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Posted By Daniel Short  
07:23 AM

With the US Open approaching, there will no shortage of analysis telling you Novak Djokovic is the man to beat and Ash Barty is in the form her life gunning for a third grand slam title.

But let's discuss a few of the names that perhaps haven't been discussed as much, the outsider, the unexpected run deep into the second week. Grand slams are littered with names that enjoy a meteoric rise and ride a wave of momentum well beyond their world ranking.

On the men's side of the draw Daniil Medvedev, Olympic Gold medalist Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas lead the charge to overcome Djokovic. However, here are a few names to highlight when sifting through the draw at Flushing Meadows.

Andrey Rublev is a familiar figure in the men's top 10 of late, but is yet to truly breakthrough at grand slam level. With four quarter-finals to his name, consistency at the slams has not been his friend since breaking through into the US Open quarters in 2017.

However, you get the feeling the Russian is building. He has made the final 16 in six of his past 7 grand slams and reached the final of the Cincinnati Masters last week, the gruelling baseliner is a genuine threat.

20-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner is a star on the rapid rise.

Having been long-touted as a future contender, Sinner is well on track to meet those expectations. 

Currently ranked at 16 in the world, Sinner's all-court game and youthful exuberance is something that is sure to have many keeping a close eye on him this tournament. Sinner will enter full of confidence fresh off victory at the Washington Open, where he was the third youngest-ever player to win the event, behind Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro - not bad company.

The final player on the men's side to keep an eye on is one who is ranked 45, a ranking that looks likely to climb closer to the top 20 in coming years - Seb Korda.

Korda made a telling run into the final 16 at Wimbledon, losing to Karen Khachanov 10-8 in the fifth set.

In the lead-up to the US Open, Korda won only one match at the Washington Open and Cincinnati Masters, but did go down to eventual winner Sinner in two tie-break sets and world number 3 Tsitsipas across the two tournaments.

Korda could well do some damage as an unseeded player.

On the women's side of the draw, all of Australia will be behind Ash Barty as she looks to add another grand slam to her name. 

Barty is primed for a deep run following her Wimbledon triumph while she did not drop a set en route to claiming the Cincinnati Open last week.

Naomi Osaka is the obvious key threat among other rising women.

But a few names that may not be among the top-end of favourites are well within their rights to be dreaming big at this year's US Open.

Belinda Bencic took out the Gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and has enjoyed strong form in the lead-up to the final grand slam of the year.

Bencic, who has often been a hot and cold performer, made the semi-final of the US Open in 2019 and will be looking to couple that form with the confidence off the back of recent displays.

In a throwback to some of her best tennis, Angelique Kerber is back to some of her best tennis, making the semi-final of Cincinnati and Wimbledon, going down to Ash Barty on both occasions.

The former world number one may be ranked 17 now, but the 33-year-old is enjoying a resurgence on the big stage.

Sloane Stephens is no stranger to success at the US Open, and what a first round encounter we have on our hands with a rematch of the 2017 final against fellow American Madison Keys.

2020 was a tough year for Stephens at the slams, but there are signs she is building towards a deeper run, and Flushing Meadows is certainly a happy hunting ground.

The unseeded Stephens will of course have to knock off some big names around her, surrounded by the likes of Coco Gauff and Kerber, but she is capable of claiming scalps when on song. Similar can be said for the inform Camila Giorgi, who faces an underdone Simona Halep in the first round, but if she can get through that the draw could open up.

On the eve of the last grand slam of the year, the next two weeks will breathe plenty of new storylines and provide another opportunity for players to make their mark on one of tennis' biggest stages.

The US Open main draw matches begin Tuesday Morning 1AM AEST

Listen to The First Serve with Brett Phillips and Sam Groth previewing the US Open – 6.30pm-8pm AEST Monday 30th August on 1116AM SEN Melbourne, 1629AM SEN SA / replayed at 8pm AEST on 1170am Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App. 

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