Three grand slams down, one to go. As we approach the end of August, we are getting into the US Open season. It is the last grand slam of the year, and there will certainly be a lot of excitement. Starting Aug. 28, 128 men and 128 women compete until they are down to one men’s winner and one women’s winner. Last year’s men’s winner was 19-year-old, now 20-year-old, Carlos Alcaraz with his maiden slam. He had been climbing the ranks all of last year, and that grand slam win made him the youngest ever number one ranked tennis player in the world. We are now a year from that final, and a lot has happened in tennis since then. This year has seen the rise, comebacks, and soaring of many players, so this year’s US Open will be a competitive tournament. There’s a lot to judge based on previous results from the year, but the US Open is known for being the unpredictable grand slam with a lot of first time slam winners. So the question is, who will be lifting the trophy this year?
Starting with the men, we can not think about this year’s winner without considering Alcaraz, last year’s winner. Earlier this year, Carlos Alcaraz won his second grand slam at Wimbledon, defeating Novak Djokovic and really proving his talents. One grand slam can be a fluke, two shows a promising future. He also made it to the semi finals of the French open and won two Masters 1000s: Indian Wells and Madrid. It is safe to say that Alcaraz had been having a good year. However, he has had his downs like any human. In addition, there has not been a back to back US Open winner since the mid 2000s, even with all of the massive talent that has won so far. It could be an interesting tournament for Alcaraz, and everyone will certainly be keeping an eye on him. Speaking of who people will have their eyes on, Djokovic will be turning a lot of heads at his big US Open return. He missed out on last year’s US Open due to not getting vaccinated for COVID-19, which made him unable to travel to the United States. That does not mean he got vaccinated this year, it just means that the US has relaxed their traveling laws. When Djokovic is playing, it usually means that it is his tournament to lose. However, he is getting older, and it might be time for someone younger to rise. With Alcaraz’s win over Djokovic at Wimbledon, it shows that a new generation is rising. The last time he was at the US Open, he lost in the finals. However, he did win this year’s Australian Open and French Open, so he is still clearly doing well. Will this be the 24th Grand Slam for Djokovic, or will someone new take over?
Let’s rewind to the winner of the 2021 US Open: Daniil Medvedev. This was his maiden Grand Slam and like Alcaraz, he beat Djokovic in the finals, making it Medvedev’s third Grand Slam final. Since then, he has made it to a fourth grand slam final, won a fifth and sixth masters 1000, and was just recently in the semi finals of Wimbledon. Last year, he got out in the fourth round of the US Open, but don’t take that as a sign of decline. This year he was able to prove himself across many tournaments, as well as many different surfaces. While he’s had early exits in some tournaments, he has the strength, mentality, and skills to go all the way once again. While we’re rewinding, let’s look at last year’s runner-up; Casper Ruud. Ruud is an interesting player in that he has consistently been in the top 10 final for a long time and has been in three grand slam finals, yet he has never won a tournament higher than a 250. Not to mention that of the nine tournaments that he has won, eight were clay tournaments. It may seem wild for him to win a grand slam, but he has some sort of consistency to back it up. He has a ranking this high because he is constantly doing well in big tournaments. Maybe this is the year where he gets the big push to go all the way, and show that he is more than a clay-court specialist.
With players like Alcaraz, this is clearly the time for a new generation to shine. There used to be a time where it was a norm for men in their early twenties to win grand slams. It could be time to bring that back. If that will be the case, there are a few players besides Alcaraz that could show the older folks how it is done. One of those players is Jannik Sinner, one of Alcaraz’s biggest rivals. Despite Alcaraz being on a dominating streak against many players this year, Sinner and he have about an even rivalry. The 21-year-old Sinner has risen up a lot in rankings this year and has recently won his maiden Masters 1000 in Toronto. In addition, he recently made it to the semi finals of Wimbledon, has made it to at least the fourth round of all of the Masters 1000 tournaments this year. He has the talents and power to make it far in the US Open, but the question is could he be the contender for winning? Time will tell. The other young star to watch out for is the 20-year-old Holger Rune. He first gained attention last year, and people started to really take him seriously after he won the Paris Masters 100, where he defeated five top ten players, including Alcaraz and Djokovic. Since then, he has made it to two Masters 1000 finals and the quarterfinals of two out of the three grand slams that have happened so far this year. Like Alcaraz, Rune is a young player that has had a large rise in rankings and talent. It would be exciting to see someone like him go all the way, and perhaps he has earned it.
