US Open: Sky Sports takes a look at some outside picks at Flushing Meadows
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 20/08/13 3:34pm
We've all heard about Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, not to mention reigning champion Andy Murray and Roger Federer, but what about the outsiders that could shake things up at the US Open?
Juan Martin del Potro made a real impact a few years ago when beating both Nadal and Federer on his way to a maiden Grand Slam title in 2009.
So who could upset the odds this time around? Let's look at five players outside of the top five in the rankings who could spring a surprise.
Juan Martin del Potro (Sky Bet odds: 10/1)
Juan Martin Del Potro has already reached the Wimbledon semi-finals this year
The world No 7 is a dark horse to win this year's tournament in New York. Not only has he got form at Flushing Meadows, having won there four years ago, but the 6ft 6in gentle giant is back enjoying his game again after suffering from a number of career-threatening injuries. The 24-year-old from Tandil, Argentina lost in the third round of the Australian Open in January but made up for the disappointment by becoming the first man from his country since Guillermo Vilas in 1982 to win the Rotterdam title. He went on to lose to Rafael Nadal in the final of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Indian Wells and was then forced to pull out of Roland Garros with a respiratory virus. He was soon back in shape for Wimbledon and quickly back to his best on the grass as he reached the semi-finals for the first time. Del Potro gave his all but went on to lose a five set epic to Novak Djokovic in the longest semi-final in the tournament's history. The match lasted an incredible four hours and 43 minutes on Centre Court. In August, the man known as 'The Tower' won his 15th title and third crown at Washington DC thanks to a three-set win over John Isner in the final. He has one of the fiercest forehands in the game which frequently generates speeds of up to 100 mph and his first serve has recorded speeds of 147 mph. He will be playing on his favourite surface in New York and must be considered a genuine threat when it gets underway.
John Isner (Sky Bet odds: 50/1)
John Isner heads into the US Open having won 16 of his 20 matches
Marathon man Isner is currently the highest-ranked male American tennis player, having moved from world No 22 to a career high 14 having won two ATP titles this year. After pulling out of the Australian Open due to a knee injury the 28-year-old 6ft 10in player from Greensboro, North Carolina captured his first title on clay at Houston by firing a record 64 aces en route to the title. He picked up his second in Atlanta, after overcoming South African Kevin Anderson in three tie-break sets. Isner has traditionally saved his best for the home crowd with 14 of his 16 career ATP Tour final appearances coming in America. His form heading into Flushing Meadows is superb having upset world No 1 Djokovic in the quarter-finals in Cincinnati and then losing over two tie-breaks in the Western and Southern Open final to Rafael Nadal. The big-hitting Isner has a serve which regularly tops 140 mph but is most famous for his three-day first round victory at Wimbledon against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut which lasted 11 hours and five minutes. In that match he served an incredible 113 aces, before winning 70-68 in the fifth set. Since July, Isner has won 16 of his 20 matches, making him one of the most dangerous players heading into the US Open.
Kei Nishikori (Sky Bet odds: 150/1)
Kei Nishikori has looked the part this year
Japan's rising son was named ATP Newcomer of Year in 2008 and has since gone from strength to strength on the tour - climbing to a career high 12th ahead of this year's tournament in 'The Big Apple'. As a teenager, Nishikori moved to the USA without a word of English to practice the arts of tennis at the Bollettieri Acadamey in Florida. It wasn't long before he became the youngest player to win an ATP title since Lleyton Hewitt at the age of 16 years, 10 months, 18 days in Adelaide. By the end of the year he became the first Japanese player to finish in the Top 100 since Shuzuo Matsuoka in 1995. In 2011, he compiled the best set of results of his career, finishing as world No 25 after reaching two ATP finals in Houston and Basel. Last year he won his second career title on home soil in Tokyo, but injury has held Nishikori back from making further progression after suffering problems with his elbow and abdominal muscle. This year his left knee has troubled him, but in February he won his third title in Memphis. The 23-year-old is slowly improving and recorded just his fourth win over a top five opponent when he shocked Roger Federer in Madrid with a three set win. He became the first Japanese man to reach the Wimbledon third r-und for 17 years last year - emulating Shuzo Matsuoka's run to the last 32 back in 1995 and reached the same stage at the All England Club this year. The youngest player in the top 100 could be poised to fulfil his potential in New York.
