Players to watch ahead of the US Open

The North American hard court swing is a try after a short stint on clay after Wimbledon. Three Majors are on the books, with Rafael Nadal winning both the Australian Open 2022 and the French Open, breaking the record with 22 Major titles won. Former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic won his seventh Wimbledon title, one big title behind Nadal. That leaves ATP’s fourth major of the year, the US Open, on deck at the end of August.

The shift from clay to grass back to hardcourt creates an interesting dynamic on tour that bettors could benefit from. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for North American hard court swing ahead of the US Open in New York.

Early odds for US Open 2022

Novak Djokovic +160

Daniil Medvedev +240

Carlos Alcaráz +335

Rafael Nadal +550

Stefanos Tsitsipas +1000

Daniil Medvedev retaliates on June 22 in his second round match against Aslan Karatsev on day five of the Mallorca Championship.  (Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Daniil Medvedev retaliates on June 22 in his second round match against Aslan Karatsev on day five of the Mallorca Championship. (Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

The surface

Clay brings volatility because of the inconsistency of the surface. The players who excel on the red dirt are good both physically and mentally as the rallies are long and grueling. Grass is all about big serves and quick points. Those who can serve and volley or play well at net usually have a good grass season. The action returns to the hard court where the player pool of winners opens up. Those who play well from the baseline will struggle, and the ATP has a lot of baseline players these days.

Return of the Russians

Wimbledon banned this group of players from participating in the third Major of the year, leaving Daniil Medvedev (No.1), Andrey Rublev (No.8), Karen Khachanov (No.26), Aslan Karatsev (No.37) and Ilya Ivashka ( No. 53) paused. With the exception of Medvedev, most of them were used during the clay court break. That brings me to the start of my list of players to keep an eye on ahead of the US Open.

Daniel Medvedev

It’s easy to forget about Medvedev because it feels like it’s been so long since we’ve seen him. Clay isn’t particularly his best surface, but he still spent most of the clay court season recovering from an injury. He then had a couple of deep runs on grass and lost back-to-back finals at the Libema Open and the Halle Open. Meddy has 13 Tour titles, six he won outdoors, including the 2018 Winston-Salem Open, the 2019 ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati, the 2021 ATP Masters 1000 Canada and of course the 2021 US Open where he defeated Djokovic in straight sets in the final defeated .

That makes four of his six outdoor hard-court titles won towards the end of the year. Djokovic is the best returnee in the world but you could definitely put Medvedev right next to him. Its length and wingspan make it really difficult to get anything past it. My only gripe is that Medvedev doesn’t have the variety I would expect from someone who holds the world number title, but what he’s good at, baseline play, he’s really good at. This is Medvedev’s time to shine.

TaylorFritz

I’m still waiting for this breakthrough. it’s coming The 24-year-old American is so close to claiming this big win. I’m not talking about beating an injured Nadal in the Indian Wells final, I’m talking about surviving that big moment in a Major. Could this be the time of year it happens? Fritz pushed Djokovic to five sets in the third round of the 2021 Australian Open, Tsitsipas to five sets in the fourth round of the 2022 Australian Open and almost lost Nadal in a fifth-set tiebreak in last month’s Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Fritz has the guns to shine not only in these heats, but in New York as well. He’s got the serve, powerful shots on both the forehand and backhand and is now gaining the confidence to compete in those marquee matchups. Fritz doesn’t have a good record, 16-16 in the five heats to the US Open, but he’s progressing. His best record is in Los Cabos, a 9-4 win/loss record that he may be able to build on.

Dominik Thiem

Is Thiem back? It’s been a rough couple of years for the 2020 US Open champion. The Austrian, who peaked at No. 3 in the world rankings from March 2020 to February 2021, has since fallen as low as No. 352 and currently sits at No. 274. Why? Wrist injury surgery. After winning the 2020 US Open, Thiem delivered one of the biggest comebacks, defeating Nick Kyrgios in five sets of the third round of the 2021 Australian Open after losing two sets. I always mark that match as the one that broke him. Thiem went 5-7 thereafter, playing his last match of the year in June 2021 and only returning to his tour in April 2022.

Including last year, Thiem has had a 10-match losing streak but has won six of his last eight matches since early July. The one-handed backhand is still a beauty and his powerful forehand is finding its way back to full power. What Thiem needed was confidence and it looks like he’s finding it just in time for a new hard court season. It’s unclear what events he’ll be playing before the next Major, but it’s something to reconsider as he gets stronger, more confident and in better shape with every game.

Carlo Alcaraz

How far can the Spaniard go? We’ll find out in a moment. Alcaraz is sixth in the ranking and only 19 years old. As of this writing, Carlitos holds a 38-5 record in 2022, is 13-0 in ATP 500 events, has reached quarterfinals in seven events, reached semifinals in six, and won four titles. He has only played in 10 tournaments. It was the 2021 US Open where he gave his first glimpses of his future development, beating Tsitsipas in a fifth-set tiebreak in the third round. This was followed by another five-set win over Peter Gojowczyk, but by the time he reached the quarterfinals he didn’t have the health to continue and was eliminated early in the second set to Felix Auger-Aliassime.

He is certainly healthy and fit now. It will be interesting to see what Alcaraz can produce the rest of the year. He has all the weapons to compete for a Major – Slice, Drop Shot, Kick Serve, Power Strikes, Court Sense. And now he has the experience of running deep and winning in tournaments.

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