2022 US Open Men's Singles Section-by-Section Preview

The 2022 US Open begins on Monday which means, for the final time this year, it’s time to preview the Men’s Singles Draw. Just like at the Australian Open to start this year, the biggest storyline regarding the men’s draw is a notable absence. 21-time Major Champion Novak Djokovic will miss his second Grand Slam of the year, once again due to the host country’s COVID vaccine requirements. It is an incredible stand and sacrifice for Djokovic who has spoken openly about chasing the Grand Slam record. However, there is no grand-conspiracy against Djokovic, who, at the end of the day, is the one most responsible for being unable to enter the United States (but I digress). On-the-court, the biggest storyline will be Rafael Nadal’s chase for his record-extending 23rd Grand Slam, as he takes on a field of 127 other competitors who have a combined nine career Grand Slam titles. It is sure to be a thrilling conclusion to the 2022 Grand Slam season, so let’s get into the section-by-section breakdown.

 

Section 1


Seeds: 1) Daniil Medvedev, 16) Roberto Bautista Agut, 23) Nick Kyrgios, 31) Nikoloz Basilashvili

Who's Hot?

Daniil Medvedev - The World #1 and defending tournament champion is not as “hot” as he’s been in recent years coming into the US Open, but he still picked up a title on North American Hard Courts at the Los Cabos Open. He cruised through that ATP 250 event without dropping a set, before losing his first match at the Canada Masters to Nick Kyrgios. Medvedev then fell in three sets to rival Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Cincinnati Masters Semifinals. Regardless, the 26-year-old enters the US Open as the oddsmaker’s favorite to lift the trophy (+230 on FanDuel).

Nick Kyrgios - After his dream run to the Wimbledon Final in July, Kyrgios was riding high as he entered the North American Summer Hard Court season. He backed up his Wimbledon run with a title at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (he also won the doubles title there, just as he did the week before in Atlanta). The 27-year-old looked primed to contend for his first Masters 1000 title in Montreal (especially after he beat Daniil Medvedev in Round Two) and Cincinnati, but came up short. He fell to Hubert Hurkacz in the Canada Quarterfinals, and then, seemingly out of gas from his recent uncharacteristically busy schedule, was crushed by Taylor Fritz in Cincinnati Round Two. Despite the Masters struggles, Kyrgios is still relatively “hot,” and enters the tournament as a “contender” (something that I am not buying, but we’ll get to that later).

Who's Not?

Nikoloz Basilashvili - Thanks in large part to his finalist points from last year’s Fall Indian Wells Masters tournament, Basilashvili is a seeded player at this year’s US Open. However, his form is nowhere near the number next to his name, as he has lost five straight matches and has not even won a set since Wimbledon.

Stefan Kozlov - Daniil Medvedev’s First Round opponent has really been struggling in recent months. The 24-year-old American has not won an ATP Tour match since February 21st in Acapulco. Since then, not only has Kozlov failed to win an ATP match, he has also had very poor results in both challenger tournaments and ATP qualifying.

Biggest Storyline - The Daniil Medvedev/Nick Kyrgios Collision Course

As soon as the draw came out, all eyes immediately went to the potential Daniil Medvedev vs. Nick Kyrgios clash in Round Four. Kyrgios holds a 3-1 head-to-head advantage (including a 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win earlier this Summer in Montreal), but Medvedev won their only match at a Grand Slam earlier this year at the Australian Open (7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2). The odds would tell you that these are two of the four most likely champions, so it is easily the most anticipated pre-Quarterfinal match. With all of that being said, this potential match, at least in my opinion, is far from guaranteed. I’m confident that Medvedev will be there, but Kyrgios’ new reputation as some kind of Grand Slam contender is confusing to me. Making a Grand Slam Final is obviously a massive accomplishment, but Kyrgios got there through a path of five-sets with British Wild Card Paul Jubb, Filip Krajinović, Stefanos Tsitsipas (in an embarrassing match where both players were out-of-control), five-sets with Brandon Nakashima, unseeded Cristian Garín in the Quarterfinals, and then a walkover from Rafael Nadal… that’s not exactly murderer’s row. He then won the ATP 500 event in Washington, D.C. (where he had to save a handful of match points in the Quarterfinals against Frances Tiafoe) and somehow became considered a real threat to win the US Open. He backed up this thinking when he defeated Medvedev in Canada, but then fatigue seemed to set in and he flamed out of Cincinnati. I’m open to being wrong, but I just think it’s far more likely that we see Kyrgios revert back to his “old” ways of beating himself and losing in the first week than replicating his Wimbledon run (especially with a much harder path). Remember, Kyrgios himself in his Runner-Up speech at Wimbledon even said that he doubts he’ll ever be back in that position. With all of that being said, the potential blockbuster matchup is still by far the biggest storyline of Section 1.

