The hard-court season is now underway and the U.S. Open is just around the corner. To predict who will succeed at that Grand Slam, one must look at the best players on that surface.
Now the world No. 1 men's player, Novak Djokovic proved to be fairly successful at the event last year, reaching the final. He continued to do well on hard courts, securing his country of Serbia its first Davis Cup title and winning the Australian Open as well.
He is so capable on the hard courts simply because he is a great mover on the fast surface, and the court's texture adds speed and effectiveness to his ground strokes and serve. His defensive abilities are also world-class due to his ability to slide on the courts whereas his opponents usually cannot (Novak actually slides on all surfaces, including grass).
Here are 10 other men that can be major threats on hard courts and especially in Flushing Meadows.
You see all the scratches and marks on the court in that picture? That's what happens to a hard court after the American youngster runs and slides all over it.
One of the fastest risers (in the rankings) and movers in the game, Harrison is able to turn defense into offense exceptionally well. His serve and forehand really pack devastating blows to the opponent, and these skills allow him to approach the net with success.
Look for him to show why he is the next big face of American tennis at this year's final major.
Hopefully he will be recovered from his recent hip surgery by the time the U.S. Open comes around.
With the best serve in the game to compliment his lethal groundstrokes and volleys, there's no telling how far he will go in the draw.
Since we're on a new slide (pun intended) and the subject of sliding on hard courts, check out the defensive abilities of Gael Monfils in that great video analysis. In fact, his hard-court sliding is better than everybody else's clay-court sliding.
But, he isn't always a defensive player; his serve is deadly and he sometimes tees off on the ball out of nowhere for clean winners. These weapons allow him to sneak in to the net as well.
The Frenchman definitely shows flair in his game, but he isn't always trying to pull off the cool trick shot, and maybe he'll go deep at this U.S. Open just like he did last September.
The Top-10 ranked Czech player hasn't had the best year, but he can at least relax now that he has few points to defend for the next couple of months.
He is currently doing fairly well at the Rogers Cup and is already in the quarterfinals.
His big serve, killer forehand and backhand, and net game are all key components to why his best surface is the hard court. As long as he continues to rip the ball and play fearlessly, he will certainly better his result from last year's Open, where he fell to Michael Llodra in straight sets in the first round.
It is certainly unusual that the Scot is so successful on hard courts, given his typically defensive style of play. He does have a very hard and flat first serve, though, and he loves when his opponents give him fast-paced balls, which happens often on the surface.
Murray can play long rallies and run down nearly every ball, but he also hits aggressive shots when the time is right and follows into the net or ends the point with a drop shot when his opponent is waiting far behind the baseline.
With a backhand as powerful and accurate as his, it's no wonder that this guy has reached three Grand Slam finals already, all of which were on hard courts.
Going into detail about this man would be like telling one to learn to tie his or her shoes again. I'm sure you get the point. But just in case you didn't, Roger's attacking game, which encompasses a strong forehand, serve, volleys and wonderful movement and touch, allows him to be most dangerous at the U.S. Open.
The Swede has been out of competition for a while due to various injuries, but the last tournament that Soderling played, which was actually on clay, saw him completely dominate and return to his threatening ways.
He will most likely be competing in New York, and if he keeps bludgeoning the ball on every shot, he may not be stopped.
Delpo hasn't quite returned to the way he was at the U.S. Open just two years ago, but there's always time for the Argentine.
His serve and forehand are among the best in the game, and his power isn't easy to overcome on the hard surface.
This young talent's variety, including a slingshot serve, a high looping and bouncing forehand, and a low-flying backhand slice, are all reasons why he can beat any opponent on the court. The hard courts help his slices to stay low and penetrate through the court much faster.
It is also his favorite surface to play on, so watch out for Dolgo in the draw.
This hard-hitting Frenchman packs a punch from all parts of the court. A two-time winner over Roger Federer this year, his confidence is currently through the roof.
I wouldn't be surprised to even see him win the Rogers Cup, although that is a very tough task. He will be looking for revenge against Novak Djokovic (for their Wimbledon semifinal encounter) if they each win one more match.
With a serve, ground strokes, and volleys like his, it is not easy for other players to be in control of any points. Tsonga seems to be doing better than ever without a coach, too.
Nobody has really been talking about the powerful lefty this year, but he is one of the toughest players to beat, especially because he is getting closer to retirement while playing the best tennis of his life at the same time. This means he can play freely without any big expectations for the future.
He had a very close straight-sets loss to Federer last year at the U.S. Open, but he is truly a one-of-a-kind hard-court player. Melzer's ability to take several balls on the rise allow him to usually control the outcome of a point, and his flat shots can become winners at any moment.
Big-man-and-serving John Isner has been playing great tennis once again and seems to have fully recovered from his insanely lengthy 2010 Wimbledon match against Mahut.
When he has enough time, he can hit clean winners off the forehand wing, and he has gotten very good on his backhand side—he now swings through the ball and has even developed an effective cross-court and low slice.
Oh, and his service games are basically guarantees to be holds every time, so that doesn't hurt, either.
The American made it to the third round at last year's U.S. Open and the fourth round the year prior. This man can do even more big things this year with his big size.