By Sally Milano
Each year, the Emirates Airline US Open Series has served as a launching pad for players to break through on the ATP and WTA tours.
John Isner, for instance, first became a household name in 2007 when he reached the final at Washington, D.C. as a wild card. Ana Ivanovic won her second WTA title at Montreal in 2006 as a 19-year-old and went on to capture the women's Series crown that year.
More recently, Caroline Wozniacki was the Series champion in 2010 and went on to become No. 1 in the world that year after winning six titles, including Series titles in Montreal and New Haven. And just last year, Simona Halep won the New Haven title and reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati in what was a breakthrough season for the Romanian, now No. 3 in the world.
So who will rise up this year and surprise us with deep runs and unexpected titles in 2014? There are several possibilities.
On the men's side, Kei Nishikori of Japan has an impressive 17-4 record on hard courts in 2014, including a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open. Milos Raonic of Canada finished fourth in the Series standings in 2013 after reaching the final at Montreal. And Grigor Dmitrov, a former US Open boys' champion, reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal earlier this year in Australia.
For the women, Eugenie Bouchard of Canada has posted solid hard-court results in 2014, reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open and the fourth round of Indian Wells. Spain’s Garbine Muguruza won her first WTA title on hard courts in Hobart, Australia, and upset Serena Williams in the second round of the French Open. And American Madison Keys, currently at a career-high ranking of No. 30, recently won her first WTA title at Eastbourne and was a semifinalist at Sydney earlier this year.
Will any of these players be the big breakouts stars on the Series in 2014, or will others rise to the occasion? Only time will tell. So stay tuned to see who will make a name for themselves in the lead-up to the US Open. It promises to be an exciting summer.