Rafael Nadal will vie for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title when the US Open, fourth and final Grand Slam of the year, begins in New York on Monday.
Novak Djokovic, the Spaniard’s fiercest rival, will miss his second Major of the year because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and thus is not allowed to travel to the United States. Another notable absentee this year will be the 2020 finalist Alexander Zverev of Germany, who has been out due to his ankle injury sustained during the semifinal against Nadal at Roland Garros.
With Djokovic out of the way, Nadal is expected to clinch his fifth title at Flushing Meadows provided he does not face any fitness issues. The 36-year-old won the Australian Open and the French Open this year while nursing chronic pain in his left foot, medically known as the Mueller-Weiss Syndrome.
He was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon after reaching the semifinals due to an abdominal injury and only recently returned to play Cincinnati Masters where he lost to eventual champion Borna Coric in the second round.
At the 2022 US Open, his first since the title-winning campaign in 2019, Nadal is seeded second and begins his campaign against Australian wildcard Rinky Hijikata. His first big challenge could come in the quarterfinals where he could face British Cameron Norrie. A win against Norrie could potentially set up an all-Spanish semifinal with teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz.
Defending champion Daniil Medvedev is the first ‘non-Big Four’ member to be seeded number one at a Grand Slam in nineteen years. The Russian, who beat Djokovic in the 2021 final and stopped him from completing a rare Calendar Slam, begins his 2022 campaign against American Stefan Kozlov. His projected quarterfinal is against sixth-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. The duo’s last-eight clash at the 2022 Australian Open was a five-set thriller that lasted four hours and 42 minutes.
If Medvedev beats Auger-Aliassime, the Russian could face fourth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinal, a repeat of the 2022 Australian Open.
Alcaraz came into the limelight with a five-set win over Tsitsipas in the third round of the 2021 US Open and eventually made it to the quarterfinals. At the 2022 US Open, Alcaraz is seeded third and has received a tough draw. The young Spaniard faces Argentine Sebastian Baez in the opening round. His third round and quarterfinal opponents could be Cincinnati Masters champion Coric and 11th-seeded Italian Jannik Sinner, respectively.
Some of the big first-round clashes at this year’s tournament include Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios against his fellow Australian and doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis, wildcard and 2020 champion Dominic Thiem against 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, and 2012 champion Andy Murray against 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo.
Compared to the other three Majors, the US Open has seen the most number of players outside the ‘Big Three’ to emerge champions in recent years. It won’t be surprising if such is the case this year as well.
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