Nihit - Welcome to Sportstar Podcast. This is your host, Nihit Sachdeva, and today, joining me on this episode is my colleague N Sudarshan. And we are going to talk about the upcoming U.S. Open and the buildup to the last Major of the year. Just want to start with a random rant that out of the four Slams this year, I think the US Open has had the weirdest buildup. I mean, it happens every year. After Wimbledon, you have some random clay court tournaments. There is one grass court tournament as well. And then the, initial few events that happened even on hardcourt were, well, not that great to be honest. Sudarshan, what do you think about the buildup to the US Open?
Sudarshan - Thanks nihit. Thanks for having me. Like you said, it’s very difficult buildup to get used to because unlike the French or the Wimbledon, I feel, at least in this part of the world, there is not much anticipation. Until Wimbledon, all the tennis seems to be going at a breakneck pace. And then, there is a month-long lull before the hardcourt swing starts. It’s also about the fatigue because I certainly face it and the timings are not good at all. So, you’re already not looking forward to a lot of these late-night matches, early-morning matches and then, if you have the kind of surprises that we have had in this build up, it just feels like there’s something off there.
Nihit - Toronto was the first event Carlos Alcaraz played post his fantastic Wimbledon final victory over Novak Djokovic. Well, not technically the first because Alcaraz, I think he wanted to honor his commitment, went to play Hopman Cup in Nice on a clay court. Ho went there and then, from there, he went to Toronto for his first event. And I think he was pretty off. He lost to Tommy Paul. And then again, he plays Paul in the in Cincinnati and almost lost. Specifically talking about Cincinnati,all five matches that he played went to three sets. I’ll just straight away come to the final because Cincinnati was also Djokovic’s first event in US in two years. He had last played in 2021. He couldn’t come to the US last year because of the restrictions on international travelers who were not vaccinated against COVID-19. I think this has become a habit for Djokovic. Last year, he could not play at Australian Open. This year he came and won. Last year he couldn’t enter US. This year, he started with a win in Cincinnati. Do you think this Cincinnati final between Alcaraz and Djokovic, which was just an hour short of their Wimbledon final despite the fact that it was just the best-of-three sets, sets up the US open nicely?
Sudarshan - I think you’re right in saying that it does set up the US Open pretty nicely and this is something we did speak about immediately after Wimbledon also whether it was a changing of the guard moment. While you do sense that it is a changing of the guard in the sense that Alcaraz is going to be the next big champion, we did predict that, at least for a year, at a minimum, the two careers of Djokovic and Alcaraz will run parallel. And they will meet in a lot of big ticket matches and fortunes can swing. In Wimbledon, Alcaraz won and in this match in Cincinnati, Djokovic won despite having had to save a match point in the second set. Alcaraz was set and a break up and he was serving at 4-3 and it was pretty wild, the way that there were a series of at least three or four unforced errors. Djokovic got back in and was up in the third set when Alcaraz fought back and saved four match points and then Djokovic took it on his fifth. I do feel this is going to be a trend. Djokovic’s fitness levels at, close to 37, playing in such heat where he vividly described how the court was. He said that the heat was just bouncing off the court. That’s how tough it was. Djokovic looked spent for one and a half sets and it brought back those old memories of mid 2000s Djokovic, when he used to just wilt after a set or two. So, for him to gather his energy and claim the title from the position he was in, it was just, I would say hats off and it sets up the US Open nicely.
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