Is this year’s US Open the most ‘open’ Grand Slam in recent years?

By Nicholas Searle-Donoso

The US Open is notoriously the most unpredictable Grand Slam on the calendar. Coming towards the end of a physically and mentally gruelling season, unexpected US Open champions have become the norm in recent years.

On the men’s side, the US Open has had nine different winners since 2008. By contrast, the other three Grand Slams have each only had four different winners during that same period. On the women’s side, consider last year’s surprise champion, the unseeded Brit, Emma Raducanu. Need I say more?

Strange things often happen under the bright lights of the Arthur Ashe stadium, in the hustle and bustle of New York, in the sweltering heat and humidity of the Big Apple. For instance, Serena Williams was a heavy favourite to complete the calendar Grand Slam in 2015 until she suffered a shock defeat to Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals. Novak Djokovic’s frustrated swing of a racket ended with a ball striking a line judge in the throat, thus leading to his disqualification from the Covid-19 affected 2020 tournament.

However, even by its own standards, this year’s Open is open.

Djokovic’s decision not to be vaccinated means that he has been unable to travel to America and thus compete in the tournament. Any Grand Slam without Djokovic, the most dominant male player in the last ten years, is inevitably open.

Even by its own standards, this year’s Open is open

With Roger Federer still side-lined from a long-term injury, the only ‘Big Three’ member who will compete in New York is Rafael Nadal. But, although he is unbeaten in Grand Slam matches this season, he is still an unknown quantity given the abdominal injury that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon.

Daniil Medvedev might be the world number one and defending champion, but he has been far from convincing this season, failing to win any major title thus far. World number two, Alexander Zverev, misses out on the tournament after failing to recover from an ankle injury sustained at Roland Garros.

Other contenders also have question marks to their names. Carlos Alcaraz, the break-out star of 2022 who won both Miami and Madrid, is yet to make it past the quarter-final stage of a Grand Slam. Stefanos Tsitsipas, often tipped to be the next first-time Grand Slam champion, has never made it past the third round in New York.  

The woman’s draw is also wide open. Iga Świątek, the dominant world number one who went on a thirty-seven-match winning streak earlier this season, has been poor in recent weeks, losing early in the last few tournaments.

In what will likely be the last tournament of her career, many hope that Serena Williams will produce one final miracle and win a record equalling twenty fourth Grand Slam. But realistically this will be highly unlikely, especially if her heavy thrashing to Emma Radacanu last week in Cincinnati is anything to go by.

Who you predict to win the 2022 US Open will depend on whether you roll the dice

Radacanu herself has not consistently reached her level of a year ago and she will also have to deal with the pressure of being defending champion this year. A difficult first-round draw against the French veteran Alizé Cornet will not help her prospects of repeating last year’s incredible feat.

For many tennis pundits, the results of the two lead-up tournaments to the US Open, the Canadian Open and the Western & Southern Open, usually provide a useful barometer for the US Open. However, with surprising champions Pablo Carreño Busta, Borna Ćorić, Simona Halep, and Caroline Garcia, it has been difficult to draw any conclusions from these tournaments.

So, who you predict to win the 2022 US Open will depend on whether you roll the dice. Do you predict an old champion like Nadal and hope he overcomes his fitness issues to win a twenty-third Grand Slam?  Or will you punt on an outsider, perhaps Britain’s own Cameron Norrie who has been in great form this season?

Do you hope Świątek rediscovers her dominant form from earlier this season, or do you point blindly at the woman’s draw, expecting another Radacanu-esque surprise women’s champion? Personally, I predict that Nadal will triumph in the Men’s tournament, whereas the Women’s title will go to Halep.

Image: Nuță Lucian via Flickr

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