10 Players with the Most to Prove at the 2014 US Open

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2014

10 Players with the Most to Prove at the 2014 US Open

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The U.S. Open brings with it a field of players who have a lot to prove. 

    That list even includes 17-time Grand Slam winners Serena Williams and Roger Federer, but it also includes players who received an easy pass into the third round (David Ferrer), players who had a rough road to the fourth round (Sara Errani) or a guy who's more known for his height and serve than his overall game (John Isner).

    The blue hard courts at Flushing Meadows, whether in the sun or under the lights, are the proving ground for the grizzled veteran, the journeyman or the upstart. 

    Read on to see what these 10 players need to show us in the remaining rounds of the U.S. Open.

Petra Kvitova

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    Petra Kvitova needs to prove that she can shake the post-Wimbledon hangover.

    When she won Wimbledon in 2011, she followed that up by losing in the first round of the U.S. Open. So far this year she’s proven to be every bit as dominant as she was at the All England Club.

    Kvitova appears set for a tilt with a hungry Williams. She’s 0-5 against Williams, but this year looks like a different Kvitova.

    She told the Wall Street Journal, "I'm really motivate to do well here," she said. "I remember 2011 when I lost my first round after winning Wimbledon, so I'm just glad that I'm better already."

John Isner

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    John Isner needs to prove he’s more than just a pretty serve. In 25 previous Grand Slam matches Isner has not reached farther than the quarterfinals. That appearance was in the 2011 U.S. Open.

    Isner has reached the third round in the U.S. Open for the sixth straight year with his 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2 win over Jan Lennard Struff. In this tournament, he has yet to drop a set in two matches and has 56 aces with just one double fault.

    He is the best American man playing these days and as the No. 13 seed, he needs to assert himself as a threat to move into Week 2.

    Isner faces Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round, the German who has ousted Isner the past two years from the U.S. Open.

    Isner told ESPN.com:

    I wouldn't really call it a problem. I have beaten him more times than he's beaten me overall. But he's beaten me here. I remember last year, I wasn't disappointed with how I played. He just played better than me. Simple as that. In a few days' time, I'm just going to have to try to be better than him.

Sara Errani

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Sara Errani made very few friends when she defeated the fan favorite Venus Williams in the third round. Errani gestured to the crowd like she was Hulk Hogan.

    Errani, at this point, needs to prove she can advance deep in a hard-court tournament. Until now, Errani never reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open. Her only quarterfinal appearance on the hard court was in the 2012 Australian Open.

    This Italian has proven only to be superior, relatively speaking, on clay. Now is her chance to reach the quarters when she faces unseeded Mirgana Lucic-Baroni, who defeated No. 2 Simona Halep in straight sets.

David Ferrer

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    David Ferrer has had a decent run through the Grand Slams in 2014. He reached the quarters in the Australian and the French Opens, respectively.

    At the U.S. Open, he received a free pass into the third round when his second-round opponent withdrew with an injury.

    The resulting walkover punched Ferrer’s ticket to the third round with zero physical effort. That brings him one match closer to a possible tilt with Roger Federer.

    In order for Ferrer to prove he can win a Grand Slam, he needs to prove he can beat Federer, which he has never done in 16 tries. That’s if Ferrer and Federer reach the semis.

    Either way, Ferrer got off easy in the second round. Now it’s up to him to keep driving deep in the Grand Slams to nab that elusive win.

Serena Williams

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    On paper it wouldn’t seem as though Serena Williams has a whole lot to prove. She could tell you 17 reasons why she no longer has anything to prove.

    Williams has five singles titles this year, but for a player like Williams, the only ones that truly matter are the Grand Slams and that’s where she has faltered in 2014.

    Williams is 0-of-3 in her attempt to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 Grand Slams. Serena’s run through the Grand Slams has brought her nothing but frustration. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second round at the French Open and the third round at Wimbledon.

    What Williams needs to prove is that she can put the previous three behind her and earn No. 18.

Sam Querrey

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    It’s impressive that Sam Querrey has made it this far, both for himself and for American men’s tennis. But Querrey needs to prove he can hang with the world’s best and he’s getting his chance as he will face the buzz saw that is the No. 1 player in the world—Novak Djokovic.