Best Round One Matchup: Nick Kyrgios vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis - If you’re a believer in the conspiracy that tennis draws are “fixed/rigged,” Exhibit A at this year’s US Open would be the First Round match between Kyrgios and Kokkinakis. The close friends have won two doubles titles together this year (including the Australian Open), but will be facing off on the ATP Tour for the first time ever. Kyrgios is the heavy favorite here, but expect some fireworks and don’t be surprised if Kokkinakis makes it competitive. This is clearly one of the most intriguing Round One matchups in the tournament, but I do still have to give an honorable mention to 16-seed Roberto Bautsita Agut vs. American Wild Card J.J. Wolf, which would be the winner here in most sections.

Best Potential Matchup: Daniil Medvedev vs. Nick Kyrgios (Round Four) - See above for my thoughts on why this matchup may not happen, but, again, it would be the best pre-Quarterfinal match on the men’s side. The way Kyrgios has struggled on return (and with Medvedev’s return prowess), I have a hard time seeing his path to victory over the Russian in a best-of-five match, but he is at least on the shortlist of players who could realistically beat Medvedev here in New York.

Player to Watch: Ben Shelton - The 19-year-old is the next name to watch in American tennis on the men’s side. Shelton, after an incredible career at the University of Florida, officially turned professional on August 23rd. The American, who’s father spent nine years on the ATP Tour, had his first breakthrough earlier this month in Cincinnati as he defeated Lorenzo Songeo (7-6, 3-6, 7-5) and then World #5 Casper Ruud (6-3, 6-3). With a very favorable draw for the first two rounds, don’t be surprised if Shelton is locked in a competitive late night match against Daniil Medvedev on Arthur Ashe Stadium in Round Three. For more on the “next big thing in American men’s tennis,” check out Aishwarya Kumar’s recent profile of Shelton for ESPN.

Section Winner: Daniil Medvedev - If Medvedev wins the tournament, he would become the first man since Roger Federer (2004-2008) to win back-to-back titles at the US Open. Whether or not that will happen is a bigger picture question that I’ll answer in tomorrow’s full tournament prediction article, but in regards to coming out of this section, I feel very confident picking Medvedev. Nick Kyrgios is certainly Medvedev’s biggest threat, but I see him losing to Roberto Bautista Agut in a bit of a “trap game” in the Third Round. Even if Kyrgios is the Fourth Round opponent, I see Medvedev reaching his fourth consecutive US Open Quarterfinal with relative ease.

 

Section 2


Seeds: 6) Félix Auger-Aliassime, 12) Pablo Carreño Busta, 18) Alex de Minaur, 27) Karen Khachanov

Who's Hot?

Félix Auger-Aliassime - The 22-year-old didn’t have the major run he was probably hoping for in three leadup events he played prior to the US Open, but he was still consistent. Auger-Aliassime made the Semifinals in Los Cabos and the Quarterfinals in both Canada and Cincinnati. Then again, that equates to just a 6-3 combined record, but he did pick up nice wins over Jannik Sinner, Cameron Norrie, and Alex de Minaur. Those wins are (just) enough to justify his spot on this list.

Pablo Carreño Busta - The 31-year-old veteran from Spain surprised everybody when he won his maiden Masters 1000 title earlier this month in Montreal. Unfortunately for Carreño Busta, that momentum did not carry over to Cincinnati where he lost his first match, but winning a pre-Grand Slam Masters event will always land you on the “hot” list.

Alex de Minaur - Considering the Australian has lost three of his last six matches, this is probably a stretch. However, he did win the ATP 250 event in Atlanta which kicked off the Summer Hard Court season.

Who's Not?

Cristian Garín - The 26-year-old made a surprise run to the Wimbledon Quarterfinals earlier this Summer, but has done nothing to follow it up. Since then, Garín is 0-2 (both matches on clay), and he did not play any hard court events prior to the US Open.

Denis Kudla - It’s been a brutal year for the American with a 2022 record of 5-13. In the hard court leadup events, Kudla went just 1-3 (and he lost in qualifying of both Masters 1000 events).

Biggest Storyline - Pablo Carreño Busta: US Open Specialist?

