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After a fascinating year so far, we are three slams down with one to go.

On the men's side, Novak Djokovic dominated the first half of the year, winning both the Australian Open and a record 23rd grand slam at Roland Garros. Wimbledon then turned out to be an all-time classic final, with Carlos Alcaraz becoming the first man to beat Djokovic in a Wimbledon final since Andy Murray achieved the same feat in 2013, exactly ten years ago.

On the women's side, it’s been much more open. We’ve had two new grand slam winners in Aryna Sabalenka and Markéta Vondroušová and, of course, Iga Świątek winning her second Roland Garros and fourth grand slam overall.

With the U.S. Open kicking off on the 29th of August, what can we expect?

As the final grand slam of the year, the U.S. Open has typically been more open than the other grand slams, particularly in the last 5-10 years.

The ‘70s and ‘80s were dominated by Americans. In the ‘90s, there was a little more diversity but only by now widely acknowledged greats of the game such as Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Monica Seles and Steffi Graf.

The 2000s were a mixed bag of established legends and one-slam wonders. From the 2010s onwards, it starts to become more interesting.

Since Serena Williams won her last U.S. Open in 2014, there’s been 7 individual women’s singles champions. In the men’s, while the big 3 of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won the vast majority, they haven’t dominated like at other slams. Along the way, we’ve seen great individual runs by the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro, Marin Čilić and, of course, Stan ‘the man’ Wawrinka.

And in the last 4 years, there’s basically been a new champion each year across both men’s and women’s singles events.

This makes sense given the relentless scheduling of the tennis calendar. After the Australian Open in January, there are 5 mandatory ATP Masters and WTA Premier events from February to July. This is in addition to countless other 250 and 500 events along the way. Then of course, there are the back-to-back grand slams, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, that stretch from May to July.

What’s more, the constant surface changes add to the physicality of the professional tour, as we move from hard court to clay to grass and back to hard court again.

By the time we get to August, the gruelling nature of modern-day tennis has taken its toll. A lot of players are either carrying injuries or physically worn out. Some pull out while others are not playing at full capacity.

Case in point, Rafa’s 2017 U.S. Open title-winning campaign. Along the way, he did not face a single player inside the top 20. Rafa faced another easy draw in 2019, where he didn’t face a top 20 player until the final, in which he was pushed to 5 sets by Daniil Medvedev, who was the 5th seed at the time.

Similarly, Naomi Osaka only played two seeds on her way to the 2020 title, Anett Kontaveit the highest at 14. As spectacular as her run from qualifiers was in 2021, Emma Raducanu didn’t face a seeded player until the quarter-finals and no one inside the top 10.

And so we get to the upcoming 2023 U.S. Open. Is it as open a tournament as it has been in the past few years?

Iga Świątek and Carlos Alcaraz are the defending champions but few would call them overwhelming favourites. Sure, they are both the current world number 1 but there are plenty of worthy challengers, hot on their heels.

After being banned from last year’s U.S. Open due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19, Djokovic is back and in good a form as he ever has been. Also in similarly good form is 2021 champion, Daniil Medvedev, who, as we all know from his brutally honest on-court interviews, thrives on hard courts.

Looking further down the ATP top-10 list, the biggest threats appear to be last year’s finalist, Casper Ruud, the fiery but talented youngster, Holger Rune and the other in-form Russian, Andrey Rublev.

The women’s side looks similarly tight, with a handful of serious contenders. Aryna Sabalenka appears the closest rival to Świątek and is closing in on her world number 1 ranking with a stellar 2023 season so far. Elena Rybakina has also had a great year, making the Australian Open final and winning two WTA 1000 events in Indian Wells and Rome.

Other than that, Wimbledon finalist (and last year’s U.S. Open finalist) Ons Jabeur appears to be hitting form at the right time in an effort to finally win her maiden grand slam after three failed attempts.

And of course, there are the local favourites, the Americans, who are always boosted by the boisterous home-crowd support. Players like Frances Tiafoe, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff all had great runs last year, while Taylor Fritz has won two titles on home soil this year.

All in all, the stage is set for another interesting U.S. Open that appears as open a tournament as it ever has been.


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