The United States Open Tennis Championships is all ready to kick start today where 128 contenders in men’s singles competition will be seen battling it out in the next two weeks for the top honour at this year’s final Grand Slam. It will be interesting to see whether defending champion Novak Djokovic can retain the title and prove his critics wrong.
World number 1 Djokovic has had a bad outing in the past few months at major tournaments where he was sent crashing out of Wimbledon in the third round followed by a shocking first round exit at 2016 Rio Olympics.
World number 2 Andy Murray completely capitalised Djokovic’s early round exits and went on to win both Wimbledon and a gold medal at Rio. The 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer announced his unavailability for the rest of the season due to his knee surgery and back problems. Whereas his long time rival Rafael Nadal just recently made a comeback from an injury after missing months of action. Many top contenders will be looking to grab this opportunity to script their name on the coveted US Open trophy.
Here’s a look at the top five dark horses in the men’s singles competition who can go all the way to win the final slam of the year.
World number three and 2015 US Open semi-finalist Stanislas Wawrinka is definitely one of the dark horses to lift the US Open this year. Already having won the Australian Open in 2014 and French Open in 2015, Wawrinka will be looking forward to win the US Open. With three ATP titles this year ‘Stan the man’ made it to the semis of the French Open later this year eventually going down to the runner-up Andy Murray.
Wawrinka saw a lean phase thereafter losing in the opening round of the AEGON Championships followed by a second round loss at Wimbledon at the hands of Juan Martin del Potro. The Swiss gave Rio Olympics a miss as a result of a back injury but was back in action again at Cincinnati Masters where he was seen off in the third round. Despite the drawbacks, Wawrinka could surely upset many top contenders to win the hardcourt title.
When no one expected him to win a Grand Slam in his career, Wawrinka proved them wrong and one wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again at US Open.
Strength: One-handed backhands
Grand Slams won: 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French Open
Juan Martin del Potro
Former world number 4 Juan Martin del Potro is one of the outsiders who can have a fairy tale run at the 2016 US Open. Del Potro is currently ranked 142 in the world, just one spot above India’s highest ranked men’s singles player Saketh Myneni.
Having missed out on action for most of the 2014 and 2015 season due to wrist injury, del Potro notched some impressive wins in recent tournaments over top-ranked players including Wawrinka, Nadal and Djokovic. The 6 feet 6 inches Argentine giant went on to win a silver medal at Rio.
The 2009 US Open champion del Potro will be keen to repeat the same success he tasted six years back where he shocked Federer in a grueling five-setter.
Strength: Powerful serve
Grand Slams won: 2009 US Open
The current world number 9 makes it to the US Open having conquered Andy Murray’s 22-match winning streak by beating him in straight sets at the recently concluded Cincinnati Masters. Having beaten US Open hot favorite Murray, the Croatian is the man to watch out for in the next two weeks.
Cilic has won the coveted trophy in 2014, also making him one of the dark horses to win US Open again this year.
Strength: Baseline strokes
Grand Slams won: 2014 US Open
The 2016 Wimbledon runner-up and World number 6 Milos Raonic had a tremendous season starting off by winning the Brisbane International in January this year. Raonic made it to the finals of the Indian Wells Masters and Queen’s Club Championships months later before having a great run at the Wimbledon.
The big serving Canadian who gave a miss to the Rio Olympics owing to the Zika scare will be hungry to better his Wimbledon run by winning the US Open 2016.
Strength: Powerful serve
Grand Slams won: Nil
2016 Rio Olympics Bronze medalist Kei Nishikori is one of the underdogs who could upset critics and win the US Open. The Japaneses sniper started the season by winning his fourth Memphis Open title and went on to end runner-up of the Masters event at Miami Open and Canadian Open.
Nishikori carried his success going into Rio where he defeated 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal in the bronze medal playoffs to win Japan’s first medal in tennis in 96 years. The 26-year-old will definitely be a threat to the top contenders, especially having made it to US Open finals once prior in 2014.
Strength: Powerful ground strokes
Grand Slams won: Nil
These being dark horses, this year’s US Open is sure to provide spectators with some intense action and gruelling battles.