Back in 2020, Nick Kyrgios strangely tweeted that without clay courts, Pablo Carreño Busta wouldn’t even be close to the top 50. The tweet was quickly deleted (shocking), but continues to look worse by the day as Carreño Busta’s results on hard courts have been far better than his results on clay. Since that tweet, Carreño Busta won a Bronze Medal at the Olympics and his first Masters 1000 title, both on hard courts. However, one of the reasons that the tweet was so baffling was because the Spaniard had made the US Open Semifinals back in 2017. The US Open officially became Carreño Busta’s best slam when he made the Semifinals again in 2020 (in fact, he was a set away from making the Final before blowing a two-sets-to-love lead against Alexander Zverev). It may not be the strongest storyline coming into this year’s US Open, but the two-time semifinalist and underappreciated veteran should definitely be getting more attention.

Best Round One Matchup: Pablo Carreño Busta vs. Dominic Thiem - We just covered the intrigue surrounding Carreño Busta, but the true biggest storyline in this section is probably Thiem’s return to the US Open. It’s an unlucky draw for Carreño Busta (nobody wants to play a former Grand Slam Champion in Round One), but even more unlucky for Thiem who was surely hoping to regain some form against an unseeded player in the First Round. Carreño Busta is a big favorite, but it’d be nice to see Thiem get his first Grand Slam match win since the 2021 Australian Open.

Best Potential Matchup: Félix Auger-Aliassime vs. Dominic Thiem (Round Four) - Despite all my praise and defense for Pablo Carreño Busta, I’d just rather see Thiem take on Auger-Aliassime in the Fourth Round. This hypothetical match suggests that Thiem would have played himself into good form with three nice wins. On paper, this is one of the best potential Round Four matchups.

Player to Watch: Dominic Thiem - Let’s just write about Thiem in every single section. The soon-to-be 29-year-old won the US Open the last time he played in New York in 2020. It took a Novak Djokovic default, the absence of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and a massive choke from Alexander Zverev in the Final, but he’s still a Grand Slam Champion. Following his US Open breakthrough, however, it has all been downhill for Thiem who has been hampered by various injuries (most notably his right wrist). The Austrian went 14-months and 10 straight matches without recording a win at any level, but has looked better in recent tournaments. He got back in the win column with seven ATP wins on clay following the French Open, and did pick up two more wins before losing to Jack Draper at the Winston-Salem Open this past week (he had to save two match points in Round One vs. J.J. Wolf and got through Round Two thanks to a Grigor Dimitrov retirement when he was trailing 0-6, 4-2, but still, a win is a win I guess). Is Thiem, in the tournament as a Wild Card, going to win the US Open? Of course not, but his return is still a very prominent storyline and he is obviously a player to watch.

Section Winner: Félix Auger-Aliassime - With all of the talk about Carreño Busta and Thiem, I feel like I’m disrespecting Auger-Aliassime. The #6 Seed has seemingly shaken off his early Grand Slam woes and become a consistent “contender” (he’s made the second week at six of the last eight majors). In 2022, he made the Australian Open Quarterfinals and even held a match point before losing to Daniil Medvedev, he became the third man to push Rafael Nadal to five sets at the French Open in the Fourth Round, and then was upset in First Round of Wimbledon by Maxime Cressy (a very unlucky draw). However, his best Grand Slam result to date came last year at the US Open when he made the Semifinals. I’m not sure if he can replicate that performance in 2022, but I definitely like him to come out of this section.

 

Section 3


Seeds: 4) Stefanos Tsitsipas, 13) Matteo Berrettini, 24) Francisco Cerúndolo, 30) Maxime Cressy

Who's Hot?

Stefanos Tsitsipas - The World #5 was upset in his first match in Montreal, but he recovered nicely making a run to the Cincinnati Masters Final. Before losing to Borna Ćorić in the Final, Tsitsipas picked up quality wins over Filip Krajinović, Diego Schwartzman, John Isner, and Daniil Medvedev.

Yoshihito Nishioka - Similar to Tsitsipas above him, Nishioka makes the “hot” list on the back of one strong pre-US Open run. He defeated Jenson Brooksby, Alex de Minaur, Karen Khachanov, Dan Evans, and Andrey Rublev in a very impressive run to the Citi Open Final. However, he then lost the Final to Nick Kyrgios, lost in the Second Round of Montreal, and withdrew from his first match at the Challenger event in Vancouver.

Who's Not?

