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US Open Contenders: Men's Sleepers

Kei Nishikori
By McCarton Ackerman
Monday, July 28, 2014

All summer long USOpen.org will take a look at who will walk away with this year’s men’s and women’s singles championship trophies, broken down into those who could make a daring run from deep in the seeds (the sleepers) to those poised to break through (the challengers) to the ones most likely to bring home the trophies (the favorites).

This week we’ll take a look at some of the men who could surprise in the 2014 US Open men’s draw.

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The US Open is always full of upsets and surprise stories, but this can ring especially true on the men's side. Veteran players and rising stars will make noise with shocking wins over some of the biggest names in the game, adding to what is already a dramatic and unpredictable two weeks.

Last year, No. 19 seed Tommy Robredo beat five-time US Open champion Roger Federer on his way to the quarterfinals, while No. 21 seed Mikhail Youzhny turned around a mixed year on tour by also advancing to the final eight. In 2011, No. 29 seed John Isner and No. 20 seed Janko Tipsarevic broke through by reaching their first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinals at the US Open.

So far in 2014, the biggest sleeper success story belongs to No. 18 seed Ernests Gulbis, who advanced to the semifinals of the French Open. Who could emerge from deep in the seeds to match or perhaps even beat that result at the US Open? Here are a few potential candidates:

Marin Cilic: This veteran from Croatia may be coming off his first-ever quarterfinal at Wimbledon, but his best results have historically come in the U.S. Last February, the hard-hitting baseliner won the ATP event in Delray Beach, which marked his fifth career tournament win on outdoor hard courts, and the US Open is also the only Grand Slam event in which he has reached the quarterfinals on two occasions, in 2009 and 2012. And at 6-foot-6, his much-improved serve is going to be difficult for anyone to break on the fast hard courts of the US Open.

Alexandr Dologpolov: The flashy all-courter from Ukraine has had mixed results at the US Open, having gone out in each of the first four rounds over the last four years, but he turned in outstanding results on American hard courts earlier this year. After shocking Rafael Nadal on his way to the semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, he defeated Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round of the Sony Open in Miami. And while his results have cooled during the recent European swing of tournaments, Dolgopolov has demonstrated that he’s capable of defeating anyone when he’s playing well.

Nick Kyrgios: A former world No. 1 junior and the highest-ranked teenager on tour, Kyrgios made waves at this year’s Wimbledon. He saved nine match points in a second-round defeat of 2013 US Open semifinalist Richard Gasquet before stunning Nadal in four sets in the fourth round. Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash has since branded the 19-year-old as “the future of tennis.” At last year’s US Open, Kyrgios came through qualifying for the first time at a Slam and acquitted himself nicely in a first-round loss to David Ferrer. Given his recent results, he’ll arrive in New York as a dangerous floater that none of the top players will want to face.

Kei Nishikori: Nishikori made history at the 2008 US Open, becoming the first Japanese man in 71 years to reach the fourth round. He has struggled since, however, including a first-round setback to No. 179 Daniel Evans a year ago. But it seems that the 24-year-old may have finally found consistency in his results in 2014. So far this year, he has won two ATP titles, in Memphis and Barcelona, and reached the semifinals in Miami. With career wins on hard courts over the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, it’s clear that Nishikori has the ability to put it all together for two weeks and make a deep run at 2014 US Open.

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