The breakout performance in the men's draw has been turned in by 24-year-old John Isner, who turned pro in 2007. With a big serve, consistent groundstrokes and high-risk, high-reward strategy, Isner is quickly advancing through the ranks. Showing no residual effects from the case of mononucleosis that forced him to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon this year, Isner has momentum from strong summer results and is peaking at the U.S. Open.
While his 38 aces and 90 total winners in a five-set victory over No. 5 Roddick were impressive, what stood out even more was his ability to beat the top-ranked American in a fifth-set tiebreak. Isner took the game out of Roddick's hands, raised the level of his play and convincingly earned a spot in the fourth round.
As Isner continues to improve his fitness and movement on the court, there's no doubt that he can continue to advance in the rankings and consistently find himself deep in tournaments. You can’t teach height, and Isner’s 6-foot-9 frame makes him a tall order to defeat.
He and U.S. Open doubles partner Sam Querrey are the rising men’s stars behind Roddick. After admiring Andy and aspiring to his level of success, both John and Sam are at the point in their careers where they need to make that a reality. Isner and Querrey have shown they have the talent to be top-15 players and have had big wins over top Tour players. Now they need to string together those wins and follow Roddick’s example by getting more physically fit.
Even though 26-year-old Jesse Witten bowed out in the third round, the U.S. Open did remarkable things for his flagging tennis prospects. Dropped by his only sponsor earlier in the year and bouncing around small challenger events, Witten was contemplating retirement. One week at the U.S. Open recharged his career.
He soundly defeated No. 29 Igor Andreev in the first round and nearly knocked off No. 4 Novak Djokovic before falling in four tightly-contested sets in the third round. Those performances should demonstrate that he has a future in professional tennis and motivate him to get into the best shape of his life. Hopefully, this will give him the confidence and the spark to continue on.
One American that few expected to make an impact in this year’s draw is Taylor Dent. Bedridden for weeks after back surgery in 2007 and out of tennis for over two years, he has taken his serve-and-volley game to the third round at the U.S. Open. His utter joy at being back on a big stage has been contagious. The reaction of the crowd after his five-set, second-round victory over Ivan Navarro was one of the highlights of the tournament thus far.
Even though he faces a tough challenge against No. 2 Andy Murray in the third round, Dent’s performance has erased many question marks about his ability to mount an effective comeback.
The success of the younger American players should have a trickle-down effect to junior players across the United States. When they see someone like Oudin knock off some of the Tour's best players, it is bound to give them confidence about their own chances. The word Oudin has printed on her signature sneakers, “Believe,” could become the mantra for a whole generation of American tennis youth.
Rafael Nadal is currently ranked fourth in the world, but has had a dominant run lately as he has won seven of the last eight French Open titles. Mary Carrillo thinks we’re in store for a Nadal-Djokovic final.
Quips and quotables
Take a look at what the players are saying at the U.S. Open.
Aug. 31-Sept. 13
Scenes from Down Under
Check out the best images from the 2013 Australian Open.
The best of Wimbledon
The best images from the Grand Slam tournament at the All-England Club.
French Open 2012: Top 10 Shots
June 10, 2012: John McEnroe, Ted Robinson, and Mary Carillo look back at the Top Ten best moments from the 2012 French Open.