The past year in tennis has seen top players fall down the ranks, tennis’ brightest next gen stars come into their own, and more injuries than ever imaginable. This drama-filled season could become even more crazy with one more Grand Slam still to play for. In amongst the thrilling prospect of this year’s US Open are three key stories and players to watch for.
Sharapova famously tested positively to meldonium, a forbidden performance enhancing drug, at the Australian Open in 2016. The 30-year-old was forced to sit on the sidelines for 15 months, watching her rivals, namely Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, achieve remarkable successes in her absence. The Russian has since made a strong return to the top echelon of the WTA tour, reaching a semifinal in her first tournament back. However, Sharapova has played very little this season. only racking up 365 points to place her at number 147 in the world rankings. With her ranking too low to be directly accepted into the main draw, the USTA made the decision to hand the 6”3’ superstar a wildcard, making her a dangerous floater in this year’s US Open. The five-time Grand Slam Champion’s US Open will be her first major tournament campaign since the 2016 Australian Open, where she managed to reach the quarterfinals before falling to eventual runner-up Serena Williams. If given a kind draw, do not be surprised to see a deep run by this future hall of famer.
Nick Kyrgios is the most exciting player on tour at the moment. Wherever he goes, controversy and mind-blowing tennis follow closely behind. 2017 has been a mixed bag for the young Australian. Injuries have prevented the NextGen star from reaching his full potential. However, the 22-year-old has shown glimpses of his brilliance, recently beating David Goffin, Rafael Nadal, and David Ferrer en route to making his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati last week. The always flamboyant Kyrgios has yet to make it past the quarterfinals of any Major, but with his explosive game it seems to be a matter of when, not if, the Australian will secure his first Grand Slam title. Currently ranked #18 in the world, the right-hander will have his highest ever seeding at a Grand Slam tournament, setting the scene for what could be a historic performance. The rising star has often stated that he struggles playing in the smaller matches, so hopefully he has no trouble turning it up on one of the biggest stages in the tennis world. Kyrgios is always threatening at Grand Slams, and is poised to make a big run in New York if he can reproduce his recent form.
Vera Zvonareva may be a familiar name to many tennis fans around the world. And for good reason, as this Russian is a former World #2 and has defeated the likes of Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic, and Carolina Wozniacki on her road to tennis success. In recent years, you could be forgiven for forgetting about this past Wimbledon finalist; however, 2017 has seen the right hander mount a comeback to the tennis world. The Olympic bronze medallist has struggled with injury her entire career, the worst of which came in 2013 when shoulder troubles saw a long layoff from the sport. The 32-year-old played into the 2015 season before taking personal time off away from the sport, getting married and having a baby during this break. Zvonareva played her first WTA tournament since 2015 at New Haven this week, reaching the second round of qualifying. The former US Open finalist is currently contesting the US Open qualifying; having already notched a win over 17th seed, Xinyun Han, she will now face the hometown hopeful Jamie Loeb for a place in the final round. There’s still a long way to go, but if Zvonareva can qualify, she should be considered a true contender to threaten top class opponents and maybe make a deep run.