By Sally Milano
The 2017 edition of the US Open Series is just days away, as the five-week summer tennis season kicks off Monday in Atlanta and leads up to the year’s final Grand Slam: the US Open.
Over the last 13 years, several American men have made their mark during the summer hard-court swing, from past greats Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick to current stars Sam Querrey and John Isner. This year promises to be no different.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who could have an impact during the 2017 US Open Series:
Sock (pictured above), currently the highest-ranked American man at No. 17, first cracked the Top 20 in the world rankings in January and has settled there for all but two weeks of the year. The 24-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., sat out all but one Series event last summer – he reached the round of 16 in his only appearance, at the Rogers Cup in Toronto – to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he won gold in mixed doubles (with Bethanie Mattek-Sands) and took home a bronze medal in men's doubles (with Steve Johnson). He is scheduled to compete at three Series events this summer: the BB&T Atlanta Open, the Rogers Cup in Montreal (the Rogers Cup transitions between Montreal and Toronto every other year) and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
The 32-year-old has been a Series mainstay since turning pro a decade ago and has consistently given solid performances during the summer-hard court circuit, winning three titles (2013-15) and reaching three finals (2010-11, 2016) in Atlanta, claiming two championships at the Winston-Salem Open (2011-12) and reaching the final in Cincinnati (2013). The native of Greensboro, N.C., currently ranked No. 21, is entered in all four men’s Series events this year: Atlanta, Montreal, Cincinnati and Winston-Salem.
After a career-best run to the Wimbledon semifinals last week, the 29-year-old Californian is currently playing some of the best tennis of his career. He will look to continue his hot streak in the coming weeks at three Series events: Montreal, Cincinnati and Winston-Salem. Querrey, ranked No. 23, has historically played well in the summer hard-court season and was the overall Series champion in 2009.
The 27-year-old from Redondo Beach, Calif., has had an emotional year, with the unexpected loss of his father, Steve, in May. He has continued to battle and persevere on court in the weeks that followed, reaching the third round of both the French Open and Wimbledon. This summer, Johnson is slated to play in Montreal, Cincinnati and Winston-Salem. The former USC star, who won his second career ATP title in Houston in April, reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinals last year in Cincinnati.
Harrison has had a career year so far in 2017, highlighted by his first Grand Slam title in men's doubles (with Michael Venus) at the French Open, his first career ATP singles title in Memphis and a career-high ATP ranking of No. 40 this week. With his ranking outside the Top 100 last year, the 25-year-old was forced to play qualifying in both Series tournaments in which he competed (Toronto, Cincinnati). His best result came in Toronto, where, as a qualifier, he defeated then-No. 16 Isner before falling to Tomas Berdych in the round of 16. This year, Harrison has earned direct entry and will compete in all four men's Series tournaments.
Young, 27, has posted impressive results at several hard-court tournaments this season, reaching the semifinals in Memphis, the quarterfinals in Delray Beach and the round of 16 at both Indian Wells and Miami. He notched the best US Open Series result of his career last year in his hometown tournament, the BB&T Atlanta Open, where he advanced to the quarterfinals. He will be playing in Atlanta again this year, along with the Series tournaments in Cincinnati and Winston-Salem.
Twenty-year-old Donaldson – one of three American men (Ernesto Escobedo, Frances Tiafoe) under the age of 21 ranked in the Top 100 – has said hard court is his favorite surface. It's easy to see why, as some of the ATP Next Gen star's best results have come on the surface. Earlier this year, Donaldson reached the fourth round in Miami as a qualifier, and in 2016, he advanced to the third round of an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time in Toronto, also as a qualifier. Coached by former ATP stars Mardy Fish and Jan-Michael Gambill, Donaldson reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career at the 2016 US Open. He will be competing this year in Atlanta.
Tiafoe is at a career-high ranking of No. 62 after notching his first Top 50 win over No. 38-ranked Robin Haase earlier this month at Wimbledon. In January, he qualified into the Australian Open, where he earned his first Grand Slam win, and in March he qualified into Miami, where he played a tough match against Roger Federer in the second round. Tiafoe, 19, will be making his second main-draw appearance in Atlanta this year.
The 21-year-old California native broke into the Top 100 in early April, after reaching the second round of Miami, and is currently ranked a career-high No. 67. Escobedo advanced to his first ATP semifinal earlier this year in Houston, defeating John Isner en route, and qualified into the 2017 Australian Open before falling in the second round. He will be making his US Open Series debut next week in Atlanta.
The 6-foot-11 rising star took full advantage of the wild card he received to compete in his first US Open Series main draw last year in Atlanta, defeating Kevin Anderson and Donald Young before falling to three-time champion John Isner in the semifinals. Opelka, 19, and currently ranked No. 126, also reached the second round of Cincinnati last year. He is scheduled to play in Atlanta again this year.