US Open Tennis 2011: Top Players Poised to Win Their First Grand Slam

Rohan SubraSenior Analyst ISeptember 1, 2011

US Open Tennis 2011: Top Players Poised to Win Their First Grand Slam

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    The US Open has begun.

    The much-awaited last slam of the year is in progress, with Rafael Nadal and Kim Clijsters each looking to defend their titles at Flushing Meadows.

    Novak Djokovic is trying to win his fourth grand slam title overall—his first US Open—as Serena Williams hopes to make a huge comeback after her injury that kept her out of action for a very long time.

    Those four, however, are all people with grand slams already under their belt.

    Here are some players looking for their first one in New York.

Marion Bartoli

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    Ever since talented Marion Bartoli broke onto the WTA scene, everyone knew that she could really go far.

    With a powerful game that includes an unorthodox two-handed forehand, she is able to hit the ball through opponents on her way to success. Bartoli is often compared to Monica Seles, and though Seles was left-handed, you can see many likenesses in their styles.

    Bartoli, from France, has never gotten past the fourth round of the US Open, though she did advance to the 2007 Wimbledon final, the 2011 French Open semifinals, and the 2009 Australian Open quarterfinals.

    She has won six singles titles in the WTA and six others in the ITF. Though she is a great doubles player, and has gotten to the semifinals of the 2003 US Open doubles, she has found that her best play lies in her singles game.

    Watch for Marion Bartoli as a dark-horse contender.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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    On his game, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is capable of beating almost every single player on the men's side. With his absurdly hard groundstrokes, he can he it by an opponent, needing only one powerful stroke to hit a winner.

    However, his problem in tournaments is that he often falls apart for no apparent reason, which is essentially self-destruction.

    Tsonga's best result in a grand slam was in the 2008 Australian Open, as he beat Rafael Nadal in the semis and played Novak Djokovic in the finals. Despite the fact that he lost, he considered his run as a success and will probably remember it for the rest of his life.

    Though Tsonga's best run in the US Open came to a halt in the fourth round, he has proven quite deadly on hard court of late and looks in great form to be able to upset a top player such as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

    This is one man who can sneak his way to the late stages of a slam.

Jelena Jankovic

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    Jelena Jankovic is a counterpuncher. As a very consistent hitter, she likes to wear her opponent down by refusing to miss.

    This strategy has found much success on clay, but we soon learned that Jankovic's game could be adapted to other surfaces, too.

    She has done extremely well at three out of four slams; at Wimbledon her best result is the fourth round. At the Australian Open and the French Open, she has advanced to the semifinals once and thrice, respectively.

    Her best result, however, was at the 2008 US Open, where she made a magical run to the final, only to lose to Serena Williams, who was playing the tennis of her life.

    The Serb has won 12 WTA titles, a very impressive stat, but is nonetheless ranked only 12th in the world.

    Jankovic will look to improve on the 2008 US Open performance.

Mardy Fish

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    Before this year, Mardy Fish was always a third- or fourth-tier player, not a contender for slams, and not able to compete with big players.

    This year, however, at age 29, the American has made a drastic improvement, and his ranking has skyrocketed into the top ten. His immense groundstrokes have really been hurting players, and his serve has been doing the same. His footwork, which was always mediocre, is now a huge asset for him, and he has had a great record against top players.

    Fish's best result at a grand slam is getting to the quarterfinals, as he did so at the 2007 Australian Open, the 2008 US Open, and the 2011 Wimbledon. Another notable run was at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where he ended up winning a silver medal.

    He was fantastic during the US Open Series this year, as he beat Nadal and almost managed to beat Djokovic.

    Fish, who is coming into the Open as the eighth seed, will look to make a surprise run.

Vera Zvonareva

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    Vera Zvonareva became a pro in 2000 when she was just a teenager. Now at the age of 26, she could be headed for her first grand slam.

    The Russian is a very complete player in the sense that she can attack and defend. She is extremely fast and can come from behind in a point, but she is also extremely comfortable attacking the net to close off a point. She has a very flat game, as she doesn't put much topspin, but she hits the ball extremely hard.

    In singles, Zvonareva reached the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open last year and also got to the Australian Open semifinals in 2009 and 2011. She is also a fantastic doubles player, as she has won one women's doubles slam (US Open 2006) and two mixed doubles slams (2006 Wimbledon and 2004 Australian Open).

    Though she did have trouble in her second-round match against Kateryna Bondarenko, who really pushed her to the edge, second-seed Zvonareva looks ready to win her first major.

Tomas Berdych

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    A few years ago, Tomas Berdych was regarded as a talented young player. However, everyone thought he couldn't use his potential, until he made his breakthrough last year.

    Berdych, who is an extremely hard hitter, has one of the biggest forehands on the men's tour. He generates tremendous amounts of pace on not only his groundstrokes but his serve too. Despite the fact that many think tall players can't move well, 6'5" Berdych has disproved that, as he covers the court very well.

    Before the 2010 French Open, the Czech hadn't made it past the quarterfinals of a grand slam. In the French Open, however, Berdych cruised to the semifinals, where he ended up losing. Then at Wimbledon, he beat Federer en route to the final, where he was beaten by unstoppable world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.  

    Berdych hasn't done particularly well at the US Open, since his best result in Flushing Meadows is the fourth round. 

    However, this year he is playing extremely well and will look to snatch the title from obvious contenders.

Caroline Wozniacki

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    Caroline Wozniacki, a mere 21-year-old, has been criticized non-stop for not being able to win a grand slam, despite being No. 1 for what seems like forever.

    Wozniacki is a counter puncher, and she always makes sure she hits the ball that she can't miss. She plays what was called "percentage tennis" in Bjorn Borg's day, and she is successful by wearing down her opponent. This doesn't mean that she can't attack; when she needs to, Wozniacki is totally capable of going on the offensive and hitting the ball past her adversary.

    Out of the four grand slams, the Dane has found the best results at the US Open, where she reached the final in 2009. Though she ended up losing to "Comeback Queen" Kim Clijsters, that tournament was thought of as a success, as a sign of what was to come.

    So far, despite winning several minor tournaments, she has failed to win a grand slam, and by some, she is known for being the long-time No. 1 who hasn't won a slam!

    If Wozniacki ends up winning in New York, she will silence critics.

Andy Murray

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    Of course.

    After being No. 3 and 4 in the world for a long, long time, Murray has been attacked by papers, fans, and critics for not having won a single slam.

    Murray has a great game which enables him to play at such a high level. His huge groundstrokes are very effective; his backhand is one of the best in the game. Murray has a big, consistent serve and excellent footwork. He has also shown that he can cap points off with great play at the net.

    The Scot has been to three grand slam finals, and two of them were at the Australian Open. Last year, he lost to Federer in straight sets, and the same thing happened this year, except instead of Roger, it was Novak Djokovic, who started this year on a roll.

    The third final was the US Open of 2008, where he put together a great run, only to lose in straights to the Swiss Maestro again. 

    Because of bad performances in finals, Murray has a reputation for choking in the final, and yesterday, he admitted to nervousness in his first round match against Indian Somdev Devvarman.

    Can Andy Murray win his first slam?