US Open 2022: The Most Winnable Slam Ever?

The US Open has always thrown up more surprises than other slams. In the last 13 years, 9 separate players have won their first and only major title in the US Open, most notably the likes of Emma Raducanu last year, Marin Cilic in 2016 and of course Juan Martín del Potro in 2009. While Cilic and del Potro also had plenty of success on the main tour, former champions like Raducanu have shown little signs of replicating their winning form from New York.

But why is this the case? The simplest explanation is fatigue. The US Open is the last Grand Slam event in the calendar year, and after 8 months, some players begin to feel the effects of playing a heavy schedule of tennis. Injuries become more commonplace and top players are often unable to maintain their usual lofty standards or are even forced to withdraw. In 2011, there were 18 mid-match retirements by Round 3 in singles, smashing the previous record at a Grand Slam. 11 years on and the problem endures, with many notable absences this year before the tournament has even begun. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer (albeit for different reasons) find themselves unable to play, along with the likes of World Number 2 Sascha Zverev.

There are also questions over the fitness of players who are entered into the draw, such as Rafa Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz. Nadal, who is the only member of the ‘Big 3’ present at this year’s US Open, withdrew before his Wimbledon semi-final with Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal tear in July and was spotted clutching his knee during a practise a few days ago. Alcaraz, the breakout star of the ATP Tour this year, has been wearing an elbow sleeve since Wimbledon, and has seen a recent dip in form which could be attributed to this injury. Serena Williams looked to be carrying an injury in Cincinnati and World Number One Iga Swiatek seems miles away from the form she displayed on her 37-match winning streak earlier this year.

But what does all this mean? It means that this year’s US Open is the most open and unpredictable in recent memory, on both the Men’s and Women’s side, even more so than the Covid affected 2020 edition. Defending champions Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev have both displayed below-par form since their triumphs in 2021 while other contenders have not looked convincing for some time. Given these circumstances, there is a huge chance that we could see some new faces at the business end of the tournament. The likes of Caroline Garcia and Borna Coric both unexpectedly won in Cincinnati this year and could do some damage, while the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Jessica Pegula could see their recent consistent form prove crucial in their quest to win in the big apple.

From a British perspective, there is still plenty to be excited about. Kyle Edmund, the former World Number 14, will play his first Grand Slam in 2 years, but faces a tough first round encounter against 5th seed Casper Ruud. Jack Draper has stormed into the top 55 this year, having started the year at 265 in the world and has a very winnable match against Emil Ruusuvuori, a talented young player whose form is known to fluctuate, which can cause issues in the best of 5 format. Cameron Norrie and Emma Raducanu are seeded 7 and 11 respectively and will have high hopes going into the US Open. Harriet Dart, Dan Evans and Andy Murray will all also be competing.
The US Open promises to be full of surprises this year. So sit back, adjust your sleep schedules and strap in for an exciting fortnight, bringing a glimpse of what tennis will one day look like without the great champions we have come to know and love over the last 15 years.