US Open: Time for Next Gen to deliver on biggest stage
Next Gen, the time has arrived. For all the glimpses of promise, the US Open is presenting a long-awaited opportunity for new-found glory.
No Novak Djokovic or Stan Wawrinka. Roger Federer and Andy Murray? Battling, or at least recovering from, injuries. Rafael Nadal? Beatable on hard courts.
Flushing Meadows in 2017 may not be the moment to end the dominance of the fabled 'Big Four', but it shapes as a great chance to briefly show the future.
In a year when Federer and Nadal are threatening to sweep the grand slams like it's 2010, or 2007... or 2006, the Next Gen have found form at a good time.
Alexander Zverev claimed the Rogers Cup title in Montreal, beating Federer – hindered by his back injury – in the final to back up his Washington success.
The talented German, 20, has all the markings of a future grand slam champion and holds an impressive 46-14 win-loss record this year, including victories over Federer, Djokovic and Wawrinka.
In Cincinnati, where Zverev suffered a second-round loss, Dominic Thiem reached the quarter-finals, a much-needed return to form after a dip following his run to the French Open semis.
Roland Garros would still appear the 23-year-old Austrian's best chance of major success, but he is still likely to be dangerous in New York.
A man one year Thiem's junior reached the final at the ATP 1000 event, Nick Kyrgios finally showcasing his undoubted talent once more.
The unpredictable, yet brilliant, Australian pieced it together, beating Nadal and David Goffin on his way to a defeat at the hands of Grigor Dimitrov in the decider.
Kyrgios has reached the last eight at grand slams twice before (2014 Wimbledon and 2015 Australian Open), and he is a major threat if the maturity he showed in Cincinnati carries on.
Goffin is still returning from the gruesome ankle injury he suffered at Roland Garros that forced him to sit out Wimbledon, and the Belgian has a poor 4-5 win-loss record at the US Open.
The year's final grand slam has provided opportunities in the pas, with Marin Cilic (2014), Murray (2012) and Juan Martin del Potro (2009) all breaking through at Flushing Meadows.
Cilic, 28, is among those who have needed to wait patiently, and the Croatian also reached the Wimbledon final in July before going down to Federer.
Forced to wait thanks to the 'Big Four' dominance and now being challenged by the Next Gen, the likes of Cilic and Dimitrov would also fancy their chances at the US Open.
Once nicknamed 'Baby Fed', Dimitrov – twice a grand slam semi-finalist – has worked to shake the tag, and his title success in Cincinnati shows he may be nearing a bigger breakthrough. The Bulgarian, 26, came close to reaching the Australian Open decider in January and has the talent to push for major success.
The chances have been discussed and come and gone quickly in recent years, but the Next Gen can show the time for talk is over by delivering on their promise at the US Open.