The pre-US Open chatter about who could win is mainly focused on the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, with the other top 16 seeds cropping up here and there. However, the event is not a three horse race- there are 112 other men in the draw, too. Among them are a handful of dark horses who, with Federer not having won a slam since 2012, Djokovic looking rusty in the warm-ups and Murray down to world No.9, may never have a better opportunity to make a run for a slam title than at this year’s US Open.
The biggest dark horse has to be Lukas Rosol. Rosol is seeded 29, and is a finalist at this week’s Winston Salem Open. The Czech player made his name at Wimbledon 2012 when ranked outside the top 100 he knocked out Rafael Nadal in the second round. He struggled to back that result up immediately after the event but has made great strides this season going 24-20 in matches won and lost. The Czech has a huge serve and an aggressive game and could go deeper than his projected round of 32 placing. He is up against Milos Raonic in the third round, a contest which should see many tiebreakers, and one which it is not too far fetched to see Rosol winning.
Up next in the stable of dark horses is unseeded Canadian Vasek Pospisil. The 24 year old is ranked 45 in the world and has an aggressive game with a huge forehand that could see him cause some serious damage to the draw. He has a very winnable potential second round match-up with 16th seeded Tommy Robredo. The Washington finalist then has a possible meeting with Mikhail Youzhny, another match he could take, and then the vulnerable Stanislas Wawrinka in the last 16. In the quarters he could meet countryman Milos Raonic or another dark horse, the above mentioned Lukas Rosol.
Another dark horse in the 2014 US Open draw is Yen Hsun-Lu, a semi-finalist at this week’s Winston Salem Open (lost to Rosol) and a player who has impressed this US Open Series. Ranked 38 in the world, the Taiwanese player beat Tomas Berdych in Cincinnati and is 7-5 on hard courts this North American Summer swing. Hsun-Lu has the perfect draw to prove his dark horse status, too. If he can get past the tough 28th seed Guillermo-Garcia Lopez in the first round, he could, if he wins his second round, meet top seeded Novak Djokovic in the round of 32. The world No.1 is rusty and Hsun-Lu may end up making something of a name for himself.
Martin Klizan is another dark horse. At the top end of the bottom half of the draw, Klizan could meet vulnerable sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the second round. Berdych has not been past the last eight of an event since being upset in the Oeiras final by Carlos Berlocq, and is 2-3 in matches won and lost this U.S Open series. Klizan meanwhile has worked his way back up to 65 in the ATP Rankings after falling out the top 100, won a tournament this year as a qualifier in Munich, and notched wins over tournament favorite Nishikori at Roland Garros and John Isner at the Australian Open. Klizan also has history at the U.S Open. In 2012, he used his huge and varied forehand to great effect to knock out Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga on his run to the last sixteen.
One more noteworthy dark horse is the Pole Jerzy Janowicz. Currently ranked 52, Janowicz has been struggling to regain the form that saw him reach the ATP 1000 final at Bercy-Paris in 2012 and make the semi-finals of Wimbledon 2013. But, this week’s finalist at the Winston-Salem Open seems to have refound some form, and has a great draw. Kevin Anderson is his scheduled second round opponent, a match which could be decided on a final set tiebreaker, and which Janowicz has more big match experience to pull through. Then the erratic but at times excellent Marin Cilic could be waiting in the third round. If the Pole’s serve is nicely warmed up, and his confidence, too, after his Winston-Salem run, then he could make something of a bolt for this year’s U.S Open title.
Rosol, Pospisil, Hsun-Lu, Klizan, and Janowicz. Those are the dark horses who could make a run for the finish line this U.S Open. With the draw as open as a Slam has been in recent years with the absence of Nadal, the rustiness of Djokovic, the loss of form of Murray, the absence of Del Potro and the up and down nature of the Federer game, this could be the year for a dark horse to race out into the tennis world spotlight.
Commentary by Christian Deverille
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