By McCarton Ackerman
Throughout the year, EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com will feature players who could make an impact during this year's Series. Here’s a look at 22-year-old American Christina McHale.
The Breakdown: In 2012, McHale was ranked in the world’s Top 25 and seemed poised to climb even higher. But shortly after a surprising first-round loss at the US Open that year, she was diagnosed with mono. She attempted to play through the energy-sapping illness and it showed in her results; she fell outside of the Top 100 last summer.
Now finally back at full strength, McHale is surging up the rankings again. After reaching the third round of the US Open last year, she reached the semifinals of the WTA event in Quebec City the following week. And in March, she reached his first WTA final in Acapulco and narrowly lost to Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova.
McHale has been saving her best tennis for this year’s clay season, though. After narrowly losing to Maria Sharapova in the second round of Madrid, she followed that up by reaching the third round of Rome. Last week in Strasbourg, she advanced to the semifinals to jump back inside the Top 50.
The Baseline: An aggressive baseliner who relies primarily on her forehand and movement, McHale is also willing to approach the net on the right shot. Her versatile all-court game has led to success on every surface -- she has reached the third round at all four Grand Slam events -- but having grown up just 40 minutes away New York City, in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., the US Open is a home tournament for her in every sense.
McHale went winless last year in the Emirates Airline US Open Series, but she has enjoyed success during the Series in previous years. Back in 2011, she recorded her biggest win to date by beating world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati. The American tends to run and hot and cold in her results based on confidence, which bodes well for the upcoming hard court-season based on her current form.
Although it remains to be seen whether she can grab a seeded position at the US Open this year, her recent results make her a dangerous opponent in the early rounds. And with the right draw, it’s very likely McHale could make her Grand Slam breakthrough at the US Open and reach the second week of a major for the first time.