This year's US Open was anything but predictable. With Grand Slam champions Na Li and Petra Kvitova falling in the first round, a world No. 92 reaching the semifinals, and a wildcard pairing clinching the mixed doubles title, there have been plenty of relatively unknown players who have emerged as breakout stars over the last two weeks. We take a look at the five biggest out-of-nowhere success stories of the event.
It goes without saying that Kerber is the biggest breakout story of this year's US Open. Ranked outside of the top 100 the week before the US Open, the German had a 6-16 record on the WTA Tour throughout 2011 and hadn't beaten a top 100 player in nearly six months. After reaching the semifinals in Dallas, Kerber moved on to the US Open, where she had only won one round in three previous trips to Flushing. Kerber went on to put together the best two weeks of her career so far, beating world No. 13 Agnieszka Radwanzska in the second round and then coming from behind from 3-1 in the final set to defeat world No. 25 Flavia Pennetta in the quarterfinals. The best part for Kerber? Her run may not even be over yet, with her semifinal match against Samantha Stosur of Australia scheduled for 6:00 pm tonight.
The sunglasses. The tattoos. The colorful post-match interviews. Janko Tipsarevic has all the qualities to be a star in the making, but his tennis results haven't always translated. The Serbian player had enjoyed a solid hard-court season coming into this year's event, having reached the semifinals at the Masters Series event in Montreal, but the US Open has historically been his worst Grand Slam by far. Tipsarevic had posted a 3-7 record in his previous visits to the US Open, but he took full advantage of a kind draw this year, earning a win over world No. 9 Tomas Berdych due to a retirement in the third round and then playing one of his best matches of the year in beating former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero to advance to the quarterfinals. Although injury forced him to retire in his quarterfinal against Novak Djokovic, he earned plenty of fans that match by taking a set off the world No. 1 with some flashy shotmaking.
When you're ranked No. 555 in the world, you're typically not expected to do much (if anything) at the US Open. That can't be said for 18-year-old Jack Sock though. Earning a wildcard after winning the Boys' 18s National Championship last month, he posted the best win of his career against world No. 97 Marc Gicquel in the opening round, also giving the Nebraska native his first main draw win in either a Grand Slam or on the ATP Tour. Sock then went on to give a good account of himself under the lights against Andy Roddick before truly shocking US tennis fans by winning the mixed doubles title with fellow American Melanie Oudin. It's safe to say this probably won't be the last we hear of this talented young player.
With both Venus and Serena Williams over the age of 30 now, American tennis fans have been desperate for a young player to cheer for. New Jersey native Christina McHale fit the bill this year, giving the local crowd something to talk about with a win over world No. 9 Marion Bartoli in the second round. McHale has had plenty of other good results this summer, defeating world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati and 2004 US Open Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in New Haven. After a summer of stellar play, McHale will now crack the top 50 for the first time in her career.
Prior to this summer, the biggest headline Donald Young made on tour was his expletive-laced Twitter rant towards the USTA. After making amends, the American buckled down and went to work, getting into the best shape of his career and adding some pop to his groundstrokes. The hard work paid off, with Young reaching his first ATP Tour semifinal in Washington, D.C. At the US Open, Young followed up his strong summer by posting one of the biggest wins of his career in the second round, rallying from being down two sets to one against world No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka and ultimately prevailing in a fifth-set tiebreaker. Although Andy Murray beat him handily in the fourth round, Young has made rapid progress with the rankings. Ranked outside of the top 100 at the beginning of August, he will now reach a career-high ranking of approximately No. 58 after this tournament and has minimal points to defend for the rest of the year.
Honorable mentions go to the other American breakout stars who reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in their career at this year's US Open: Alex Bogomolov, Sloane Stephens and Irina Falconi.