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Breakthrough players at the 2015 Open

September 8, 2015 - Kristina Mladenovic in action against Roberta Vinci in a women's singles quarterfinal match during the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. (USTA/Garrett Ellwood)

Roberta Vinci. The voluble Italian – previously known primarily as a doubles specialist – shocked the world and Serena Williams to advance to her first Slam final in singles. Ranked 43rd, she held her nerve, commanded the stage and charmed the New York crowd both in victory against Williams and in defeat in the final to her good friend, Flavia Pennetta. 

Fabio Fognini. His fiancée may have won the women’s championship in a surprising all-Italian affair, but Fognini, who’s never been one to take to the hard courts, scored one of the signature upsets of the Open. Keeping his cool and playing a swashbuckling style of hard-hitting tennis, the slight Italian became the first player to storm back from two sets down to defeat Rafael Nadal in a major.

Joanna Konta. Ranked No. 97, this tall Aussie-turned-Brit, a qualifier, blasted her way past ninth-seeded Garbine Muguruza in the first round and 18th seed Andrea Petkovic to go deeper than she ever had – the round of 16 – at a major. In the process, the 24-year-old, ranked No. 2 in Britain, ran up a winning streak of 16 matches since losing to Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon.

Sam Querrey. He may have flamed out in singles, losing in the first round, but the lanky Californian made his mark when the doubles alley was employed. He teamed with fellow American Steve Johnson to upset the vaunted Bryan brothers in the first round of men’s doubles, streaking all the way to the semifinals, where they lost in a final-set tiebreak to the finalists, Jamie Murray and John Peers. And in mixed doubles, Querrey joined Bethanie Mattek-Sands to upset the No. 3 seeds in the first round, then lost the final in a tight encounter with Martina Hingis and Leander Paes, 10-7 in the super tiebreak. Who knew the 6-foot-6 Querrey could become a doubles specialist?

Kristina Mladenovic. The 6-foot French woman, a superb athlete ranked No. 40, raced to the quarterfinals, her best result at a Slam. Along the way, the 22-year-old beat former finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova and 13th seed Ekaterina Makarova before succumbing to eventual finalist Roberta Vinci in a tough three-set match.

Kevin Anderson. The late-blooming, lanky Anderson finally made it to a quarterfinal at a major, after seven previous blown attempts – including a two-sets-to-none advantage over Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon earlier this year. It took a near-perfect performance, and 81 winners, to beat No. 3 Andy Murray, a former champion at the US Open, to do it.