US Open 2022 – Serena Williams’ remaining Grand Slam, Rafael Nadal’s try at 23 majors and extra to observe this yr

A farewell to Serena Williams, one of many sport’s most legendary gamers. The involuntary absence of Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic. The return of final yr’s debut main champions Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev.

The 2022 US Open really has it all.

After an sudden, unpredictable and at instances chaotic tennis season, we have made it to the ultimate main of the yr. The primary three Grand Slams had been crammed with exceptional competitors, worthy champions and oh-so-much drama and the US Open seems to be extra of the identical — after which some.

Will we see one other first-time winner, or two, at this yr’s occasion? Will Williams conclude her astounding profession by making much more historical past? Might Rafael Nadal make some historical past of his personal? Does Nick Kyrgios have an opportunity to win all of it? Listed here are the gamers and storylines you want to learn about heading into the 2022 US Open.

Finish of an period

After one of many biggest careers in tennis historical past, Serena Williams is anticipated to play in her remaining event on the US Open. The 40-year-old gained the primary of her 23 main singles titles on the occasion in 1999 and now, 23 years after her Grand Slam breakthrough, it can come to an finish.

In a first-person essay for Vogue, Williams detailed the combined feelings she was having about her determination however defined she hoped to have one other baby within the instant future.

“There is no happiness in this topic for me,” Williams wrote about her impending retirement. “I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”

Since making her announcement, shared forward of her second-round match on the Canadian Open, Williams has but to win a match. She misplaced to Belinda Bencic in Toronto, and in her opener in Cincinnati towards Raducanu. She nonetheless acquired standing ovations at each occasions and ticket gross sales for the US Open skyrocketed on the day her Vogue piece revealed on-line.

So whereas it stays unclear how Williams, a six-time US Open champion, will fare towards Danka Kovinic in her first-round conflict in New York, it appears sure there will not be an empty seat in the home at Arthur Ashe Stadium for that match — or any she performs in.

Williams has not hidden her need to match Margaret Court docket’s long-standing document for probably the most main titles (24), however has failed to take action since getting back from childbirth in 2018. Per Caesars Sportsbook, she enters the event with 25-to-1 odds — which does not precisely make her a favourite — but when anybody might pull off the miracle ending, it must be Serena Williams.

As for Venus …

Whereas Serena has been getting a hero’s send-off from her friends and followers alike since making her announcement, sister Venus has been silent on her future plans. She performed in her first singles match in almost a yr on the Citi Open earlier this month, and has since performed at each Toronto and Cincinnati. She has gone winless in any respect three occasions however acquired a wild card for the US Open.

It might be unfair to take a position if this may also be Venus’ remaining event, however it’s clear the tip is nearing for the 42-year-old and one would think about Venus too will obtain a heat and adoring reception from the New York followers.

No Novak

After turning his season round with a title at Wimbledon — his twenty first at a significant — Djokovic finds himself sidelined but once more. The 35-year-old was compelled to withdraw from the US Open earlier this week on account of journey restrictions into the US on account of his unvaccinated COVID-19 standing.

It has been an odd and difficult yr for Djokovic. He was one victory away from finishing the elusive calendar slam on the 2021 US Open however in the end misplaced to Medvedev within the remaining — and it solely went downhill after that. He was deported from Australia in January forward of the Australian Open and performed in only one event earlier than the clay season started. He misplaced the world No. 1 rating, and he fell within the quarters on the French Open. Even the victory at Wimbledon got here with a caveat as a result of there have been no rating factors awarded on the event. Consequently, his rating fell but once more and he presently sits at No. 6.

Having reached the ultimate on the US Open in 2021, Djokovic will now lose 1,200 rating factors and can probably drop to the underside of the highest 10. He’s subsequent anticipated to play on the Laver Cup in September in London, however no rating factors are awarded there.

Whereas Djokovic is definitely probably the most notable absence on the occasion, he is not the one one. World No. 2 and 2020 event finalist Alexander Zverev, No. 28-ranked Reilly Opelka, 2022 Australian Open quarterfinalist and fan favourite Gael Monfils additionally withdrew.