Ernests Gulbis (Sky Bet odds: 100/1)
Ernests Gulbis can blow hot and cold
Gulbis comes from wealthy stock with his book-collecting parents naming him after Ernest Hemingway. His father is a wealthy investment banker while his mother is an actress. He attended the Niki Pilic academy in Munich, Germany as a teenager and became good friends with Novak Djokovic. However, he has since become somewhat of a tennis tearaway. There is no doubt he has the talent and pedigree to be in the world top 10, but the Latvian prefers partying to practising. Gulbis seems to have discovered his best form in the past 15 months having raised his ranking over 100 spots this year, to No 31. Marat Safin's former coach Hernan Gumy now works with the 24-year-old and he has made a major improvement to his game. In February 2010 Gulbis won his first title at Delray Beach before a last eight spot in Barcelona. After reaching the semis in Rome he immediately flew home to Riga, arriving at one o'clock in the morning, before going straight to a nightclub. He does seem to have grown up since then having reached the quarter-finals in Bangkok and Doha and a semi-final in Sydney. The player, who was known for his huge serve, was also infamous for smashing up to 70 rackets a year. He has since made a further breakthrough this year despite skipping the Australian Open due a longer off-season. Gulbis won his third career title at Delray Beach and his first since 2011 before embarking on a 13-match winning streak which came to an end against Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells. The Spaniard also got the better of him in the quarter-finals of the Italian Masters, despite Gulbis taking the opening set 6-1. He went on to lose to Gael Monfils at the French Open before the wild child of tennis launched a tirade at the top male players, calling them "boring". Ernie was defeated by Fernando Verdasco in the third round of Wimbledon but then showed what he can do by upsetting Andy Murray at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. He is known for his aggressive play and can be a match for anybody on his day.
Stanislas Wawrinka (Sky Bet odds: 200/1)
Stan Wawrinka has been involved in some big matches
Stan could be 'The Man' this September because he is arguably having his best season. The Swiss No 2 is one of the outside contenders to break the monopoly of the top-ranked players at Flushing Meadows. Wawrinka is notable for giving opponents a hard game, not least on the grass. Andy Murray can testify to that! He also possesses one of the best single-handed backhands on tour. Wawrinka first picked up a racket at the age of eight and dropped out of school at the age of 15 in order to concentrate on playing tennis. In 2003 he won the Roland Garros junior title and hasn't looked back since. Magnus Norman - runner-up at the 2000 French Open and former world No 2 - is now mentoring the player and it seems that the Swede's knowledge is already paying dividends. The 28-year-old's form has been up and down although he has climbed back into the top 10 for the first time in five years after a superb recent run of results. He won his first title since 2011 with his 20th victory of the year at the Portugal Open after upsetting top seed David Ferrer. However, his nine-match winning streak came to an end the following week after losing in the final of the Madrid Open to Rafael Nadal. He then reached the quarter-finals of the French Open for the first time in his career before losing in straight sets to the eventual winner Nadal and then exited Wimbledon in the opening round for the fifth time in nine appearances. After living in the shadow of Roger Federer for so long, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Wawrinka upset a few feathers in New York should he overcome a lower back injury in time.
Gilles Simon (Sky Bet odds: 400/1)
Gilles Simon has the potential to cause an upset or two
Gilou's biggest inspiration growing up was Michael Chang because the American proved that you didn't have to be tall to win titles. The Frenchman still stands at just over six-foot, but there have been concerns over his lack of stamina and durability on court. He regularly won Futures and Challenger level tournaments as a youngster and quickly claimed ATP titles when he turned professional. He hit a career high of sixth in the world back in 2009 and reached the last 16 of Wimbledon. The following year he reached the quarter-finals in Eastbourne before exiting Wimbledon in a third round defeat to Andy Murray. His consistent game is a strong one and it has caused certain players plenty of problems in the past, notably Roger Federer. At Roland Garros this year the 28-year-old gave the Swiss ace a fright by taking a two sets to one lead before going down in a five set epic. He may be better remembered by some for his outspoken comments at last year's tournament when he claimed that men deserve higher prize-money than women. In June, he lost in the Eastbourne final to Feliciano Lopez and was then beaten by the same player in the first round at Wimbledon. Now ranked at 17 in the world, Simon may always be seen in the shadow of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, but he should not be written off from causing an upset or two in New York should he recover in time from a hip flexor injury picked up in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.