Matteo Berrettini - The 26-year-old was primed to contend at Wimbledon this year before unfortunately testing positive for COVID right before the tournament began. He bounced back nicely in his return to the tour (making the Final at the ATP 250 Swiss Open on clay courts), but then struggled at the hard court Masters. He lost his first match in both Montreal and Cincinnati, and enters the US Open searching for good form. Luckily for him, he received a very favorable draw and should at least make it to Round Four.

Biggest Storyline - Andy Murray’s Last Chance

I really thought Andy Murray had a chance to make his first Grand Slam second week since 2017 at this year’s Wimbledon. He unfortunately ran into John Isner who put on an absolutely serving clinic and got knocked out in the Second Round. Since then, the 35-year-old with a metal hip has been struggling. He went 1-3 in the pre-US Open hard court tournaments that he played in, and the form that he had seemingly found earlier in 2022 is gone. I hate to say it, but if Murray goes out early at the US Open, I think it’s time for him to seriously consider retiring (but for real this time). The three-time Grand Slam Champion is too good to go into another year of losing every week in the First or Second Round. I think this US Open may be make-or-break for the future Hall of Famer.

Best Round One Matchup: Francisco Cerúndolo vs. Andy Murray - Going off of what I just wrote about Murray, this is obviously a huge match. He’ll take on the 24-year-old Cerúndolo who has been one of the tour’s most improved players in 2022. The Argentinian is seeking his first career Grand Slam match victory, while Murray may be trying to save his career.

Best Potential Matchup: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Andy Murray (Round Four) - Similar to what I wrote regarding Félix Auger-Aliassime vs. Dominic Thiem in Section 2, this matchup would mean that Murray has already won three matches. If that were the case, no other matchup in this section would compare to Tsitsipas vs. Murray. It would be a rematch of their epic First Round match at the US Open last year (won 2-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 by Tsitsipas), which famously featured Murray complaining about Tsitsipas’ long bathroom breaks.

Player to Watch: Maxime Cressy - Whether or not the 25-year-old American who plays a serve-and-volley style is actually a threat at the US Open relies a lot on the speed of the courts (initial reports are that the courts are playing faster than usual, which is a good sign for Cressy). Regardless, his unique (at least unique to the tour today) style makes him very fun to watch, and he has at least a chance to make his first career Grand Slam Quarterfinal.

Section Winner: Stefanos Tsitsipas - I apologize for three straight chalky picks, but I just don’t see anyone beating the 24-year-old in this section. Between the opposition and the way he looked earlier this month in Cincinnati, I like Tsitsipas’ chances to make his first US Open Quarterfinal (interestingly, he’s never even made it past Round Three in New York).

 

Section 4


Seeds: 5) Casper Ruud, 10) Taylor Fritz, 21) Botic van de Zandschulp, 29) Tommy Paul

Who's Hot?

Casper Ruud - After a disappointing Wimbledon, Ruud went back to his roots and won an ATP 250 event on the clay at the Swiss Open. Back on hard courts, the 23-year-old made it to the Canada Masters Semifinals where he lost in three sets to Hubert Hurkacz. In the Canada Quarterfinals, Ruud impressively crushed Félix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-2. However, the Norwegian was upset in his first match at the Cincinnati Masters by Ben Shelton.

Who's Not?

Stan Wawrinka - 2022 has been rough for the three-time Grand Slam Champion as he’s just 3-8 so far this year. The 37-year-old is on a five-match losing streak, and is clearly in the final stage of his fantastic career.

Aljaž Bedene - The 33-year-old Slovenian has had an even worse 2022 than Stan Wawrinka. Bedene, who was once a top-50 player, is 3-9 this year and has not won a match since May 25th.

Biggest Storyline - The Young Americans

Strangely, this was the exact same title that I used for Section 4 in last year’s US Open preview. The volume of young Americans was much greater in Section 4 of the 2021 tournament, but this year we have Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, and Sebastian Korda, who are arguably the three best Americans of their generation. With Casper Ruud being far from trustworthy on any surface other than clay, you could make the case that those three Americans should be the three favorites to come out of this section. The 24-year-old Fritz is seeking a second consecutive Grand Slam Quarterfinal after his run at Wimbledon, while Korda (22-years-old) and Paul (25-years-old) are both seeking their first Quarterfinal at a major. In what is probably the most open quarter of the draw, it is not out of the question that one of these three could become the first American man to make a US Open Semifinal since 2006.

Best Round One Matchup: Casper Ruud vs. Kyle Edmund - Welcome back Kyle Edmund! The 2018 Australian Open Semifinalist and former World #14 is slated to play in his first Grand Slam match since the 2020 US Open. Edmund returned to the tour after 21 months away due to injury earlier this Summer, and will now use a Protected Ranking to enter the tournament. He’ll take on 5-seed Casper Ruud in, at least on paper, one of the most intriguing Round One matches.

