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Raducanu defends as Serena steps away – the players to watch at the US Open
Ten players hoping for big things at Flushing Meadows.
The US Open kicks off on Monday with Daniil Medvedev and Emma Raducanu defending their titles.
Novak Djokovic is unable to enter the United States due to his unvaccinated status while Serena Williams is preparing to say goodbye to the sport.
Here, the PA news agency picks out 10 players to watch at Flushing Meadows.
An ill-timed abdominal injury ended Nadal’s hopes of winning the calendar Grand Slam when he was forced to pull out ahead of the Wimbledon semi-finals but he still has not lost a best-of-five-sets match all season. Time is not on his side but he has an excellent record in New York and won a fourth title on his last appearance at Flushing Meadows in 2019.
Medvedev goes into the tournament as the defending champion and world number one but the odds are probably against him holding onto either of those titles. Since his agonising loss to Nadal in the Australian Open final, the 26-year-old has won only one minor title and suffered some surprising defeats, while his status has made him a lightning rod for the furore surrounding the participation of Russian players.
It was in New York last summer that Alcaraz burst into the spotlight with a run to the quarter-finals. He won the Masters title in Miami in the spring and followed it up by beating Nadal and Djokovic back to back on his way to success at the Madrid Open. There appeared to be no stopping the 19-year-old but, such are the stratospheric standards he has set, his recent form has been a little shaky.
That the Australian is back in the top 30 despite his run to the Wimbledon final garnering no points shows what a consistently strong season he has had. Kyrgios finally appears dedicated to tennis – on his terms – and has built on his grass-court success with more impressive results on the American hard courts. With his parents unwell back in Australia, though, Kyrgios may find it difficult to keep his mind away from home.
Britain have three in-form men in Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans and 20-year-old Draper. The young Londoner is attracting attention far beyond these shores and achieved another milestone earlier this month by claiming his first top-10 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Draper, who is close to becoming a top-50 player, will be a name the seeded stars are all looking to avoid.
Twenty-three years after she won her first grand slam title aged 17, Williams is preparing to bid farewell to the sport she has dominated on and off the court. She is, by her own admission, terrible at goodbyes, and she will not want to bow out with a meek defeat. Having played so little tennis, though, and a month short of her 41st birthday there is little to indicate she can challenge for a record-equalling 24th slam singles title.
Thanks to her 37-match winning run, which included a second French Open title, Swiatek has a huge lead at the top of the rankings. She was unbeatable on American hard courts in the spring and then her favoured clay but has not gone beyond the quarter-finals at any event since Roland Garros and is still settling into her new status. Goes in as the favourite, but only a lukewarm one.
This season has seen Halep show something like her old form after the difficulties of last year’s calf injury, which meant she was unable to defend her Wimbledon title. The Romanian was close to calling it a day but credits new coach Patrick Mouratoglou – Williams’ long-time mentor – for helping her rediscover her love of the sport. Winning the title in Toronto earlier this month propelled Halep back into the top 10.
What a moment for the 19-year-old as she defends the title she won so incredibly last summer. Raducanu’s form since and the decisions she has made have been scrutinised to an extraordinary degree but there are signs that the British number one is starting to settle into tour life. A repeat of 12 months ago is surely out of the question but, if Raducanu could make it to the second week, that would be a creditable result.
Beatriz Haddad Maia
It has been an incredible season for the 26-year-old Brazilian, who began the year ranked 83 and goes into the US Open as a top-20 player. A talented junior, Haddad Maia’s career was put on hold when she failed a doping test in 2019 and served a 10-month ban. She won back-to-back titles on grass in Nottingham and Birmingham this summer and reached the biggest final of her career in Toronto this month.