Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

US Open 2014: Three Dark Horses To Watch

With Nadal out of the US Open and both Djokovic and Murray struggling for form, it’s a great chance for talented players outside the top 10 to make a run at the final grand slam of the year.

I’ve taken the opportunity to select three dark horses who I believe can make it to the second week and cause some major upsets.

Ernests Gulbis

Ranked no. 12 in the world and seeded number 11, the 25-year old Latvian has been making waves this season. Having collected two titles in Nice and Marseilles, not to mention a semi-final showing at Roland Garros in which he knocked out both Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych, he’s playing the tennis of his life. He’s reformed his forehand to make it less of a liability and can hit through the top players with his big groundstrokes and serve.

Since Roland Garros, his results have been less than stellar; he’s not progressed beyond the second round of any of the tournaments he’s contested, losing to Julian Benneteau in Toronto and Steve Johnson in Cincinnati. Such results are common for Gulbis who is known to mentally struggle against lower-ranked players; he prefers matches where he can play with adrenaline on the big stage.

As a result, New York should suit him perfectly: the matches at the US are loud; the crowd get involved etc. Unfortunately, for Gulbis this has not been the case. His best showing has been a fourth round in 2007 and last year he lost in the first round to Andreas Haider-Maurer (never heard of him? Neither have I!).

However, Gulbis is more than capable of playing with the top players and causing an upset or two. He’s proven himself capable of grand slam success, having made the semis at Roland Garros and his big-serving, hard hitting game, could be very successful on the fast courts of New York. Moreover, the five set format can allow him to hit his way out of tight spots and work his way into form.

Watch out for Gulbis, if he gets through his first couple of rounds and having played the tennis of his life this season, he can make the second week here and even challenge for the title.

Vasek Pospisil

Although Pospisil is relatively young at 24-years of age, his career has been hampered by injuries. However, he’s already a doubles Grand Slam champion. Since partnering Jack Sock at Wimbledon and winning the title, PospiSock have been riding high, their defeat to the Bryans in the Cincinnati final snapped a 14 match winning streak. In other words, he’s high on confidence.

An accomplished singles player who’s beginning to play some extremely good tennis, Pospisil has had a decent US Open Series, tied at number six on the US Open Series rankings. He made the final at Washington in which he lost to Milos Raonic in straight sets, having beaten Berdych (a solid top 10 player) and the talented Frenchman, Richard Gasquet.

His results in the North American Masters were not brilliant; he lost to Gasquet in a close two sets in Toronto, failing to back up his win over him in Washington. However, he really pushed Federer in Cincinnati, falling 5-7 7-5 2-6, by playing big serving tennis which allowed him to strike his flat forehand.

Pospisil is someone who goes all out in his tennis; it’s characterised by big forehands and big risks. His power is predicated on clean ball-striking, he hits a very flat ball which is possible when you’re six feet four and can take balls on the rise. At the Open, this combination could be effective, the fast courts of the Open favour players who can make the big serves and take the ball early.

If Pospisil’s risky shots pay off, he can make a run. However, he could easily go out in the first round and has never made it beyond the third at a slam.

Feliciano Lopez

My last dark horse is Feliciano Lopez, consistent top 30 player, who has compiled a 31-20 winning record this year which includes a title in Eastbourne, final appearance at Queen’s (lost after having match points) and close fourth round loss at Wimbledon to Wawrinka. He favours the fast courts- grass suits him perfectly- with his big lefty slice serve and consistent net approaches. For this reason, the US Open is a good fit.

Historically he’s done well at the US Open; he’s made the fourth round twice, in 2007 and 2010, losing to Federer and Nadal respectively. Looking at his form coming into the Open, he’s playing decently, a semi-final showing at Toronto where he lost three and four to Federer, is not too shabby.

For someone like Lopez, the draw has to open up for him to make an impact. At number 19 seed, his seeding won’t necessarily protect him from running into a top seed early. That being said, Lopez plays a somewhat unconventional game- he possesses a big lefty serve which he can swing out wide on both sides. He incessantly slices his backhand, rarely coming over it but to pass an opponent and that can trouble players. Moreover, his forehand is a real strength, a stroke which he uses to bludgeon his opponents into giving up a short ball for him to approach on.

Given his previous results and current form, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lopez puts himself in the fourth round and a chance at making the quarters. From there, anything’s possible.

So those are my dark horses for the US Open, who are your’s and why? Let me know in the comments, I’m interested to hear!

Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter – @TennisObsessive. Support LWOS by following us on Twitter  –@LastWordOnSport – and @LWOSworld and “liking” our Facebook page.


More Posts

Send Us A Message