The ladies’s draw stays remarkably intact with nearly the entire prime gamers remaining. Angelique Kerber, the 2016 US Open champion, introduced she can be lacking the occasion for “the best possible reason” on Wednesday, and former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, presently ranked No. 47, withdrew earlier this month, however they’re the largest absences to date.

Nadal’s quest for 23

After profitable the primary two majors of the yr, issues have not too long ago cooled for Nadal on account of accidents. He needed to withdraw forward of his semifinal match at Wimbledon on account of an stomach tear and since then he has performed in only one match: A gap-round loss to eventual champion Borna Coric in Cincinnati.

The four-time champion on the US Open appeared optimistic heading into the event.

“I need to move forward and just start to think about the energy that the crowd gives me in New York,” Nadal mentioned after the loss to Coric. “I know it’s a very special place for me, and I enjoy it. [I have] unforgettable moments there, and I [am] going to try my very best every single day to be ready for that.”

If Nadal had been to win one more title, and assuming Serena Williams does not do the identical, he would match her mark for probably the most main titles within the Open Period, which could not precisely be the sweetest going-away current for Serena.

Ball controversy

Prime-seeded Iga Swiatek made headlines in Cincinnati when she referred to as the balls utilized by ladies on the US Open “horrible” and questioned why ladies used totally different balls than males on the occasion, in contrast to at each different Grand Slam.

“I don’t know why they are different than men’s ones,” Swiatek informed reporters. “I don’t know, like, 15 years ago probably women had some elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they changed them to women’s balls, but right now we are so physically well-prepared that I don’t think it would happen. Plus, we can’t get those balls in Europe, or actually, when we buy them at store, they are totally different than the tournament balls, so when I’m practicing with US Open balls at home [in Poland], I’m practicing with men’s ones.”

The balls are used all through the summer time hard-court swing in the US and Canada. Swiatek, who had a 37-match win streak earlier this yr, misplaced within the spherical of 16 at each occasions she performed main into New York.

Swiatek mentioned the balls had been “hard to control” and revealed she and Paula Badosa had beforehand complained concerning the state of affairs to WTA CEO and chairman Steve Simon final yr. Ashleigh Barty’s longtime coach Craig Tyzzer shared the same sentiment after Barty gained the Australian Open earlier this yr, and mentioned his star participant (who has since retired from tennis) would by no means win the event with the present balls.

Tyzzer implied the balls had been a part of the explanation so many sudden ladies had gained the US Open lately. 5 of the earlier seven ladies’s champions on the event, together with Raducanu in 2021, have been first-time main champions.

The balls will definitely be a speaking level all through the fortnight and will face heavy scrutiny. In an announcement to ESPN final week, the WTA mentioned it “would continue to monitor and discuss further with both our athletes and our sports science teams,” and acknowledged it had acquired requests to vary the balls from “a select number of our athletes.”

Repeat for Raducanu?

After gorgeous the world along with her most unbelievable US Open title in 2021 — changing into the primary qualifier within the Open Period to win a significant — it has been a puzzling yr on the court docket for the 19-year-old Raducanu. She didn’t advance previous the second spherical at any of the majors this season, and hasn’t reached a semifinal or remaining in any event since her Cinderella run.

However Raducanu does deliver some momentum along with her to Queens. After a quarterfinal look on the Citi Open earlier this month, she defeated Serena in Cincinnati in commanding trend, 6-4, 6-0, after which adopted it up lower than 24 hours later with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over two-time main champion Victoria Azarenka. She in the end misplaced to Jessica Pegula 7-5, 6-4 within the third spherical however acquired a much-needed confidence increase for what she was in a position to obtain.

“I think this week was a great step for me,” Raducanu mentioned after the loss to Pegula. “In the past year, I think it’s probably like the first tournament or like one of the few tournaments that I have actually, you know, like started going for my shots more.

“I believe that not too long ago I used to be sort of taking part in and hoping they might miss, and I believe I used to be pushing the ball round much more, moderately than this week I sort of simply was like, look, I am simply going to attempt, I do not care if I make errors, prefer it’s positive, however I am simply going to love overhit if something.”

Raducanu currently sits at No. 11 in the world, but will dramatically drop if she is unable to come close to replicating last year’s success. With 2,756 total points entering the event, and 2,040 points to defend, Raducanu would drop to around No. 80 if she were to lose in her first-round match against 2022 Australian Open quarterfinalist Alize Cornet.

