US Open 2012 – Who’ll make up the big four?

By Ian Horne, editor of Live-Tennis.com and US Open Tennis Live Stream

The US Open begins shortly and there’s a growing sense of expectation in the tennis world. We seem to be poised for one of the best slam events of all-time, featuring an outstanding cast of world-beaters. Amongst these are Roger Federer, Andy Murray and defending champion Novak Djokovic.

There’s no doubting that these three will be the main title contenders. Federer looks red-hot right now, Djokovic is still in scintillating form, and Murray might just be ready to enter the slam-winners circle following his Olympic gold glory at the All-England Club. There seems to be one question going unanswered though, and that is ‘who will replace Rafael Nadal in the big four at Flushing Meadows?’

With Rafa sidelined due to Hoffa’s syndrome, a space has potentially opened up for one of the ATP’s other stars to step up to the plate. Here’s a look at some of the players who could shoot to prominence in the next two weeks.

Live-Tennis.com‘s feature writer Ian Horne takes a look at the players who could fill-in for Nadal at the US Open

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Tsonga is perhaps the biggest threat to the big four and the man with the best credentials to take up Rafa’s mantle. Back-to-back semi-final appearances at Wimbledon in the last two years and a runner-up finish at the 2008 Australian Open are amongst the Frenchman’s achievements. Tsonga is more than just a popular outsider. His forehand is amongst the most lethal shots on the tour and his all-round athleticism makes him a hard man to beat, especially when he rushes the net.

Juan Martin Del Potro

Del Potro earned a reputation as one of the ATP’s elite players when he won the 2009 US Open. Sadly, his rise to the top was hampered for the next two years due to a subsequent injury to his right wrist. The 2012 season has marked a welcome return to the big time for Del Potro. He’s performed well in all of the slams this season, capping his achievements with a bronze medal at the Olympics.

John Isner

John Isner

2012 has been a great year for John Isner. The 6’9” American has cracked the top ten for the first time in his career. Big guys like Isner are often caricatured as lumbering powerhouses that can’t hold their own in a rally. This isn’t true of Isner, who possesses an array of effective ground strokes. His movement isn’t at all bad either. Surprisingly, slam performances have been disappointing from Isner this season. Expect more from the 2011 quarter-finalist in Flushing Meadows. He tends to excel in front of the New York crowd.

Milos Raonic

Raonic is a bit unique in this group of players due to the fact that he’s never been beyond round one in this event. Don’t let this fool you. The Canadian is the ATP’s most exciting young gun. Like Isner, there’s more to Raonic than meets the eye, but it’s often difficult to see beyond his rocket serve. It’s hard to believe that they find people willing to stand behind the baseline as a line judge when this guy is playing. There’s still a lot more for Raonic to learn, but there are few players out there with such great potential.

Other potential high-flyers

This group of players could be added to. For instance, 2003 champ Andy Roddick could feature in the latter stages. It will be a case of rolling back the years for the former world No. 1 if he’s to achieve anything. Sam Querrey might also be capable of reaching the latter stages. He’s been getting better and better since returning from elbow surgery.

There are also a few highly ranked players worth mentioning. David Ferrer is one of the world’s most consistent performers. He’s a former semi-finalist, but has never quite looked capable of winning a slam. Tomas Berdych could also be worth watching. For some reason, the Czech has always faltered in New York earlier than expected. Maybe he’ll make amends over the next two weeks.

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