Best Potential Matchup: Sebastian Korda vs. Tommy Paul (Round Two) - The easier choice here is probably either of these guys against Taylor Fritz in Round Four, but, honestly, I find Korda and Paul to be more entertaining to watch. I’ll expand on it in a second, but I think the winner of this potential matchup goes to the Quarterfinals.

Player to Watch: Botic van de Zandschulp - In 2021, the 26-year-old became the first male Qualifier since 2008 to make the US Open Quarterfinals. He was also the only player to take a set off of eventual champion Daniil Medvedev. van de Zandschulp has taken advantage of that career-changing run and turned himself into a very solid player, especially at the majors. In 2022, he made the Third Round at the Australian Open (losing to Medvedev), the Third Round at the French Open, and Fourth Round at Wimbledon (losing to Rafael Nadal both times). If van de Zandschulp makes the Quarterfinals again, this time it won’t be much of a shock.

Section Winner: Sebastian Korda - Taylor Fritz is probably the “smart” pick here, but I need to start going with some underdogs. I think Korda is arguably the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw and more than ready to make his Grand Slam Quarterfinal debut. The potential path of Tommy Paul, Casper Ruud, and Fritz in rounds two, three, and four is tough, but I think Korda puts himself on the map for casual tennis fans at this year’s US Open.

 

Section 5


Seeds: 8) Hubert Hurkacz, 11) Jannik Sinner, 17) Grigor Dimitrov, 26) Lornezo Musetti

Who's Hot?

Hubert Hurkacz - The 25-year-old suffered a brutal upset loss in the First Round of Wimbledon, but recovered nicely as the tour shifted back to hard courts. He made his second career Masters 1000 Final in Canada (losing in three sets to Pablo Carreño Busta), and picked up wins over Nick Kyrgios and Casper Ruud along the way. However, the Canada final was sandwiched in between first match losses in both Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati. The Masters 1000 Runner-Up finish is just barely enough to get him on the “hot” list.

Adrian Mannarino - The 34-year-old comes to the US Open fresh off of winning his second career ATP title this past week in Winston-Salem. Including qualifiers, Mannarino has racked up an impressive 14 wins across five tournaments on the North American hard courts this Summer.

Who's Not?

Grigor Dimitrov - With just a 20-17 match record this year, it’s a little strange to see Dimitrov seeded in the top-20. Despite being the #17 Seed, the 31-year-old (yes, he’s 31 now), enters the US Open in poor form. He went 2-4 in the hard court leadup tournaments and had to retire from his most recent match in Winston-Salem due to a breathing issue.

David Goffin - The 31-year-old made a very nice run to the Wimbledon Quarterfinals earlier this Summer, but since then he has been winless on the ATP Tour. He lost his first match in Washington D.C., Montreal, Cincinnati, and Winston-Salem. His only wins since Wimbledon were in Qualifying at Cincinnati.

Sam Querrey - The former World #11 is “only” 34-years-old (maybe it’s just me, but it feels like he should be older), but he has had a brutal last few years. In 2022, he is just 4-9, and he did not play in any of the hard court leadup events.

Biggest Storyline - A Two Man Section?

With uncertainty surrounding Grigor Dimitrov (see above) and Lorenzo Musetti (4-12 outside of clay courts in 2022), and no truly dangerous unseeded players, the section is seemingly down to Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner. I touched on Hurkacz’s recent success (and losses) earlier, and it’s worth noting that he has never been past the Second Round at a hard court Grand Slam. Then there is Jannik Sinner who, at just 21-years-old, has already made the Quarterfinals at every Grand Slam outside of the US Open (he made Round Four last year). There is no overwhelming storyline at all here in this section, so we’ll settle on the idea that it is a two-man race towards the Quarterfinals.

Best Round One Matchup: Lorenzo Musetti vs. David Goffin - Musetti has had tough luck in terms of his Round One opponent in recent months, and this tournament is no different. Although we went through Goffin’s recent struggles above, he is still a very tough matchup who all of the seeded players were likely hoping to avoid. This one feels like a true toss-up, as the 20-year-old Italian looks to avoid going winless at the Grand Slam level in 2022.

