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US Open Draw Preview
upsets—dark horses–quarter predictions
The US Open gets underway on Monday. Some highlights from the US hardcourt swing over the North American summer:
Taylor Fritz won on home soil at the Atlanta Open 250 defeating Alexander Vukic in the final.
Dan Evans came out of nowhere (out of a form slump, actually) to take out the Mubadala Citi DC Open 500, defeating Talon Griekspoor in the final.
Stefanos Tsitsipas won the Los Cabos 250 defeating Alex de Minaur in the final.
Jannik Sinner clinched his maiden Masters 1000 title in Toronto defeating Alex de Minaur.
Novak Djokovic won his 39th Masters 1000 in Cincinnati defeating Carlos Alcaraz in a three-set instant classic.
Top seed and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz opens his campaign against Dominic Koepfer and should navigate through the first week despite playing below his best in Toronto and Cincinnati. I don’t see Evans, Griekspoor, or Norrie as having the weapons or form to take him out.
Jannik Sinner occupies the sixth seed spot and opens against Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann. The newly crowned Toronto Masters 1000 champion had match points on Alcaraz in last year’s US Open quarterfinal, and a possible quarterfinal rematch is on the cards here, although his draw will make him work for it. Sonego and Wawrinka are possible second and third-round opponents. Alexander Zverev is projected to meet Sinner in the fourth round in what would be their fourth meeting, the German leading that H2H 3-1. Dimitrov has been solid this year and lurks as a possible third-round match for Zverev (although Zverev leads this H2H 5-1).
Upsets: Although Evans won in Washington recently, he’s been below his best for much of this year. Some of you might remember Galan as upsetting Tsitsipas in the first round here last year (a bizarre performance from the Greek). The Colombian has been tough to beat this year, and I think he has the weapons to capitalize on this match. In keeping with the struggling British theme, Norrie also opens against Shevchenko, a young Russian who made some headway during the clay court season earlier this year. Although he seems to prefer slower courts, Shevchenko will have his chances to take control of points against Norrie, who went 0-3 in the North American hardcourt swing.
Dark Horses: From the top half I’m keeping an eye on Thanasi Kokkinakis. He’s gone 7-4 in the US hardcourt swing, with three-set losses to Humbert, Musetti, and Hurkacz. The bottom half of this section has two prior US Open champions in Wawrinka and Murray. I don’t think Murray has the fitness to make a deep run here, but I think Wawrinka has the form and fitness to take some bodies and could meet Sinner in R3.
First rounds to watch:
Fils v Griekspoor
Sinner v Hanfmann
QUARTERFINAL PREDICTION: Alcaraz def. Sinner
It’s hard not to back Alcaraz finding a way through this quarter even if he is below his best. He’s shown he can win when struggling with his form recently in Cincinnati, and then raised his level in the final against Djokovic. For Sinner, his draw is full of dangerous opponents to possibly overcome—Hanfmann, Sonego, Wawrinka—and he has a poor H2H and poor matchup against Zverev. Sinner needs more variety in his game if he’s to start being a favourite against the Zverev’s and the Medvedevs of the world (his combined H2H is 1-9 against these two). Zverev has been building form all year and has a good draw here, but I’m picking Sinner based on the young Italian’s consistent improvements: the serve and forehand drop shot have been features in 2023. He’ll need both to reach the quarters here.
2021 US Open Champion, Daniil Medvedev, was red hot on hard courts in the early part of the season but would have been disappointed with his two summer Masters’ appearances, squandering a lead against de Minaur in Toronto, then playing a poor third set in Cincinnati against Zverev. Still, his recent performances at the US Open have all been solid runs, and I expect him to navigate the first week. Coric is lacking form but picked up some much-needed wins in Winston-Salem. Watch out for the big-serving Chilean Nicholas Jarry.
Andrey Rublev’s path as the eighth seed isn’t easy. He starts against dangerous big-hitter Ruusuvuori (who beat Rublev last week in Cincy), then faces a possible second-round against either qualify-hardened Daniel, or the electric Monfils. Hubert Hurkacz has also been very dangerous this summer and has a kind section of the draw, with Khachanov returning from injury since the French Open.
Upsets: In terms of seeds that are in danger, there are numerous in my eyes. Ruusuvuori, Berrettini, Mmoh, Van Asche, and Baez are all good chances to take down their respective seeded opponent, but none of these would be considered big upsets given history and/or current form.
Dark Horses: Max Purcell has been on an absolute tear this summer and he has the net game to deploy some serve-volley should he play Medvedev in R2. From the bottom half I’ll take Gael Monfils. The uber-talented Frenchman is always an injury concern, but his US summer has showcased that his fitness and overall level are capable right now of pushing the top players.
First rounds to watch:
Ruusuvuori v Rublev
Berrettini v Humbert
QUARTERFINAL PREDICTION: Medvedev def. Hurkacz
I think Medvedev’s losses recently haven’t been bad; he’s run into form players in de Minaur and Zverev and he’s played some big points poorly. Overall he’s still a menace at the US Open and de Minaur would be the first player I think that could really trouble him, but I would still back him to come through that should it eventuate here. Hurkacz has a great draw and he’s been very tidy with the forehand in recent weeks; something he will need if he is to take advantage of this draw.
