The dog days of August are upon us, and while that means we have to endure scorching temperatures and the dread of the end of summer, it also means the U.S. Open is here!
The tennis calendar’s fourth and final Slam event brings the world’s greatest tennis players here to New York to compete under the bright lights of the city that never sleeps, and carries with it a thrilling three weeks of tennis action.
Last year, Daniil Medvedev captured the first major title of his career, winning in straight sets over Novak Djokovic, redeeming himself after he coughed up a two-sets-to-love lead to Rafael Nadal the previous year.
Photo Credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA
“A lot of happiness,” Medvedev said when asked how he was feeling a year ago. “That’s my first Grand Slam. I don’t know how I’m going to feel if I win a second or third one. That’s my first one, so I’m really happy. It means a lot to me.”
A star was born on the women’s side as Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu took out Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in a battle of teenagers.
"Thank you to New York for making me feel so at home, from my first qualifying match, all the way to the final I have loved playing in front of you and you have spurred me on in some difficult moments,” Raducanu told the crowd.
Those special moments are what makes the U.S. Open such a thrilling event, and we expect no less in 2022.
Contenders, Pretenders and Sleepers
Contenders – Men’s Singles
The young Spaniard was the talk of the tennis tours earlier this year, as his pop-off-the-screen talent is hard not to look away from. It seemed as if it was only a matter of when and not if he would win a major title. The 2022 U.S. Open could be that event. Alcaraz has the game to dominate on the hard-courts, with his blistering forehand and unabashed hustle, he is a nightmare for any opponent to play against. He reached the quarterfinals in Queens last year, and with another year of experience under his belt, could be in for a bigger run this time around.
The defending champion and the world number one, how could he not be considered a contender? Medvedev enjoyed the best tournament of his career right here in New York in 2021, and has had a lot of success at the U.S. Open in recent years. He was barred from competing at Wimbledon, along with other players from Russia and Belarus, so we should expect a little added motivation when Medvedev arrives in New York. His defensive prowess is unrelenting, and he has already shown he has what it takes to succeed under the bright lights of the U.S. Open.
Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USTA
It has been a banner summer for the Australian. Kyrgios powered his way to the Wimbledon finals before coming stateside and winning the singles and doubles titles at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. There has never been any doubting Kyrgios’ talent, and that has been on full display throughout this year. He has been vocal and open about how he feels he is in a better place mentally than he was previously in his career, and if Kyrgios brings that well-rounded approach to Queens, look for him to make a deep run at the U.S. Open.
Contenders – Women’s Singles
Poland’s Iga Swiatek was nearly unbeatable earlier this summer. She won the French Open title in dominant fashion and compiled a 37-match winning streak at one point, before falling to Alize Cornet at Wimbledon. The streak was the longest on the WTA tour this century, and established Swiatek as a household name. Now with the streak over and the Swiatek-hype a little more tame, it could be the best thing for her. Losses can be a good thing sometimes, and with Swiatek now able to focus on tennis as opposed to maintaining a winning streak, she enters the U.S. Open with a clear mind and focused attitude. Look for Swiatek to return to that dominant form when she arrives in New York.
Photo Credit: Andrew Ong/USTA
The NYC-born Badosa is currently ranked fourth in the world, and will put that ranking to the test at the U.S. Open. Despite being born in NYC, the U.S. Open has not been kind to Badosa in the past as it has been her least successful one out of the four majors. Look for that to change this time around though. Badosa’s steady groundstrokes, with a big serve and aggressive style from the baseline makes her game translate well to the hard-courts. It’s now about putting that together for two weeks in New York, and compiling her best result yet at a major.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on an 18-year-old, but Coco Gauff seems to be the type of player who can handle it. Gauff is already one of the best players in the world and has proven the ability to both beat top opponents as well as perform on the sport’s biggest stages. Earlier this year, Gauff showed her might on the clay as she reached the finals of the French Open, and now it is time to take that success and translate it onto the hard courts. She has never been out of the third round of the U.S. Open, but with every match, Gauff gets better and gains more experience, which only helps her game. If she can sure up that forehand, Gauff is a threat to win this year’s U.S. Open.