Best Potential Matchup: Jannik Sinner vs. Grigor Dimitrov (Round Three) - While I said that we probably have a two-man race between Sinner and Hubert Hurkacz (they would play in Round Four) in this section, I’m just more intrigued by the potential Round Three matchup with Dimitrov. I’m very high on Sinner (more on that in a second), and still believe Dimitrov is one of the most entertaining players on tour. If Dimitrov is healthy (more on that in less than a second), this would be an extremely intriguing Third Round match.

Player to Watch: Grigor Dimitrov - With a lack of options in this section, Dimitrov has to be the choice here. The 2019 US Open Semifinalist never lived up to the hype that was expected of him in the early 2010s, but he’s still put together a very respectable career and is still one of the most talented players in the world. Unfortunately for him, health problems have now surpassed consistency problems when it comes to reasons for his struggles. It feels like every other Grand Slam appearance for Dimitrov ends in retirement or some kind of injury concern (however, he somehow has the longest active streak of consecutive Grand Slam appearances among men at 46). If he’s healthy, he can make another Grand Slam Quarterfinal, but that is clearly a major if.

Section Winner: Jannik Sinner - It will probably come back to haunt me, but this honestly feels like one of the easiest picks in the draw. I like Sinner to cruise through this section with ease on his way to his first US Open Quarterfinal. I really like him to make his first Grand Slam Semifinal here, and even think there’s value on him to win the whole tournament (+1800 on FanDuel). With that being said, now we know he’s definitely going to lose in the First Round and make me look stupid.

 

Section 6


Seeds: 3) Carlos Alcaraz, 15) Marin Cilić, 20) Dan Evans, 25) Borna Ćorić

Who's Hot?

Borna Ćorić - Another player seemingly snakebitten by injuries in recent years, Ćorić limped into the Cincinnati Masters with a 4-8 record in 2022 and fresh off a 3-6, 2-6 loss to Marin Cilić in the First Round of the Canada Masters. Then, out of nowhere, the 25-year-old became the lowest ranked player ever to win a Masters 1000 event. En route to the title, the former World #12 rattled off wins over Lorenzo Musetti, Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Cameron Norrie, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and lost just one set during the tournament. Now, ranked in the top-30 again, Ćorić looks to be back on the right track.

Dan Evans - The 32-year-old lost in the First Round of the Cincinnati Masters, but before that, he did make the Citi Open Quarterfinals and Canada Masters Semifinals. In those tournaments, he picked up wins over Taylor Fritz (twice), Tommy Paul, and Andrey Rublev.

Who's Not?

Sebastian Báez - The 21-year-old has been a breakout player during the 2022 season, but it is obvious right now that he is nothing more than a clay specialist. This year, he is 20-12 on clay courts, and 2-8 on hard courts. He did not win a set in any of the three leadup tournaments he played on the North American hard courts.

Biggest Storyline - Carlos Alcaraz as a True Contender

In hindsight, the hype surrounding Alcaraz at the French Open may have been a little bit premature. To be fair, after the start to 2022 that he had, how could that hype not exist. Then again, him being second-favorite over Rafael Nadal was clearly wrong (and I never went that far, for-the-record). Since he lost to Alexander Zverev in the French Open Semifinals, the 19-year-old has come back down to Earth. He made Round Four at Wimbledon, lost two Finals on clay, and then went just 2-2 in Montreal and Cincinnati. However, with Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev officially out of the draw, I see no reason why Alcaraz can’t be the third favorite (behind Daniil Medvedev and Nadal) here at the US Open. Every single all-time great has gone through growing pains, and this return to Earth for Alcaraz could be a good thing as he tries to become the first teeanger since Nadal to win a Grand Slam. Honestly, if he had performed a little bit better at the two leadup Masters events, I probably would’ve picked him to win the title. The pressure is truly on Alcaraz this time, let’s see if he can deliver.

Best Round One Matchup: Carlos Alcaraz vs. Sebastian Báez - There is no clear choice in this section, so I’ll go with Alcaraz (who seemingly produces about four viral shots/rallies per match) against Báez. I feel validated in my choice considering the fact that tournament organizers picked it to open play on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday.

Best Potential Matchup: Carlos Alcaraz vs. Borna Ćorić (Round Three) - I’ve written about both of these guys already, so it is no surprise that this is the easy choice. This potential Round Three affair immediately jumped out as soon as the draw was released. With gritty American Jenson Brooksby potential lurking for Ćorić in Round Two, I’m not 100% certain we’re going to get this matchup, but if we do, and Ćorić looks like he did in Cincinnati, we should have an epic five-setter on the way.

