The final Grand Slam of the season is upon us in New York and there’s a lot at stake. Here’s a look at some of the main talking points from this US Open.
This should be Serena Williams’ last tournament as a professional tennis player. The 23-time Grand Slam champion will face Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in an overnight first-round showdown on Monday, and is also entered in the doubles event alongside her sister Venus.
The Williams sisters have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together and are bringing the group together for what will likely be the last time.
Opening night in New York is the hottest ticket in town right now as Kovinic tries to bring Serena into retirement.
“I was happy; I won’t lie,” Kovinic told The Associated Press of his reaction to his first-round draw. “It’s a privilege to share the court with Serena.”
Fierce battle for the men’s first place
Five men have the chance to conclude the US Open as world No. 1.
Defending champion and current No.1 Daniil Medvedev could be replaced by Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Carlos Alcaraz or Casper Ruud at the top in two weeks.
There are several scenarios for each player to guarantee the highest ranking and the title. If Nadal and Medvedev faced each other in the final, or if Medvedev, Tsitsipas or Ruud faced Alcaraz in the final, the winner would earn the world No. 1 ranking.
The pressure is rising but not everyone is feeling it
Britain’s Emma Raducanu insists she’s not feeling any pressure ahead of her title defense in New York, while four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka admits she’s a bit anxious.
Raducanu became the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam when she won the title in New York last year and the teenager has since become a global star. She didn’t feel well during her training session on Friday but said she had no real worries ahead of her opener against Alize Cornet on Tuesday.
“I think you probably think more about pressure and ranking than me,” Raducanu told reporters on the media day.
“I think defending a title is just something the press makes up. I’m just taking it one game at a time. Like, every player is very capable in this draw. I’m just focusing on what I’m doing, my own trajectory. Like I said last year, I’m just going to do things my way.
Meanwhile, former world No. 1 Osaka, who triumphed at the US Open in 2018 and 2020, said in her personal experience being the defending champion is “more stressful” because you feel the need to replicate the success of the previous year.
Osaka, who is unseeded this fortnight and is currently ranked 44th in the world, admitted she felt nerves had started to seep on Saturday ahead of her first round on Tuesday against Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins.
“I feel like I would have lied about a day ago and said I was really relaxed. But actually when I trained today I felt very anxious. I think that it’s because I really want to do well because I feel like I haven’t been doing well lately,” the Japanese star said on Saturday.
“It’s tough. Of course you don’t want to lose in the first round of a Slam. I feel like I always do well here. It’s kind of like taking the pressure off me, but “It will always be there. I think the opponent I’m going to face is also very tough, so it adds a little bit more. I’m just trying to take advantage of the time I have here.
Both prints are wide open
While we’re used to expecting the unexpected from the women’s side at major tournaments, it’s fair to say that the men’s draw looks just as open in New York this year.
Novak Djokovic can’t participate due to his vaccination status, Nadal is coming back from an abdominal injury, Medvedev isn’t necessarily in top form and many young suitors are looking to take new steps on the football scene. Grand Slam.
Asked if the men’s draw feels as open as people make it out to be, Medvedev said on Friday: “If I look back I would say maybe five years ago when I probably wasn’t even on the tour yet, when there was the ‘Big Four,’ Andy, Novak, Roger, Rafa, especially if they were the top four seeds, some tournaments were for sure I don’t know how the other guys reacted, but it was tough. You know you’re going to have them in the quarters, early rounds. There’s been a couple of Grand Slams where they’ve occupied the semis. shouldn’t have been easy.
“If we look at that prospect, maybe it’s (open this year). At the same time, if we take the last two, three years at the Grand Slam, I have to say that on the hard courts it was often me there Stefanos a few times Australian Open, Sascha (Zverev) was there Sometimes in the final Dominique (Thiem).
“It’s not like I felt like I saw a huge upset in the last Slams. It’s not easy to answer. I think it’s (open). But from my point of view view, I just want to play well, try to win as many games as possible, no matter the opponent, no matter the draw.
Nadal in pursuit of history
The Spaniard has already won two major tournaments this year to take his men’s record to 22 Grand Slams won. If he landed a 23rd here, he would tie Serena’s Open Era record.
Nadal has not played in New York since winning a fourth US Open title in 2019. He has lifted the trophy at Arthur Ashe Stadium in two of his last three tournament appearances.
Juicy first rounds
Osaka vs. Collins isn’t the only thrilling first round on the menu in New York. Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will open his campaign against doubles partner and good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis, just months after winning the Australian Open doubles crown.
2020 champion Dominic Thiem will face two-time semi-finalist and recent Montreal champion Pablo Carreno Busta.
Rising Chinese star Zheng Qinwen takes on former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, Raducanu has a tough opponent in Cornet who ended Iga Swiatek’s 37-game winning streak at Wimbledon earlier this summer, while third seed Maria Sakkari will face Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria.