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U.S. Open: 4 men who could keep Nadal, Federer or Djokovic from another Grand Slam win

Rafael Nadal enters the U.S. Open as the returning champion, having won in Queens three times overall. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It’s no secret that, for much of this century, the same three men have dominated the tennis landscape.

Between 2017 champion Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, they’ve combined to capture 43 of the last 51 men’s Grand Slam events, including each of the last seven. They enter the 2018 U.S. Open seeded first, second and sixth, respectively, and remain the betting favorites at Flushing Meadows when the tournament begins Monday.

As dominant as the trio has been, recent history suggests their grip on the U.S. Open is looser than the other three majors. Of the eight Grand Slam wins by other players since 2009, four came in Queens and by four different men.

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All four will be in action this year in pursuit of their second U.S. Open crown. Here’s a look at them and how likely each is to overcome the three-headed monster of men’s tennis.

Juan Martin del Potro

Although the Argentine has yet to break through with a second major championship since 2009’s stunning five-set victory over reigning five-time U.S. Open winner Federer, del Potro enters the two-week tournament as the No. 3 seed. As 29, he remains in his athletic prime and already had two wins this year on hard courts — his best surface — like those in Flushing.

Marin Cilic

The 29-year-old native of Croatia has yet to repeat his outstanding 2014, the year he won the U.S. Open among his four titles that season. The fact that he reached the final at the Australian Open — the other hard court Grand Slam tournament — earlier this year bodes well for this chances to break through. He’ll carry the No. 7 seed into Queens.

Stan Wawrinka

It’s been a year to forget for the Swiss talent, who managed to win Grand Slam titles Down Under, at the French Open and in New York over the last four years. But at 33, Wawrinka’s ranking has dipped to 101 in the world, and he has just one singles title to his name since winning the 2016 U.S. Open, due largely to injuries.

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Andy Murray

The 2012 U.S. Open champion and two-time Wimbledon victor has had a tough go of late. He hasn’t competed since last year’s tournament at All England and has seen his world ranking plummet to No. 378. This being the Scot’s first action in more than a year, it would be nothing short of a miracle if he advanced late into the tournament, let alone won it all.