Player to Watch: Marin Cilić - It’s time to give some respect to the 2014 US Open Champion. I’ve completely ignored him so far while he lurks at the top of this section. Everyone is looking ahead to Alcaraz and Ćorić in Round Three, and that’s great for the 33-year-old. He should be heavily favored to reach Round Four, and if the Alcaraz vs. Ćorić match is the physical thriller we’re all expecting, Cilić could get a tired opponent in Round Four. Also, don’t forget that Cilić made the French Open Semifinals this year and then was seen as a threat at Wimbledon before testing positive for COVID before the tournament began.

Section Winner: Carlos Alcaraz - The two Croatians (Borna Ćorić and Marin Cilić) standing in Alcaraz’s way in the Third and Fourth Rounds respectively are not ideal, but I still like the teenager to get back to the US Open Quarterfinals. Remember, last year he broke onto the scene for casual tennis fans when he made the quarters in New York… and then caught some heat when he somewhat-out-of-nowhere retired in the second set of his match with Félix Auger-Aliassime.

 

Section 7


Seeds: 7) Cameron Norrie, 9) Andrey Rublev, 19) Denis Shapovalov, 28) Holger Rune

Who's Hot?

Cameron Norrie - After a big 2021 season, 2022 was looking like a bit of a stepback for the 27-year-old. However, that is far from the case now as this Summer Norrie made his first Grand Slam Semifinal at Wimbledon, made the Final at Los Cabos, and made the Semifinals at the Cincinnati Masters (he lost in Round Three of the Canada Masters in between Los Cabos and Cincinnati).

Who's Not?

Denis Shapovalov - The 23-year-old upset an injured Rafael Nadal on the clay in Rome back in May and then everything fell apart. Since then, Shapovalov is just 3-10, including 2-3 in the three leadup hard court tournaments he played.

Holger Rune - Just like Denis Shapovalov, Rune had a big victory followed by a terrible stretch. The 19-year-old upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Fourth Round of the French Open, and since then has a record of just 2-10 (with his two wins coming over Benoît Paire and Fabio Fognini…).

Benoît Paire - Speaking of the mercurial 33-year-old from France, Paire is 4-21 (!) so far in 2022. Don’t expect win number five to come in the First Round here against Cameron Norrie.

Biggest Storyline - A Wide Open Section?

I know everybody was worried that I wasn’t going to use the traditional “A Wide Open Section” storyline, but here it is in Section 7! However, this time it comes with a question mark. Two of the four seeded players are on the “not” list, 9-seed Andrey Rublev is just 4-3 in the leadup tournaments, there are some dangerous unseeded players lurking, but maybe I’m overthinking things. Maybe Cameron Norrie is establishing himself as a top tier-two player on tour and should be the clear favorite in this section. I’m not ready to go that far yet, hence the question mark, but you could definitely make the case that it’s his section to lose. The only way for him to prove it is by making it through to the Quarterfinals.

Best Round One Matchup: Andrey Rublev vs. Laslo Djere - There isn’t much to pick from here in this section, so I’ll go with the 9-seed Rublev against the 27-year-old Djere, who made it to the Final this past week in Winston-Salem.

Best Potential Matchup: Andrey Rublev vs. Cameron Norrie (Round Four) - As previously mentioned, this is a pretty boring section, so I’ll settle for the easier answer of the Round Four matchup between two top-ten seeds. Norrie is seeking his second Grand Slam Quarterfinal (after Wimbledon this year), while Rublev was a US Open Quarterfinalist in 2017 and 2020.

Player to Watch: John Isner - Unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2011 Wimbledon, I can still guarantee that every single seeded player was scared to draw Isner in Round One. The tour’s all-time Ace leader has not made the second week at a Grand Slam since the 2018 US Open, but, especially in this potentially open section (and if the courts are truly playing fast), is always going to be a threat. Quietly, could this be the final Grand Slam appearance for the 37-year-old American?

Section Winner: Holger Rune - I’ve already admitted my hesitation regarding Cameron Norrie, and don’t want to send another top-ten player to the Quarterfinals with Andrey Rublev, so I’ll take a shot with the teeanger. Rune fits the billing for a surprise Grand Slam Quarterfinalist: he’s in a slump, he’s in the 24-32 seed range, and he has a lot of raw talent. He also already made a Grand Slam Quarterfinal this year at the French Open.

 

Section 8


Seeds: 2) Rafael Nadal, 14) Diego Schwartzman, 22) Frances Tiafoe, 32) Miomir Kecmanović

Who's Hot?

Frances Tiafoe - I honestly considered just removing this category from a section for the first time ever, but couldn’t do it. Tiafoe is the default selection here, and he has at least picked up six wins (across four tournaments…) in the lead-up tournaments. He made the Semifinals in Atlanta, the Quarterfinals in Washington, D.C. (where he held match points against Nick Kyrgios before losing), lost in three sets to Taylor Fritz in Montreal, and beat Matteo Berrettini before losing in three sets to Sebastian Korda in Cincinnati.

Who's Not?

Jack Sock - The 29-year-old former top-10 player is finally back to consistently playing tournaments after long-term injury issues. In my opinion, he is pound-for-pound the best doubles player on tour, but he has really been struggling in singles recently. He lost 1-6, 1-6 to Taylor Fritz in Atlanta, lost in the Second Round in Washington D.C., and then lost in the First Round of Qualifying in Cincinnati (2-6, 3-6 against Ilya Ivashka).

Biggest Storyline - Rafael Nadal’s Health and Fitness

Four Grand Slam tournaments this year, four preview articles written by me, four times coming in with concerns about Rafael Nadal’s body. He seems to be back healthy again after an abdominal tear forced him out of Wimbledon. He lost his only match post-Wimbledon to Borna Ćorić in Cincinnati, but he looked much more rusty than hurt. With plenty of time to practice since then, Nadal should be back at full strength and, therefore, in my opinion, the favorite to win the title. In the early stages of the tournament, it will at least be worth monitoring how the 36-year-old is holding up physically. Luckily for Nadal, he could not have asked for an easier draw. In Round One he plays Australian Wild Card Rinky Hijikata (who I admittedly hadn’t even heard of until he played Daniil Medvedev in Los Cabos a few weeks ago). In Round Two he plays the winner of Fabio Fognini and Aslan Karatsev, who are 16-18 and 15-21, respectively, in 2022 (I’m hoping it’s Fognini so Nadal can avenge the two-set-to-love lead he blew against the Italian in the 2015 US Open… which made a 15-year-old me very sad after staying up to watch until about 2 AM). His Round Three opponent will likely be either Miomir Kecmanović (a solid player, but seeded 32nd he’s literally, on paper, the best possible draw in that round) or Richard Gasquet (who Nadal is 17-0 against). The potential seeds in Round Four for him are Frances Tiafoe (another one of my favorite players, but no match for Nadal) and Diego Schwatzman (Nadal leads their head-to-head 11-1, including 6-0 at Grand Slams). Long story short, watch Nadal in the first four rounds to see how he’s doing physically, if he’s not doing well, then that’s the only way he’ll lose.

Best Round One Matchup: Diego Schwartzman vs. Jack Sock - Even though he’s struggling, Sock is still one of the more entertaining players on tour, so this is an easy choice as he takes on the 14-seed Schwartzman. Also, while you’d assume the home crowd will be squarely behind Sock, don’t forget that Schwartzman is a major fan-favorite in New York. This should be a fun one Tuesday night on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Best Potential Matchup: Rafael Nadal vs. Diego Schwartzman (Round Four) - While, as previously mentioned, Nadal has a massive lead in their head-to-head, Schwartzman still always rises to the occasion when matched up with the living legend. The Argentinian has twice taken sets off of Nadal at the French Open and, even when the matches end with a straight-set victory, the 22-time Grand Slam Champion always has to work for it.

Player to Watch: Frances Tiafoe - “A Wide Open Section”? Check. Repeated uses of “obviously/clearly/etc.”? Check. Biased overselling of Frances Tiafoe? Check. Those are the three main components of these preview articles. I can’t quit on Tiafoe, as I really like his chances, especially with the American crowd support, to make it to Round Four at the US Open for the third straight year. I’m (obviously) not picking him to win the section like I often foolishly do, but he’s at least gotta be a player to watch!

Section Winner: Rafael Nadal - This is an absolute lock, just see above for his potential path. The bigger question is whether or not Nadal will win the tournament. If he does, that’ll mean Grand Slam number 23 (extending his male record and tying Serena Williams’ overall record), US Open number five (tying Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer for the most in the Open Era), and he’ll return to the ATP World #1 Ranking. It would also mean (thanks his Wimbledon walkover not counting as a loss) that he’d finish the year with a “perfect” 26-0 record at the Grand Slams in 2022. Will he do it? I’ll answer that question very soon…

 

As always, I’ll go on-the-record with my full, official predictions for both the Men’s and Women’s draws on the website tomorrow! Also, be sure to check back here for more articles, and to listen to The Inconclusive Evidence Podcast for updates and analysis throughout the tournament.

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