Five of the 11 top-ranked men — including last year’s finalists Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic — and six-time women’s singles champion Serena Williams will be absent from the U.S Open, which begins on Monday in New York, due to injuries and a pregnancy.
That leaves the window of opportunity wide open for less-decorated players to make a name for themselves, including the 42 members of Team USA filling the draw, the most for the U.S. at the event in 13 years.
The final Grand Slam of the season will feature 19 men and 23 women from the host nation, including seven seeded players.
Here’s a look at the top U.S. prospects in this year’s event, which will conclude with the women’s and men’s singles finals airing live on Sept. 9 and 10, respectively.
The Door Is Open For Isner, Sock And Querrey
The U.S. has not captured a Grand Slam men’s singles title since Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in 2003, and with this year’s draw in so much flux, the opportunity is certainly there for the taking.
Three American men are seeded in the draw: John Isner (10), Jack Sock (13) and Sam Querrey (17).
Big-serving 6-foot-10 Isner, whose favorite surface is the hard court, reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2011 and could make another deep run this year if he doesn’t let his return shots hinder his game. He enters the tournament after a sizzling summer on U.S. soil, in which he claimed ATP Tour titles in both Newport, Rhode Island, and Atlanta, and made it to the semifinals in Cincinnati.
Sock, a two-time medalist at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, will be looking to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time; he made it to the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time in his career last year. He started off 2017 strong with hard court titles in Auckland, New Zealand, and Delray Beach, Florida, but then was upset in the first round at the French Open and the second round at Wimbledon. In order to stick around for the second week of the U.S. Open, Sock will need to rely on his commanding one-two serve-forehand punch and feed off the supportive crowd.
Earlier this summer, California native Querrey had a surprising two weeks at Wimbledon, where he shocked three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray to make the semifinals, his best-ever showing at a Grand Slam event. Querrey’s best showing at the U.S. Open was a fourth-round appearance in 2010, but he’s bowed out in the first round each of the last two years.
After Two Grand Slam Finals, Venus Williams Continues Strong 2017
Seeded No. 9, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams is the only U.S. player in the men’s or women’s draw to have won a major singles title. She’s won twice in Flushing Meadows, coming out on top in 2000 and 2001. Williams, 37, has not won a major title since 2008, but has already played herself into the finals at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year and is still in good enough health to accomplish more.
Fifteen years Williams’ junior, 15th-seeded Madison Keys appears ready to navigate the U.S. Open draw after being reunited with her coach Lindsay Davenport and looking fully recovered from wrist surgery late last year. She has one of the game’s best serves — generating both tremendous speed and spin — and earlier this month stunned reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California.
Coco Vandeweghe, born in New York City to 1976 Olympic swimmer Tauna Vandeweghe, is seeded No. 20. She made her first Grand Slam semifinal in January at the Australian Open, but has lost in the first or second round in all eight of her previous U.S. Open appearances.
Lauren Davis, who won her first WTA Tour title this year in Auckland, is the final U.S. seeded player at No. 32, while 2013 Australian Open semifinalist Sloane Stephens will also be one to watch after returning from foot surgery to reach the semifinals at tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati this summer.
Bryans Look To Turn Back The Clock
Three-time Olympians and 39-year-old twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan will be going for their sixth U.S. Open doubles title together, which would tie both Richard Sears and Holcombe Ward for the most U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. The Bryan brothers have 16 major titles to their name, but have not won a Grand Slam event since the 2014 U.S. Open.
David Wagner Leads Wheelchair Contingent
The 10th U.S. Open wheelchair competition will feature 18 of the top wheelchair tennis athletes from around the world from Sept. 7-10, with one wild card awarded for each event. Leading Team USA will be five-time U.S. Open quad singles champion and eight-time Paralympic medalist David Wagner.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.