What does the 2022 US Open have in store?
Usually the most unpredictable Grand Slam of the season, the men’s draw looks open after Novak Djokovic’s withdrawal, while Emma Raducanu will be looking to defend the title she won in such stunning fashion last year, and Rafael Nadal will be bidding for a record-extending 23rd major. Oh, and Serena Williams is playing the final tennis tournament of her incredible career.
We run through the top talking points ahead of the final Grand Slam of the season, which starts on August 29 in New York…
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What now for Djokovic?

It almost feels unfair to the 256 players who will be competing in New York to start with someone who won’t be, but the absence of a 21-time Grand Slam champion merits discussion. His decision to withdraw from the tournament came before Thursday’s draw, thus simply allowing all the seeds to move up a place rather than some late juggling that could have seen a lucky loser step in as the fifth seed.
Whether Djokovic should be allowed to enter the United States despite being unvaccinated is a matter that has been debated and will likely be touched upon more than a few times before a ball has been hit at the US Open. But just like the Australian Open earlier this year, when there was far more controversy around Djokovic’s position, focus will soon rightly switch to those involved in the tournament.
Djokovic, who could finish the year two Grand Slams behind Rafael Nadal, will likely next play for Serbia in the Davis Cup group stage, which starts the week after the US Open on September 13. Then it’s the Laver Cup, when he will team up with Roger Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray, and then? “Next thing you know the season is over, right?” said Djokovic at Wimbledon, suggesting the autumn schedule doesn’t hold too much attraction for him.
There’s still the season-ending ATP Finals - even though he’s not in the top eight to qualify a Grand Slam title secures a place in the finals if the champion is positioned between eighth and 20th in the race – and then talk will soon turn to Australia and yet again whether Djokovic is able to play.

What about the draw?

Djokovic’s pre-draw withdrawal doesn’t have a huge impact on seedings, but his absence makes for a very open-looking tournament. Nadal and defending champion Daniil Medvedev look justifiably to be the top two favourites, but you could make cases for plenty of others, and there have been plenty of surprises at the US Open over the years.

Can Medvedev be first since Federer to repeat?

Not since 2008, when Roger Federer won his fifth US Open in a row, has a male champion defended their title in New York.
On the one hand world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev looks well placed to end the streak given he has produced his best tennis at this time of the season in recent years. On the other hand he didn’t make the final in Montreal or Cincinnati and both Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas managed to pressure him and cause problems by getting into the net often.
Medvedev is still the one to beat on these courts but he’s maybe not as on top of his game as he has been in the past.

Daniil Medvedev campione - US Open 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

Could Tsitsipas be a dark horse?

OK, as the fourth seed maybe not a dark horse, but Stefanos Tsitsipsas might be a sneaky not-talked-about-enough pick to have a good run. He looked to be hitting some form over the summer.

Will an unseeded star make a run?

There’s star power everywhere you look at the US Open, even outside of the top 32 seeds in both draws.
Former world No. 1 Andy Murray missed out on his attempt to gain a seeded spot and instead goes into the tournament as the world No. 49. Another former Grand Slam champion, Dominic Thiem, will also be unseeded, down at No. 231 in the rankings as he continues his comeback from injury, playing the US Open for the first time since he won it in 2020.
Thiem seems to have been showing some signs of progress this summer and has spoken about hoping to get into the top 100 by the end of the year, but Murray’s form has been less encouraging with cramps hampering him more than once.
The headline name in the women’s draw is the world No. 410: Serena Williams. Older sister Venus Williams is at No. 1445 in the rankings and might also be playing the tournament for the final time, although she has hinted that she will also be entering events in the autumn.
There’s also four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, who is No. 44 in the rankings, and 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, who is ranked at No. 50.

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Can Nadal hit top form?

What a season this has been for Rafael Nadal.
Any doubts over whether he can continue to prosper on hard courts were firmly dispelled earlier this year with a 20-match winning streak that saw him win three titles, including the Australian Open.
He has not had as much preparation time as he would have liked over the summer, losing to eventual champion Borna Coric on his return in Cincinnati, but remember the last time Nadal came into a Grand Slam with limited competitive action after an injury? It was only a few months ago and yet again he swept everyone aside at the French Open.
The hard courts of New York should be tougher than Paris for Nadal, but it should not be overlooked that in his last three visits he has won the tournament twice and made the semi-finals the other time.

Will Raducanu make the second week?