A very open quarter that could blow open.
Last year’s finalist, Casper Ruud, hasn’t been the most consistent player in 2023, but he’s made deep runs when he needed it. Much like his French Open campaign, his draw might help him here when it comes to playing himself into form. Frances Tiafoe reached the semi-finals last year and cracked the top 10 in the rankings this year. He should come through the early rounds with the home crowd support. Adrian Mannarino is having one of his best years on tour at 35—can he make a run here?
Holger Rune sealed the fourth seed despite a very poor US swing. The young Dane hasn’t won a match since his quarterfinal showing at Wimbledon and he retired against McDonald last week in Cincy. Plenty of danger lurks in his section: Lehecka, Karatsev, Shelton, Thiem, and Bublik all pack a lot of firepower. Tommy Paul comes in with great form (he beat Alcaraz in Canada) and a good draw. Davidovich Fokina has a tough first-round against Marcos Giron, but the Spaniard has shown glimpses of great tennis this year.
Upsets: Again I feel a lot of seeds could be upset here. I’ll pick two. Carballes Baena to beat Rune. Fucsovics to beat Korda.
Dark Horses: From the top half I’ll take Marton Fucsovics. He’s just a tough guy to beat in slams and the two seeds in his section—Korda and Ruud—are off from their best. From the bottom half I’ll take Jiri Lehecka. He’s just come off a final in Winston-Salem and is a hard-hitting Czech with great fundamentals off the ground. He’s got a tricky first round against Karatsev, but this kid has the game to open up this part of the draw.
First rounds to watch:
Fucsovic v Korda
Lehecka v Karatsev
Gasquet v Marozsan
Rune v Carballes Baena
QUARTERFINAL PREDICTION: Ruud def. Davidovich Fokina
I mean, Ruud hasn’t been on the radar, but his losses in recent weeks to Davidovich Fokina and Purcell have at least been close. He’s just a solid player: the serve, forehand, and backhand are all good now. That he’s been helped with a nice draw here (similar to Roland Garros) might help him play himself into form just in time. Davidovich Fokina is a bit of a speculative pick—even his first round is very tough— but I think he returns well and has the components to put a great run together. The question marks are mainly over his head and his fitness. His brain exploded against Rune at Wimbledon, he’ll need to keep it cool if he is to make a quarterfinal.
Novak Djokovic comes in as the bookie’s favorite. He has a great draw for the first few rounds and he is coming off an all-time great win over Alcaraz in Cincinnati. Auger-Aliassime has had a rough year physically and mentally and will have his work cut out in the first round against McDonald. Francisco Cerundolo has had a very strong 2023 after a breakout 2022. The big-hitting Argentine will be one to watch with a favorable draw; he has one of the best baseline games going around and has been making deep runs on all surfaces of late. Laslo Djere is Djokovic’s first seed and although he’s been solid this year he has a tough first-round against Nakashima.
Stefanos Tsitsipas’ season has been underwhelming since reaching the final in Australia. Although he won Los Cabos, as an established top-5 player the results expected of him are greater than he has delivered. To make matters worse, he faces Milos Raonic—the Maple Leaf Missile—in the opening round. An upset wouldn’t be surprising given the Greek’s troubles with his backhand return against big servers. Eubanks enters a slam as a seed for the first time following his quarterfinal run to Wimbledon, although he has failed to replicate that form on the US hardcourts. He has a decent draw here if he can recapture that form. Lorenzo Musetti and Taylor Fritz are the two seeds in the top half of this section who will like their chances to go deep—especially if Stef loses early.
Upsets: Raonic is capable of taking the racquet out of Stef’s hand if he gets the serve humming. McDonald is also in strong form and I’m picking him to take out Auger-Aliassime. But I’m also feeling like Stevie Johnson could give Fritz a scare; he’s won a bunch at the Challenger level recently. For a wild one, I’ll take Droguet to give Musetti a real scare.
Dark Horses: It’s hard to pick a dark horse outside the seeds in Djokovic’s section, but Jiri Vesely is 2-0 against Djokovic and plays a qualifier first up. From the top half, I’ll take the young and mercurial Swiss, Dom Stricker.
First rounds to watch:
Auger-Aliassime v McDonald
Tsitsipas v Raonic
Fritz v Johnson
QUARTERFINAL PREDICTION: Djokovic def. Fritz
Hard not to back Novak here. The top half is more of a lottery and dependent on Tsitsipas’s form and fate in the opening round. If the Greek were to navigate that opening test then his draw is quite favourable. Fritz and Musetti also have strong cases, although Fritz has been better on hardcourts and hasn’t really had a bad loss since Wimbledon. At home and with a lot of wins under the belt, I think he might make a deep run here.
Alcaraz def. Medvedev in a rematch of their Wimbledon clash.
Djokovic def. Ruud in a rematch of their Roland Garros final
Djokovic def. Alcaraz.
Play kicks off at 11 am tomorrow. I’ll be on the grounds early and will be posting observations from twitter (erm, I mean X).
let me know your quarter picks in the comments!