Of course Raducanu was one of a handful of teenagers who made headlines at the tournament in 2021. Her cohorts — fellow finalist Leylah Fernandez, last year’s surprise quarterfinalist and now current world No. 4 Carlos Alcaraz and 2022 French Open runner-up Coco Gauff — will all be looking to take their success one step further.

Medvedev’s quest for No. 2

Like Raducanu, Medvedev returns to New York looking to defend his title and win his second major trophy. But unlike Raducanu, he is one of the favorites to do so and currently the No. 1 player in the world. It’s been an up-and-down summer for Medvedev, who was unable to play at Wimbledon when Russian and Belarusian players were banned. Since then he won the title in Los Cabos, lost his opener in Montreal and reached the semifinals in Cincinnati.

So, while certainly not the strongest hard-court season of his career, Medvedev sounded pleased about his current level following his quarterfinal victory over Taylor Fritz at the Western & Southern Open.

“On the whole, yeah, [I’m] pleased with my stage,” Medvedev said. “If I can proceed to play this manner, and particularly through the match increase my stage, I can beat anyone.”

The emergence of Kyrgios

After years of not quite living up to the sky-high expectations, Kyrgios is playing some of the best tennis of his career. Since the start of the grass-court season in June, he has reached his first major final at Wimbledon, won the title in Washington D.C., as well as two doubles titles and defeated top-10 players like Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

During this period he’s also faced allegations of assault by his former partner in his native Australia, and legal proceedings are underway.

While he admitted his “tank [is] attending to the tip” in Cincinnati last week and was routed by Fritz 6-3, 6-2 in the round of 32 in the final lead-in event, Kyrgios often thrives on the biggest stages and against the toughest opponents. Please watch the clip below, or frankly anywhere on the internet, for proof of this:

Now, knowing he’s capable of reaching a major final and with some strong hard-court results to bolster him, this could just be Kyrgios’ time for his biggest breakthrough yet. It won’t be easy, however. He’ll face his longtime friend and frequent doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first round and then potentially could play No. 16 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round and Medvedev in the fourth.

Who’s next?

Kyrgios isn’t the only player with a legitimate chance to win a maiden Grand Slam in New York. Here are a few others riding some momentum into the Big Apple — which, in case we haven’t made clear, has seen more than its fair share of first-time champions:

Caroline Garcia: The former world No. 4 is having a career resurgence this season. She nabbed her third title of 2022 last week in Cincinnati, becoming the first qualifier to win a WTA 1000-level event. The 28-year-old dispatched a trio of top-10 players in Maria Sakkari, Pegula and Aryna Sabalenka en route to the final, and then defeated two-time major champion Petra Kvitova for the trophy. Back in the top 20, there might be no one with more confidence and fire than Garcia right now.

Borna Coric: The other surprise Cincinnati champion stunned the field — including a shocking three-set upset over Nadal in the round of 32 — to win the first 1000-level title of his career. After shoulder surgery in March and a nearly 10-month absence, Coric had the best week of his career at the Western & Southern Open and surged 123 ranking positions to make his return to the top 30. “I used to be simply believing that I can win the subsequent match,” Coric said on Sunday. “That is what I did for 5 days in a row.”

Daria Kasatkina: She reached the primary main semifinal of her profession on the French Open in June after which was unable to play at Wimbledon, however Kasatkina gained her very subsequent event after popping out on the Silicon Valley Traditional. She reached a career-high rating of No. 9 earlier this month.

Cameron Norrie: The highest-ranked British participant had his career-best outcome at a significant with a semifinal run at Wimbledon — and has but to decelerate since. He reached the ultimate at Los Cabos and the semifinals in Cincinnati and enters the US Open with the highest-ranking of his profession at No. 9.

Jessica Pegula: Probably the most constant ladies on tour this season, Pegula superior to the semifinals in Toronto and the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, and gained the doubles titles in Washington D.C. and Toronto (with two totally different companions nonetheless!). Having reached the quarters in two of the three Grand Slams already this season, and now taking part in on dwelling turf as an American, it might simply be Pegula’s time to take the most recent step in her unorthodox profession.