It is fair to say that there are a lot of possible contenders. A fair place to look for them would be in the top ten ranked players. One of the big names to look for in the draw is Stefanos Tsitsipas. He is a two time grand slam finalist, one final coming this year at the Australian Open, a two time Masters 1000 winner and four time runner up, and a winner of the Year End Tour Finals. When it comes to the big tournaments, Tsitsipas’ name is constantly thrown around as a potential winner due to his frequent success at these big tournaments. Despite that success, he has never made it past the third round of the US Open, surprisingly enough. However, even though this is not his tournament, his success in other tournaments shows that he is more than capable to finally leave his mark in a big way. Another large talent that is ready to leave his mark is Andrey Rublev. While Rublev has never made it to a Grand Slam quarterfinal before, or even a semi final, he is constantly showing what he is capable of at many other tournaments. Rublev won his maiden Masters 100 title this year in Monte-Carlo, after being a two time Masters 1000 finalist. Despite often being left in a Grand Slam quarterfinals or below, Rublev has been in the top ten for many years and has proven to be quite the force against other talented players. It would be kind of surprising if Rublev were to win the tournament, but it would not be shockingly out of the blue.
First, everyone thinks about the expected winners, or expected-adjacent. However, every so often, there is a grand slam winner that comes out of nowhere. It has happened in a while for the men, but it is still certainly possible. A slightly out of the box choice would be Taylor Fritz. He is currently the best ranked American player, and this has been a hot year for him. Earlier this year, Fritz made it to back-to-back quarterfinals in the Indian Wells and Miami Masters 1000, as well as the semifinals in the Monte Carlo Masters 1000. He also won two tournaments this year in Dallas and Atlanta, both 250s. This was also the year Fritz made it to a career high ranking five. While he has not had a great record at grand slams recently, that could all change with the US Open. It is an American hard court, which is what Fritz is best at, so he has the potential to shine. This tournament could also see the continuing comeback of Alexander Zverev. After a serious injury to his foot and ankle at the 2022 French Open semi finals, Zverev was out for months and it looked like there would be a long return to his old form of a Grand Slam finalist, five time masters 1000 winner, and an Olympic gold medalist. However, at this year’s French Open, Zverev was able to make it to the semi finals again, demonstrating his return to form. Since then, he has not made it really far in that many tournaments, but he has had some great wins that demonstrate his skills and abilities have practically fully returned. Could this mean his first Grand Slam championship? Hard to say.
One interesting surprise pick could be Alex De Minaur, but that does not mean there is a 0% chance of a victory for him. Recently, De Minaur made it to his first Masters 1000 final in Toronto, where he beat Medvedev along the way. He also received his first ATP 500 title in Mexico. He has gone up and down this year, but it seems we are in a positive streak for De Minaur lately, and he needs to put the momentum to good use. Speaking of momentum, Tommy Paul has a lot of that in store. This year saw Paul’s top 20 debut after some great successes. He made it to the semi finals of the Australian Open, the farthest he had ever gone in a Grand Slam. Paul made it to the finals of two tournaments this year, and he also made it to the semis of the Toronto Masters 1000. This run came after he beat Alcaraz, who he also beat at the same tournament in 2022. Paul is on a high right now that he will surely keep going at the upcoming US Open, whether it be a tournament victory or something else great. The top 20 is full of so many high-achieving contenders, and anyone could be a big winner with the right opportunity.
There are many more players that have potential to go all the way that are not even mentioned here. It is an exciting time for tennis with all of this emerging talent. The 2010s were filled with a select few dominating, and many players could only hope for a huge win. Now, we are in the 2020s, and there is a wider field to make a mark. However, the question comes down to whether the old patterns will continue, or if this will be a tournament to solidify a new generation. The unknown is what makes these two weeks extremely thrilling. So who do I think will win? After paying attention to tennis all year, I can certainly say that this is a tough prediction. I might change my mind in the days leading up to the tournament. However, at the moment, I’m going to say that it looks like Djokovic will take it all. He is one of the most dominant, if not the most dominant players at the moment. He has hardly lost on hard court all year and looks as fresh as he did ten years ago. It might also be some recency bias with his recent success in Cincinnati. In a perfect world, I would want to see an exciting new hot shot lifting the trophy. Only time will tell if the logical expectations will play out, or if this tournament will be one with a sensational outcome.