetta broke through in New York with her first career semifinals appearance in the women's singles bracket.
As this U.S. Open tweet suggests, she showed confidence throughout the tournament up to the point in which Azarenka sent her home in straight sets:
Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim profiled Pennetta before her match with Azarenka, noting how jagged her career has been on all sides. From injuries to personal life drama, the Italian has had an up and down career, to say the least.
In truth, the 2013 U.S. Open could be the pinnacle of her career.
However, after finally breaking through on a national stage, why can't she do it again?
As well as her age, a strong group of challengers aside from Williams and Azarenka remain big obstacles. However, Pennetta has been ranked in the WTA World Tour top 10 before in her career.
She will certainly be a player to watch when 2014 gets underway.
Wawrinka has long had the talent to win major championships.
He took the biggest step toward that conclusion at the 2013 U.S. Open.
The Swiss star had an outstanding tournament, winning matches against two of the top five seeds in the men's draw. On his way to the semifinals—his first such appearance past the quarterfinals in a major—he took down No. 5 Tomas Berdych and No. 3 Andy Murray.
Remember, Murray was the defending champion at the event.
Although he met his match against Djokovic in the semifinals, the outcome could have gone either way. The two men traded blows en route to a five-set thriller, but it was Djokovic who made the necessary adjustments to wear down Wawrinka enough to record the victory.
As noted by ESPN's Andrew Brandt, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium appreciated his effort:
Poignant standing ovation for Wawrinka from crowd. Love that..#usopen2013— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) September 7, 2013
Despite the setback, Wawrinka continues to flirt with contention on the ATP Tour with performances like the ones he strung together in New York. Wawrinka himself noted that the only way to move forward from the loss was to take the positives to heart.
Which player has the best chance to win a Grand Slam in their career?
"It's a strange feeling, but I think I need to take the positive of this loss," Wawrinka told Los Angeles Times reporter Diane Pucin.
Don't be surprised if Wawrinka continues to flourish next year. He has had setbacks and shortcomings as a professional, but appears poised to cement himself as a consistent contender moving forward.
We all know and love watching tennis stars at their best. So, if these three play their cards right, they could soon be mentioned in that same category.
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