Emma Raducanu has said she is looking forward to a “clean slate” in a few weeks’ time, when she no longer be defending US Open and will drop down the WTA rankings, barring another remarkable run. But there must also be a buzz of excitement for Raducanu as she returns to the scene of one of tennis’ most incredible triumphs.
Raducanu produced a stunning level of play to win the US Open a year ago and showed composure way, way beyond her years. It would be great to see her rediscover some of the magic that took her to the title in 2021, although she has a tough first-round match against Alize Cornet.

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Can Kyrgios fire again?

The hype may have quietened down a bit after his early exit in Cincinnati, but if Nick Kyrgios gets rolling again then watch out. Throw his booming one-strike tennis into the mix along with his firebrand personality and a raucous New York crowd and things could get very spicy. And let’s not forget just how well Kyrgios was playing earlier this summer; if he’s back at that level he’s one of the favourites.

How far will Alcaraz go?

Tipped as the 2022 champion by Kyrgios on social media, 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz had the New York crowd in raptures last year as he took out Cameron Norrie and Stefanos Tsitsipas before withdrawing in the quarter-finals. With a huge game and court coverage to match, Alcaraz will be a hot ticket this time around.

Does Williams have a chance?

This is going to be emotional.
The Greatest Of All Time (sorry Margaret) is set to play her final tennis tournament before stepping away from the sport. Williams first played the US Open in 1998, won the first of her six titles a year later, and will be entering for a 21st time this season.
Does she have a chance of a dream ending by finally winning her 24th Grand Slam title to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record? If she did win it would almost certainly make up for all the near-misses in recent years – two finals and three semi-finals in her last five appearances – but given her performances in the lead-up events it seems unlikely. Williams has produced a number of superhuman moments throughout her illustrious career, yet this looks more like a chance to say goodbye than a real shot at more history, even if Williams is thinking otherwise - “I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment. I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst".

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Will Swiatek rediscover top form?

Whether it’s the lighter balls used on the WTA Tour over the North American swing or a slight post-Wimbledon dip in confidence, Swiatek does not look the same dominant force she did earlier this year when she racked up 37 wins in a row. One only has to look at her recent straight-sets loss to Madison Keys vs how she swept the same player aside in Indian Wells in 59 minutes to see there’s been a change. The challenge now for Swiatek is to do what she hasn’t had to do for most of the year: bounce back.

Are Halep and Garcia the next best?

If Swiatek is still the favourite for US Open despite her up-and-down form this summer, then are Simona Halep and Caroline Garcia just behind?
Neither are ranked in the top five but both looked very impressive in winning titles in Toronto and Cincinnati. It’s unfortunate for Halep that yet again her hopes of winning a Grand Slam could be in jeopardy due to an injury, having also missed last year’s French Open with a calf issue when she was in good form. But if Halep is fit she is a strong contender, particularly with coach Patrick Mouragolou, who knows what it takes to win the tournament given he was with Williams for three of her US Open wins.
Garcia is the form player heading into the tournament with 26 wins from her last 30 matches. The 28-year-old has been taking time away from opponents with her aggressive returns and if she stays hot will be very difficult to beat. The only knock against Garcia is that in 41 previous Slam appearances she has only once made the quarter-finals, but the US Open has thrown up its fair share of first-time winners.

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What chance an American winner?

Once upon a time, in the days of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick, an American winner of the US Open was no big thing. But it’s been 19 years since the last home male champion (Roddick in 2003) and 16 since an American male made the final (Roddick in 2006).
Who can break the trend this time around? Taylor Fritz looks best positioned due to his strong form which has seen him win Indian Wells and make the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and Cincinnati. The supporting cast is deep, but with Reilly Opelka out it doesn’t look overly strong – Jenson Brooksby, 21, Sebastian Korda, 22, and Brandon Nakashima, 21, might fare better in the years ahead.
Serena has largely flown the flag on the women’s side, along with Sloane Stephens’ win in 2017 and Jennifer Brady making the semis in 2019, but with world No. 8 Jessica Pegula, world No. 11 Coco Gauff (who is hoping to be fit after an ankle injury) and top-20 players Danielle Collins and Madison Keys there’s a chance of more success. Pegula has had a strong summer and Keys showed her undoubted quality as she made the Cincinnati semi-finals. Amanda Anisimova is also just outside the top 20 and could be dangerous if she's fit.
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