Sunday, August 29, 2021

Dangerous dozen: Men, women to watch in U.S. Open

   Here are six men and six women to watch in the U.S. Open, Monday through Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. (seedings in parentheses). Television coverage begins at 9 a.m. PDT on ESPN.
MEN
Novak Djokovic has plenty of motivation in the
U.S. Open. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali
   Novak Djokovic (1), 34, Serbia — Can become first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to achieve calendar-year Grand Slam and can break record of 20 major singles titles he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. ... Hasn't played on tour since losing the bronze-medal match in Tokyo Olympics to Pablo Carreno Busta "Move." ... Northern California connection: None.
   Daniil Medvedev (2), 25, Russia — Runner-up in 2019 U.S. Open and 2021 Australian Open. ... Won Toronto title two weeks ago. ... NorCal connection: Nada.
   Alexander Zverev (3), 24, Germany — Ended Djokovic's bid for Golden Slam in Olympic semifinals en route to gold medal. ... Owns 11-match winning streak after capturing Cincinnati crown. ... Lost to Dominic "Home" Thiem in last year's U.S. Open final after leading two sets to none. ... NorCal connection: Zilch.  
   Stefanos Tsitsipas (4), 23, GreeceFell to Djokovic in French Open final in June after leading two sets to none. ... Has never advanced past third round of U.S. Open in three appearances. ... NorCal connection: Zippo.
   Andrey Rublev (5), 23, Russia — Two-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist. ... Has never reached a Grand Slam semifinal. ... Upset Medvedev in Cincinnati semifinals before losing to Zverev 6-2, 6-3. ... Won gold medal in mixed doubles with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Tokyo. ... NorCal connection: None. 
   Matteo Berrettini (6), 25, Italy — Reached first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in July, losing to Djokovic in four sets. ... Semifinalist in 2019 U.S. Open. ... NorCal connection: Zero.
WOMEN
Ashleigh Barty has had little success at Flushing Meadows —
except in doubles. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali
   Ashleigh "Judd" Barty (1), 25, Australia Won second Grand Slam singles crown at Wimbledon in July. ... Suffered inevitable letdown in Olympics, losing to Sara Sorribes "Mel" Tormo of Spain in straight sets in first round, but won Cincinnati without dropping set. ... Has never advanced past U.S. Open round of 16 in five appearances. ... Three-time doubles finalist at Flushing Meadows, winning 2018 title with CoCo Vandeweghe. ... NorCal connection: None.
   Aryna Sabalenka (2), 23, Belarus — Reached first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon in July. ... Advanced to round of 16 in 2018 U.S. Open, her best result in three appearances. ... Won doubles title at Flushing Meadows in 2019 with Elise Mertens. ... NorCal connection: Reached San Jose final last year, losing to Zheng Saisai. Was coached by Dmitry Tursunov, former top-20 player from Moscow who trained in NorCal as junior and professional.
   Naomi Osaka (3), 23, Japan — Seeks fifth Grand Slam singles title and third at Flushing Meadows. ... Withdrew from second-round match at French Open in June, amid controversy after announcing she would skip mandatory post-match news conferences, and skipped Wimbledon for mental-health reasons. ... NorCal connection: Made WTA main-draw debut in 2014 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford at 16, stunning 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in first round.
   Karolina Pliskova (4), 29, Czech RepublicRunner-up at U.S. Open five years ago, Wimbledon in July and Montreal two weeks ago. ... Former world No. 1. ... NorCal connection: Runner-up — surprise! — in 2015 Bank of the West Classic, losing to Angelique Kerber.
   Elina Svitolina (5), 26, Ukraine — Semifinalist in 2019 U.S. Open and bronze medalist in women's singles in Tokyo Olympics. ... Hasn't advanced past round of 16 in major this year. ... Won Chicago title on Saturday. ... NorCal connection: Stanford semifinalist in 2015 and San Jose quarterfinalist in 2019.
   Bianca "Jagger" Andreescu (6), 21, Canada Stunned Serena Williams to win 2019 U.S. Open at 19. Otherwise, has never advanced past second round in major. ... Has gone 2-6 since reaching Strasbourg quarterfinals in late May. ... NorCal connection: Zilch.

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