| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo credit: Eric C. Peck

Beginning immediately after the conclusion of Wimbledon, the U.S. Open Series links together WTA and ATP tournaments that take place on hard courts across America throughout the summer. As the summer comes to a close, fans are gearing up for the fourth and final Grand Slam event of the season, the 2013 U.S. Open.

With the 2013 U.S. Open beginning Aug. 26, the big names in the tennis world will converge on New York in hopes of winning the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year. Since 1978, the tournament has been held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. and has been a highlight to the summers of New York tennis fans. This year’s championships will undoubtedly provide a high level of drama, action, and excitement as the world’s best players compete for the final Grand Slam title of the year.
Some players go into the tournament looking to finish a disappointing season off on a more positive note, and some seek to build on the solid season they’ve had thus far. No matter what the player’s individual goals are for the tournament, we can forecast the true contenders, pretenders and American hopefuls for this year’s U.S. Open.

Contenders: Men’s singles
Novak Djokovic is the 2011 U.S. Open Champion, current world number one and top seed heading into this year’s tournament. Djokovic has enjoyed much success at the Open, having reached the semifinals in 2008 and 2009; the finals in 2007, 2010 and 2012; and took home the championship in 2011. Having lost to Andy Murray a year ago and in the Wimbledon Finals, Djokovic comes in highly motivated to win his seventh Grand Slam title (2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Australian Open; the 2011 Wimbledon Championships; and the 2011 U.S. Open).

Andy Murray is the defending champion at Flushing Meadows and has momentum coming into the event off his first Wimbledon Championship. At the 2012 U.S. Open, he defeated Novak Djokovic in five sets to win the title, and he became the only British male to become a Grand Slam singles champion during the Open Era. With a Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics and a Wimbledon title both in front of his home fans in Great Britain, the pressure is off Murray and he can relax and play. Defending a title is no easy feat, but Murray may be playing well enough to do so.

Rafael Nadal is the reigning French Open Champion and 2010 U.S. Open Champion returns to Flushing Meadows after not playing due to injury a year ago. Nadal has won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, including an all-time record eight French Open titles. In 2010, Nadal completed the Career Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open proving that while this isn't his best surface, he is a threat on any surface. He is only the second male player to complete the Career Golden Slam (winner of the Career Grand Slam and the Olympic gold medal) after Andre Agassi.

Juan Martin del Potro has won the U.S. Open before and poses a serious threat this year. The 2009 Champion was also a quarterfinalist in 2008 and in 2012. In January 2010, del Potro reached a career-high ranking of world number four. As the only player other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to have won a men's Grand Slam singles title since 2005, del Potro stands a true chance to survive two weeks in New York and win a Championship.

Tomas Berdych had not had much success at the U.S. Open until last year when he made a nice run making the semifinals before a loss to Andy Murray. In his career, he has also reached two other quarterfinals, in 2010 at the French Open and last year’s U.S. Open. Berdych has a big serve that will play well on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows.




Pretenders: Men’s singles
Roger Federer finds himself in an unfamiliar position this year as he enters the tournament as the fifth seed. Also, while three male players have won majors this year (Djokovic, Nadal and Murray), Federer is not one of them. Federer, however, is a five-time U.S. Open Champion (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008) and can never be fully counted out. In June at Wimbledon, his streak of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals appearances was broken. Bouncing back at the U.S. Open will be no easy feat. 

Stanislas Wawrinka, the world’s 10th-ranked player, has had a nice year, but has never enjoyed tremendous success at Flushing Meadows. His career best was as a quarterfinalist in 2010, and last year, he suffered a fourth round loss.

David Ferrer is very consistent and tough to beat. Last year, he was a semifinalist at the U.S. Open, and this year, he lost in the French Open finals to fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal. While Ferrer should make a nice run at the Open, he may only wind up as a quarterfinalist.



Sleepers: Men’s singles
Jerzy Janowicz, playing in his first U.S. Open last year, lost in the first round. However, over the past year, he has made tremendous strides. A run to the semifinals at Wimbledon was certainly a career best and he reached a career-high of 17th in the world in July 2013. Janowicz has the type of game that can bring down the top players. If he gets a good draw, he should be able to make a nice run.

Alexandr Dogopolov reached the third round a year ago and the fourth round in 2011. At this year’s Australian Open, he reached the quarterfinals of the hard court event. Dogopolov has a unique type of game, but one that could pose problems this year.


Contenders: Women’s singles
Serena Williams, the four-time U.S. Open Champion (1999, 2002, 2008 and 2012) and defending champion is the one to beat coming in to this year’s event. She is the only player to have achieved a Career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles. Her 31 Grand Slam titles ties her for eighth on the all-time list: 16 in singles, 13 in women's doubles, and two in mixed-doubles. However, anything can happen to Serena in a Grand Slam, as evidenced by her loss in June at Wimbledon to Sabine Lisicki, but if she is on her game, she should hold the trophy at the end.

Prior to last year, Victoria Azarenka hasn't had much success in New York. Last year, she reached the U.S. Open finals and was on the cusp of victory before Serena fought back She is a two time Grand Slam Champion on hard courts having won the last two Australian Open titles. She likes the surface and will be tough to beat.


Pretenders: Women’s singles
Sara Errani was a U.S. Open semifinalist in 2012, and has now made at least the quarterfinals in every major event except Wimbledon. Clay, however, remains her best surface. Winning on a hard court seems like too tall of a task for Errani in singles. The 2012 U.S. Open Doubles Champion (with partner Roberta Vinci) is the number one-ranked doubles player in the world and with Vinci once again in 2013, will be the favorites to hoist the doubles crown.

Roberta Vinci, currently ranked 11th in the world, has not found much success in the women’s singles draw at the U.S. Open. Last year, she reached the quarterfinals, but prior to that, she lost in the first round seven previous times. At 30-years-old, don’t expect a breakthrough this year.



Sleepers: Women’s singles
Maria Kirilenko has never reached the quarters at the U.S. Open, but this may be her year. She is not playing doubles in an effort to focus strictly on singles play. This past June, Kirilenko reached her career high ranking of world number 10. She has reached three Grand Slam singles quarterfinals (the 2010 Australian Open, the 2012 Wimbledon Championships and the 2013 French Open).

The young American Sloane Stephens has reached the third round of the U.S. Open the last two years. This year has been her best year though as she has reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, the fourth round at the French Open and the quarters at Wimbledon. While she has yet to make a WTA Tour singles final, she has reached four semifinals. The New York crowd will certainly be behind her and might push her to that next level.

Being a past champion is always a confidence booster heading into a major. Samantha Stosur won the 2011 U.S. Open, defeating Serena Williams, and has also won four other Grand Slam titles to date, two in women's doubles and two in mixed-doubles. With the right draw, Stosur can make a solid run this year at Flushing Meadows.


Americans at the U.S. Open
There is nothing more exhilarating to the New York crowd than getting a chance to cheer for one of their own. Competing in this year’s U.S. Open are a handful of American hopefuls on both the men’s and women’s sides of the draw. Serena Williams leads the women with Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams, Jamie Hampton, Madison Keys and Vavara Lepchenko also in the WTA Top 40. On the men’s side, John Isner and Sam Querrey lead the way, while the returning Mardy Fish gives the Americans another player who can make a run at the men’s singles title.