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US open: Another bite at Big Apple

Back after missing last edition, Djokovic biggest hurdle in Alcaraz’s quest to retain title

US open: Another bite at Big Apple

Novak Djokovic serves during a practice session in New York. REUTERS



New York, August 27

Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic will bring a Broadway buzz to the US Open as tennis’s hottest rivalry takes centre-stage at the season’s final Grand Slam. There is no guarantee the world’s two top-ranked players will square off at Flushing Meadows but it is without doubt the matchup everyone wants for the men’s final on September 10.

Although they have met just four times, the rivalry has already reached a Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal frenzy, pushing ticket prices through the Arthur Ashe Stadium’s retractable roof.

In tennis you pay your money ($652 for a last row upper bowl seat) and take your chances. If the stars align you get a Djokovic and Alcaraz final or you could find you have just paid $25,000 to sit courtside to watch Jannik Sinner and Alex de Minaur play for the title as they did in Toronto.

Federer and Nadal clashed 40 times, many of them epic encounters including Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon finals, but it was a matchup denied the US Open.

Not only did the two greats never play for a US Open title their head-to-head meetings did not feature a single match on the Flushing Meadows hard courts. The prospect of a third Alcaraz-Djokovic final in two months has excited the tennis world and is more than marketing hype. “It’s remarkable what we’re watching, and certainly him (Djokovic) and Alcaraz are the two guys coming in that you figure the odds are pretty good that one of those two is going to win it,” assessed seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe, now a commentator.

As a sporting spectacle Alcaraz and Djokovic matches have delivered on every level and would be worthy of the Big Apple spotlight.

The two currently own all four Grand Slams with Djokovic holding the Australian and French Open crowns and Alcaraz the Wimbledon and US Open titles.

Djokovic’s French Open win over the rattled Spaniard followed by an absorbing three-set victory in the Cincinnati Open final last Sunday signalled the Serb is going to have to be dragged from his throne.

At the same time Alcaraz has proven he is made of sturdy stuff, the world No. 1 rebounding from his French Open disappointment in steely style to deny Djokovic a men’s record-equalling eighth Wimbledon crown.

“All of the matches we played against each other went the distance,” said Djokovic, following his Cincinnati win. “It just keeps getting better for the fans.” — Reuters

Challengers for men’s crown

JANNIK SINNER

World No. 6 Sinner reached the semifinals at Wimbledon this year to record his best Grand Slam finish, before going on to claim the biggest trophy of his career by winning the Canadian Open title — his first Masters 1000 victory. Last year, Sinner was eliminated from the US Open following a marathon five-set defeat by Alcaraz, but the Italian emerged victorious in their last meeting to level their head-to-head record at 3-3 — which will give him confidence with the two on course to meet in the quarterfinals.

DANIIL MEDVEDEV

World No. 3 Medvedev, who won the US Open in 2021, has had a less than ideal build-up to the tournament, having lost to Alex de Minaur in straight sets in the Canadian Open quarterfinals, before being beaten by Alexander Zverev in Cincinnati. The Russian has reached five finals on hard courts this year, winning in Rotterdam, Doha, Dubai and Miami and finishing runner-up at Indian Wells.

CASPER RUUD

World No. 5 Ruud will be hoping to go a step further after falling to Alcaraz in last year’s final, but little has gone right for the Norwegian in the past few weeks. The 24-year-old was knocked out in the second round of both Wimbledon and the Canadian Open, before losing his opening match at the Cincinnati Masters. However, Ruud has shown this year that he can rise to the occasion at Grand Slams, reaching the final of the French Open despite having a poor start to the season.

4Djokovic and Alcaraz currently own all four Grand Slams, with the Serbian holding the Australian and French Open crowns and the Spaniard the Wimbledon and US Open titles

53Victories against just 6 losses for Alcaraz this year. He has lost just once in Grand Slams, winning 12 matches. The defending champion, however, has struggled on hardcourts this year, winning 16 and losing 3 matches

Top contenders for women’s title

IGA SWIATEK

World No. 1

Swiatek will be the favourite to win a second successive title in New York, but the Pole is no longer the indomitable force she was in 2022 and the top ranking she has held for 73 consecutive weeks is again hanging in the balance. The 22-year-old has won a tour-leading four titles this year, including the French Open, but lost in the semifinals of US Open tune-ups. Anything less than a title win opens the door for Aryna Sabalenka to become No. 1.

ARYNA SABALENKA

World No. 2

The big-hitting 25-year-old is 17-2 at Grand Slam events this year having reached the semifinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. With her powerful serve now more reliable, she will be relishing a return to her preferred surface in New York, where she has reached the semifinals in her last two appearances.

ELENA RYBAKINA

World No. 4

Questions about Rybakina’s fitness remain but she is a proven performer on hardcourts and has beaten both Swiatek and Sabalenka on the surface this season. Rybakina beat both players during her title run at Indian Wells and also saw off Swiatek before reaching the Australian Open final. She finished runner-up in Miami but withdrew from the French Open due to illness. The 24-year-old Russian-born Kazakh reached the semifinals in Montreal before pulling out of the Cincinnati Open due to injury.

COCO GAUFF

World No. 6

Gauff has been thriving on home soil and arrives in New York eyeing a Grand Slam breakthrough after notching her first ever win over Swiatek. The teenager backed up her WTA 500 triumph in Washington by beating Swiatek and French Open finalist Karolina Muchova in back-to-back matches to claim her third title of the season in Cincinnati last week. Since her first-round exit at Wimbledon Gauff is 11-1 on hardcourts.

#Carlos Alcaraz #Grand Slam Tournament #Novak Djokovic #Tennis #Wimbledon


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