    It has been quite a while since Querrey reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open and in order to do so he needs to prove he can beat Djokovic. He’s done it before.

    Querrey defeated Djokovic in 2012 on the hard court in Paris an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. So it has been done, albeit just once in seven tries.

    He said in the Washington Post, “I’ve got some confidence right now. I had momentum after last week, you know, putting together four wins. I’m just committing to hitting the forehand big and serving well, and it seems to be working."

Jelena Jankovic

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Jelena Jankovic, it seems, has been around forever and has yet to win a Grand Slam. She has reached just one Grand Slam final: the 2008 U.S. Open where she lost to Serena Williams.

    Out of all the Grand Slams, Jankovic performs best at the U.S. Open, so this needs to be her proving ground. If she can’t win this tournament, she’ll likely never win a Slam (though she does have a mixed doubles title at Wimbledon). And the way Jankovic dismantled Johanna Larsson in the third round, Jankovic could position herself for a deep move in this tournament.

    She said in The Guardian, “I have been a professional for 13, 14 years,” she said. “It’s not easy, hitting balls every day and staying really motivated throughout the whole period. It’s normal, you’re going to have ups and downs, but I found my way again and I love the sport. I love competing. I love battling.”

Nick Kyrgios

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Nineteen years old and playing in just his fifth Grand Slam, Nick Kyrgios has plenty of time to prove himself. So what does he have to prove at Flushing Meadows?

    As a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon, Kyrgios needs to prove it wasn’t a fluke. And the way he’s playing so far, it appears he’s on the rise.

    He blasted 48 aces through his first two matches, but he had a number of double faults (11). On top of that, he has a tendency to play long sets. Kyrgios has played 81 games through just two matches.

    Still, the Aussie has won his matches and dropped only one set. He needs to get into the second week again to validate his performance in England.

    Kyrgios said in The Guardian, “It’s always a good feeling to win another match at a grand slam, especially new ground for me. I’ve never made it past the first round at the US Open main draw. To have gone to the third round, having beaten some quality opponents, feels good.”

Caroline Wozniacki

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Caroline Wozniacki is a former world No. 1 and a player who has had plenty of success at Flushing Meadows, though it has been a while.

    In 2009 she was the U.S. Open runner-up and she followed that with two losses in the semifinals in 2010 and 2011. Since then she’s lost in the first round and the third round.

    Wozniacki needs to prove she can contend again in the Grand Slams. This year has been uninspiring for her. She lost in the third round, first round and fourth round in the previous three Grand Slams and hasn’t reached the quarterfinals in any since the 2012 Aussie.

    She could also use a reprieve from being Rory McIlroy’s ex-fiancee.

    Wozniacki told USA Today's For The Win, “I don’t want to have my name stuck with him forever. I’m my own person. I have my own career. The years we had together were great, and unfortunately, things had to end like they did.”

Roger Federer

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Just like Williams, what on earth does a man with 17 Grand Slams—the most in the history of men's professional tennis—have to prove at the U.S. Open? This also being a tournament he has won five times.

    He needs to prove he still has Grand Slam wins left in his 33-year-old body.

    Federer has a relatively easy road to the final, even after he disposed of the powerful serving Sam Groth, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round.

    The withdrawal of his Lex Luther, Rafa Nadal, bumped Federer to the two-seed from the three. That translates into a matchup with Novak Djokovic in the final versus the semifinal (assuming things shake out as planned but don't tell that to the women's draw).

    Looking at Federer’s run of dominance, he won 15 of his 17 Grand Slams before 2010. In the last four years of play, he has only won two while reaching just four finals in that stretch.

    Fans of Federer—or those who like to watch historically great players—would like to see him win No. 18. Maybe he and Williams can snag that 18th win on the same weekend.

    The Guardian's Kevin Mitchell wrote:

    I would contend, though, that Federer and Williams have timing—if not time—on their side this fortnight. For the first time in many years, there is genuine doubt about the winner, especially in the men’s tournament. Crucially, for Federer, who is playing as well as he has done in years, Nadal is missing. Had he been here and fit, I would have made the Spaniard a slight favourite to retain his title, because I’m not altogether convinced that Novak Djokovic is at full throttle.