As the tennis world descends en masse at the US Open in Flushing Meadows, the host country features more than 30 Americans in the main draw, led by John Isner and Venus Williams. Both are the top ranked TeamUSA representatives, with Isner perched at ATP #14 and Williams back in the top 10 at WTA #9 worldwide.
Southern California’s highest hopes belong to Coco Vandeweghe and Sam Querrey, our highest ranked locals competing in the main draw. The 25-year old Vandeweghe (Rancho Santa Fe) reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon then nearly won her third WTA title by reaching the final at Stanford. Yet her US Open tune-ups were brief, with quick exits at both Toronto and Cincinnati. With a Fed Cup final on her calendar this fall, Vandeweghe hopes to swing the momentum with a strong showing in New York. She meets fellow American Alison Riske in the opening round.
With two titles to his credit this year, Sam Querrey (Santa Monica) moved briefly into the Top 20 this summer and sits now at #21 in the world. Aside from a disappointing first round loss at the French Open, Querrey has played well in Grand Slam events in 2017, including a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon, followed by a tournament win in Los Cabos. He hopes to avenge a stunning opening round defeat at last year’s Open, and begins opposite a TBD qualifier in the first round.
There’s plenty of homegrown talent in the field – let’s see which top SoCal players are in the hunt for a Grand Slam trophy in New York.
Julia Boserup (WTA #114, R1 vs. Sasnovich (BEL). The 25-year old from Newport Beach started the year strongly by emerging from the Australian Open qualifier and reaching the Round of 64, then reached the semifinals of an ITF event in Texas. Since then, she’s had a difficult summer and continues to struggle in qualifiers and early rounds.
Kayla Day (WTA #126, R1 vs. Rogers (USA). In Rancho Santa Fe this spring, she reached an ITF final. Then, at Indian Wells, the 17-year old Day (Santa Barbara) made some noise into the Round of 32, tacking more than 60 points on to her world ranking. With two more ITF semifinal appearances this year, Day could be a surprising underdog if she’s on her game.
Steve Johnson (ATP #46, R1 vs. Almagro (ESP). It’s been a rollercoaster year for Johnson (Redondo Beach). In Houston, he battled cramps to win his first career clay tournament and peaked at #25 in world rankings. Then in May, Johnson’s father passed away suddenly ahead of the French Open. The balance of Johnson’s year has been on par, and he’s faced a slew of high-ranked players in early rounds. That’s a lot of valuable experience coming into the Open.
Jared Donaldson (ATP #51, R1 vs. Basilashvili (GEO). The 20-year old from Irvine is riding high. His current ranking is a career high, thanks to a quarterfinal finish at Cincinnati this month. For the latter part of the summer he’s been a solid Round of 32 performer, not to mention pushing Kei Nishikori to a third set in Brisbane and bouncing world #20 Lucas Pouille at the Rogers Cup.
Ernesto Escobedo (ATP #77, R1 vs. Qualifier TBD). The 21-year old from West Covina is fresh off his career high ranking earlier this summer. He’s had a solid year, from a Round of 64 finish in Australia to a Houston quarterfinal win over John Isner. At other times, he’s struggled to advance and found himself battling through marathon matches and tiebreakers. He’ll want to stay inside the Top 100, and a couple good matches at the Open would be ideal.
Taylor Fritz (ATP #116 vs. R1 vs. Baghdatis (CYP). There’s a lot going on in Taylor’s world. At 19, he’s married and a young father. Amidst a busy home life, he has remained in the hunt as one of TeamUSA’s top prospects. In January he bolted to the finals in Dallas. At Indian Wells, he defeated Marin Cilic in a thrilling home court win and nearly advanced to the Round of 16. He emerged unscathed from the Wimbledon qualifier, enjoyed a restful break, then dove into August with competitive showings in Los Cabos (quarters) and Aptos (semis). If he’s rested and healthy, this could be a breakout trip through the Big Apple.
Looking outside of Southern California? John Isner (ATP #14, R1 vs. Herbert (FRA) just became the top ranked American on the Men’s side, while Jack Sock (ATP #17, R1 vs., Thompson (AUS) remains in the hunt. Up and coming Frances Taifoe (ATP #71, R1 vs. Federer (SUI) has received a lot of attention lately as the face of #NextGen, and some wins in Flushing Meadows would go a long way for the impressive youngster – but he’ll need to overcome Roger Federer on Day One. Venus Williams (WTA #9, R1 vs. Qualifier TBD) is feeling great after Wimbledon, and in the absence of her sister Serena, she will receive tons of support on her home turf. CiCi Bellis (WTA #36, R1 vs. Hibino (JPN) continues to break out as a professional, and Sloane Stephens (WTA #84, R1 vs. Vinci (ITA) has returned from injury in style, reaching two consecutive US Open Series semifinals. Stephens dropped out of a US Open tuneup with a wrist injury in hopes of being fully prepared for her return to the Open.
Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova are the tournament’s top seeds for the main draws, which begin August 28.
– Darryl Nash