The first week of the 2015 US Open men’s singles tournament is sure to shine the spotlight on the hard working qualifiers, who fill out the 128 player main draw. A mix of established veterans, young guns, and players at a crossroads in their career have earned their spot via qualifying over the past few days, and one or more of them could pull off some upsets against higher ranked players and makes some serious noise. Here is a look at the key names that were added via qualifying.
A strong young gun contingent performed admirably in qualifying, future international stars Yoshihito Nishioka, Alexander Zverev, Elias Ymer, and Andrey Rublev all joined the main draw in what could be break through Grand Slam tournaments for one or more of the list, and American young gun Tommy Paul also joined the party.
Zverev. 18, is a top 100 player who has plenty of experience for his age at the ATP tour level already, he normally prefers clay being European, but his 13-8 outdoor hard court record on the season proves he’s far from pedestrian on the US Open surface. The teenager has been in excellent form as of late, reaching the quarterfinals in Washington and qualifying for Cincinnati. After three quality qualifying wins including a final round qualifying victory over ATP veteran Ivan Dodig, he’ll have a chance to upset his struggling countryman Philipp Kohlschreiber who has had a poor season as a veteran. Kohli beat Zverev earlier this year on clay and remains the favorite, but if Alex notches an upset he’ll have a shot at reaching the third round and getting a chance against Roger Federer. Standing in his way could be young gun American wild card Jared Donaldson, Donaldson turned pro this year and is rising up the rankings, he faces Lukas Rosol round 1.
Paul has the potential to face world #1 Novak Djokovic in the third round but to do so he’ll need to beat established veteran Andreas Seppi and the winner of Pablo Andujar/Teymuraz Gabashvili. The 18 year old is 40-17 on the season, but he has yet to score an ATP main draw win, so beating Seppi is likely a tough ask for the the 18 year old who has a solid record on both hard and clay this year. He didn’t have the toughest qualifying draw, but I’m sure we will hear more from him next season.
The Swedish rising star Ymer has a fantastic chance at a round 1 win against dirtballer Diego Schwartzman after dropping just one set in three qualifying matches. The talented young gun with a quality forehand prefers clay, but he’s qualified for all four Grand Slams this season, a remarkable feat. He should face off with Rafael Nadal in the second round, unless young gun Borna Coric pulls off one of the shocks of the season. Though it’s unlikely Ymer will topple Rafa, he could announce his arrival on the big state with a strong showing.
Rublev is a fiery and charismatic 17 year old who is the future of Russian men’s tennis at the moment, he helped his nation to a Davis Cup victory over Spain a few weeks ago and like Ymer dropped just one set in three qualifying matches. His all court game is well suited for clay and hard courts, but experienced hard court veteran Kevin Anderson is likely to send him packing in the opening round. Andrey is another name to watch in 2016.
The speedy Nishioka has a diminutive figure, but his groundstrokes pack a punch for their size, and he’s perhaps the best young Japanese player on the men’s side of the game right now. The 19 year old has an excellent record below the main tour level on the season, qualified for the French Open as well, and reached an ATP quarterfinal in Delray Beach. He had three set matches in all of his qualifying rounds and may be fatigued as a result but he has a winnable first round match against fellow qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu, a veteran. The winner of Nishioka/Mathieu could be on a collision course with the Andy Murray/Nick Kyrgios winner in the third round.
Mathieu highlights a veteran contingent that includes the retiring serve and volleyer Michael Berrer, and former top 10 player Jurgen Melzer. The baseline groundstroke centric Frenchman beat left handed veteran Alejandro Falla in final round qualifying and recently reached an ATP final on clay in Kitzbuhel. The 33 year old has overcome adversity to return to the top 80 after previously being ranked as high as #12 in the world, and though he’s not known for mental strength, the technical portions of his game are quite sound.
Berrer at 35 has had a career year in his final year, his throwback serve and volley game earned him a win over Rafael Nadal at the start of the season, along with a third round showing in Indian Wells and an ATP semifinal in Bogota. On top of that the German qualified for both the French Open and Wimbledon and dominated his final two USO qualifying matches. As he winds down his career, he’ll have a shot at knocking off fellow veteran Tommy Robredo in the opening round, in what would be a fitting, perhaps final Grand Slam main draw win for this classic battler.
Melzer was once one of the wisest left handed players on tour, but at 34 he’s struggled to get back into the top 100 this season, and struggled to stay healthy on a consistent basis in recent years. American Denis Kudla is a round 1 opponent of similar caliber, but if he wins that Tomas Berdych should end his run in round 2. Despite qualifying with a pair three set wins in the final two rounds, his retirement is likely to come either this season or next.
The Other qualifiers are Nikoloz Basilashvili who has had a breakthrough season to the ATP level this year with two challenger titles and an excellent record below the main tour level, Ukrainian journeyman Ilya Marchenko, Guido Pella and Alejandro Gonzalez, a pair of South Americans who tend to prefer clay, 30 year old Russian Konstantin Kravchuk who has played fewer than 10 tour level matches in his career, Australians J.P. Smith and Matt Ebden, and another Russian, who like Ebden was once at the ATP level but slipped down the rankings, Evgeny Donskoy.
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