Normally this is a roundup of newcomers to the scene, often youngsters who have made their mark and a name for themselves at the US Open. We have a few of those, naturally, but also a few veterans who had already achieved significant heights and who again made unexpected breakthroughs in this highly unpredictable Open.
The 18-year-old Canadian qualifier, who in June was ranked No. 195, had a breakout Open to top off his phenomenal breakout summer. After upending Juan Martin del Potro and outlasting Rafael Nadal to reach the semifinals in Montreal, the swashbuckling stylist of the North showed off his precocious talents in NYC, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round before succumbing to eventual semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta in three breakers in the fourth. Shapo, it seems certain, will be a force to be reckoned with. Heck, he already is.
The skinny, unseeded Russian teen stunned Grigor Dmitrov, the seventh seed, in the second round and upended the ninth seed, David Goffin in the fourth to become the youngest quarterfinalist in Flushing since Andy Roddick in 2001. Rublev claimed he had "nothing to lose" against Nadal, but he was schooled by the Spaniard, experience that serve him well for his next foray deep into a Slam.
The 6-foot-8 South African serve machine made it to his first Grand Slam final, becoming the lowest-ranked US Open finalist (seeded 28th, ranked 32nd) since ATP rankings began in 1973. Anderson took advantage of the decimated lower half of the draw, knocking off a red-hot Sam Querrey in the quarters with an impressive display of big-time power tennis before beating the Spaniard Carreno Busta convincingly to advance to his first final.
Paul Carreno Busta
PCB, the stoic 12th seed from BCN (Barcelona) – the Iberian peninsula's other man in this major – was strong and solid enough to end the flashy run of Shapovalov in the round of 16. Carreno Busta is all biz on court, and he has no true weaknesses – a recipe that at the 2017 US Open added up to a career-first Grand Slam semifinal finish.
The undersized (5-foot-7), 29th-seeded Argentine really overachieved at this year's Open. Schwartzman offset his relatively weak serve, an exploitable liability in the men's game, with one of the best returns in tennis, upsetting former champ Marin Cilic in the third round and last year's vanquisher of Rafael Nadal, the Frenchman Lucas Pouille, in the next, to advance to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
A champion who'd previously made it to a Grand Slam semi and been as high as No. 11 in the world might not by your typical breakthrough player, but Stephens made a fairytale return to the tour after foot surgery in January. After beginning the hard-court season ranked outside the Top 900, Stephens reached back-to-back semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati, entering the US Open with unexpected momentum. The 24-year-old completed her dream summer by streaking through the draw in Flushing, beating Venus Williams (whom Stephens called the "captain" of the American squad) in the semis and skating past her buddy Madison Keys in the final.
A two-time Wimbledon champ as breakthrough player? In this unique case, yes. Petra was stabbed by an intruder in her Czech apartment last December and she suffered serious, potentially career-threatening injury to her left playing hand. Remarkably, within six months Kvitova was playing again, and she even won a Wimbledon warmup. At the US Open, the big-hitting Czech first beat now-No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza, the Wimbledon champion and easily the hottest player on tour, and then played one of the matches of the tournament, a thrilling three-set loss to Venus Williams in the quarterfinal. If this is not the first time Petra has broken through on tour, it's certainly the most dramatic.
The hard-hitting Estonian qualifier took her ranking of No. 418 all the way to the quarterfinals. The draw really opened up for the 32-year-old after the sixth seed and last year's champion Angelique Kerber lost in the first round. The Estonian may not be a household name, but she wasn't exactly a Grand Slam ingenue. She had been in five previous major quarterfinals and reached a high ranking of No. 15 in the world. However, a slew of injuries and health issues forced Kanepi off tour. She made the most of her return, losing to eventual finalist Keys.
The crafty and diminutive Latvian returned to the US Open quarters for a second consecutive time, this year taking out a surprisingly resurgent Maria Sharapova, who was competing in her first major since her 15-month suspension. Sevastova came within points of reaching her first major semi; she gave eventual champion Sloane Stephens all she could handle, going to the wire before bowing out in the third-set breaker.
Last year at the Open, the tall, big-serving Japanese showed her immense promise when she held and squandered a 5-1 lead in the final set against Madison Keys. This year, the 19-year-old Osaka returned and immediately dethroned the 2016 champ, Angelique Kerber, before going out in the third round.