Pretenders – Men’s Singles
One of the most talented players in the world, Tsitsipas has still not been able to win his maiden major title. The Greek star has been a mainstay in the Top 10 for several years now, and is always one of the most talked about players. He has the game to compile a great two-week run, but the U.S. Open has always been an enigma for Tsitsipas. He has never made it out of the third-round making the U.S. Open his least successful major event. Do not be surprised if Tsitsipas suffers an early exit again this time around in Queens.
Earlier this summer, Ruud reached the finals of the French Open for the best result of his career. Unfortunately, he was dominated in that final by Rafael Nadal, and proceeded to lose three of the next four matches he played. Ruud did capture the title in Gstaad, and overall this year has been a successful one for the Norwegian, but the U.S. Open has been a bad place for Ruud in years past. Like Tsitsipas, he has never been out of the third round, and that could be the case once again this time around.
If Rafael Nadal is in the main draw, he has to be considered a contender, right? This is normally the case, and it seems sacrilege to refer to Nadal as a pretender, but after this summer, it is hard to think that the Spanish legend is healthy enough to compete for two weeks. He had to have injections into his foot to deal with the pain during his run to the French Open final, and he withdrew from Wimbledon with an abdominal injury. At this point in his career, the injuries continue to pile up for Nadal, and while he is never someone you can count out, don’t expect Nadal to be his dominant self at this year’s U.S. Open.
Women’s Singles – Pretenders
It seems a bit harsh to call the defending champion a pretender, but despite her success last year, the 10th ranked Raducanu is still relatively new to the WTA Tour. She only began playing WTA events after last year’s U.S. Open, and it has been a bit of an up-and-down season for her. She has the talent and the pedigree to be successful on the biggest stage, but finding consistency is something that Raducanu continues to work on, and she is still a work in progress as a player.
The fourth-ranked Sakkari reached the semifinals in Queens last year, and has one of the best power games on tour. But as of early August, she had lost four of her previous six matches and doesn’t seem to be competing at the same level she did at the U.S. Open last year or even earlier this year. Prior to her final four run a year ago, Sakkari had only advanced as far as the fourth round, and we could see a similar type of result this year.
Halep’s return to her form this summer has been a great story on the WTA Tour, and it is wonderful to see one of the game’s greats back at the top once again. She is up to No. 15 in the rankings and reached the semifinals at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, her game has always seemed to be better on the clay and the grass surfaces, and her results show that. She reached the semifinals here in 2015 and the quarterfinals back in 2016, but other than that, has never been out of the fourth round. Halep is a hall-of-famer, but don’t expect a deep run this year.
Men’s Singles – Sleepers
Cameron Norrie is perhaps the best player on either tour that doesn’t get talked about enough. He has quietly put together a phenomenal campaign in 2022. He is up to No. 11 in the world rankings, won two titles and won more than 35 matches already this year. Norrie proved he can perform on the big stage as he reached the semifinals in front of his home fans at Wimbledon, and look for Norrie to bring that type of performance to New York City. He has had early exits at the U.S. Open in previous years, but expect that to change.
The Italian has proven he has what it takes to beat the best players in the world, and that was evidenced by his quarterfinal runs to the Australian Open and Wimbledon this summer. Sinner has beaten Alcaraz multiple times this season and also scored wins over the likes of Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur. Sinner is set to have the best run of his career at the U.S. Open and will aim to make it to the second week in Queens for the first time in his career.
Women’s Singles – Sleepers
A quarterfinalist a year ago, don’t be surprised if Belinda Bencic returns to that stage of the event in 2022. Bencic has returned to form over the last year-or-so, after injuries ravaged what was a promising young career. The Swiss is still only 25-years-old and has began playing like the player she was when she first broke onto the scene, which saw her reach the quarterfinals back in 2014. She is up to No. 12 in the world rankings and has been playing consistently good tennis all year long. Bencic has shown she can succeed at the U.S. Open, and will aim to do so once again.
The American enjoyed the best year of her career in 2021 and has not missed a beat this season. Pegula is up to No. 7 in the world rankings and reached two major quarterfinals this year already, at the Australian Open and French Open, and is due to put together her best run at her home major. Pegula has not found success at the U.S. Open thus far in her career, but as she as established herself as one of the best players on tour, look for that to change later this fall.