Adrian Humphries offers up his thoughts ahead of the highly-anticipated US Open at Flushing Meadows.
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, New York
Monday 29th August-Sunday 11th September 2022
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|Odds||Men's - Daniil Medvedev 5/2, Carlos Alcaraz 4/1; Women's - Iga Swiatek 5/2, Naomi Osaka 6/1, Aryna Sabalenka 12/1|
Rafael Nadal has a big chance to win a third Grand Slam singles title this year when the action starts in New York City on Monday, but the second seed is going to have to work hard for success.
Nadal has definitely performed well enough on occasions at Flushing Meadows to make him a big danger to Daniil Medvedev’s hopes of retaining his crown, but age and the younger generation may soon catch up with the Spaniard.
For now, though, the 7/2 second favourite is still the one to beat and is preferred to Medvedev. The Russian upended Novak Djokovic in last year’s US Open final but doing the same against Nadal could prove a lot tougher, as was the case in Melbourne this year when the Pearl of Manacor fought back from two sets down to pip Medvedev 3-2.
There is no player better at getting entrenched in the battle than Nadal, who leads the Grand Slam singles race with 22 triumphs, and we're likely to see that in the coming days, although there are plenty of young guns queueing up to try to bring down the 36-year-old Majorcan.
Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, two of those fast-rising young stars, contest the third quarter of the draw and so one could quite easily meet Nadal in a blockbuster semi-final. Of course, though, an energy-sapping quarter-final between the pair would suit Nadal down to the ground.
Before that, Nadal has Britain's Cameron Norrie and Andrey Rublev to take care of in his quarter. Norrie is enjoying another superb campaign and clearly feels he belongs in the top echelon - he just needs to topple some big-name rivals to back up his cause. Rublev, meanwhile, has gone off the boil a little this year.
Iga Swiatek is the market leader for the final Grand Slam of the season following her victory in the French Open. But after a wildly successful first half of the year, the world number one and top seed has been struggling for form in recent months.
The Pole could have to be on guard early on. She could face 2017 US Open heroine Sloane Stephens in round two and Amanda Anisimova or Qinwen Zheng in the last 16 - and Anisimova, who has been threatening to break her duck in majors for some time now, could be worth an outright each-way bet at 40/1.
Garbine Muguruza has been struggling with her game, so Jessica Pegula or Petra Kvitova could lie in wait at the quarter-final stage for Swiatek or Anisimova. Pegula has been consistently pushing at the highest level too, but at her peak Anisimova may prove a bigger danger to the top names.
Qinwen Zheng can also be considered in the first quarter of the draw, but the Chinese teenager has it tough from the outset with a clash against 16th seed Jelena Ostapenko.
Qualifier Linda Fruhvirtova and Bernarda Pera could give a decent account of themselves in the second eighth, but both are likely to get found out well before the business end of the tournament.
Emma Raducanu, who is in the second quarter of the draw, is likely to find it tough going for her maiden Slam title defence.
The 19-year-old Briton opens with a clash against in-form Alize Cornet, one of the few players in the draw who is absolutely on top of their game, so punters should be wary of an upset in this one.
Quarters two and three look especially competitive and with doubts over Raducanu and two-time Flushing Meadows champion Naomi Osaka, who hasn’t looked as committed to the cause in recent seasons, it could pay to chance Belinda Bencic to win the second section.
The Swiss ace looks to have winnable matches against Andrea Petkovic and then either Sorana Cirstea or Laura Siegemund and should have too much for possible opponent Karolina Pliskova in round three.
Fourth seed Paula Badosa could be a handful in the last 16, but Bencic may now be ready to upend the Spaniard should they meet. Aryna Sabalenka's game is still riddled with errors and the sixth seed looks there to be taken on.
Simona Halep tops the third quarter of the draw but the Romanian may have to work hard for a third Slam singles triumph. Halep has never gone all the way in Flushing and others are preferred more this year too.
She could meet Cori Gauff or Madison Keys in the last 16, but the winner of that rumble may have to find a way past red-hot Caroline Garcia, who was hugely impressive when triumphant in Cincinnati recently.
Third seed Maria Sakkari and Beatriz Haddad Maia could go well, but Brazilian Haddad Maia faces a tough early draw and so preference is for Frenchwoman Garcia to win her quarter.
Arguably the biggest story of this year's US Open is the impending retirement of Serena Williams, but the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion has been handed a great draw for what it scheduled to be her last major outing.
After an opener against Danka Kovinic, Williams could meet second seed Anett Kontaveit in round two. The Estonian was playing some terrific tennis earlier in the campaign but her form has fallen rather flat in recent months.
After a possible third-round date with Ajla Tomljanovic, it could be last year's US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez or Barbora Krejcikova in the last 16 and either looks beatable.
Daria Kasatkina, Shelby Rogers or, more likely, Ons Jabeur could stand in wait in the quarter-finals. But Kasatkina has been busy shining in regular tournaments, Rogers is playing well but may lack the self-belief to sparkle in Slams, and fifth seed Jabeur can still be vulnerable against more talented opponents.
Williams is 40/1 outright but as well as an each-way punt at that price, she can also be backed to win the fourth quarter.
Medvedev could be vulnerable to a last-16 exit against Nick Kyrgios, who is likely to still be buzzing following his run to the Wimbledon final in July.
The Australian, 8/1 fourth favourite for Flushing Meadows, had little answer to Djokovic on the London grass, but he should have fewer fears from his rivals in the Big Apple.
Kyrgios should win his first three outings - he opens against good mate Thanasi Kokkinakis and may then meet Ugo Humbert and Roberto Bautista Agut - and the Canberra ace, who leads Medvedev 3-1 in career meetings, could be well placed to frank the form of his recent 6-7 6-4 6-2 victory over Medvedev in Toronto.
Nadal looks Kyrgios’s chief concern, although mention should be made of 20/1 shot Taylor Fritz, who was hugely impressive when defeating Nadal in the Indian Wells final in March. Californian Fritz looks a danger to any opponent, including Kyrgios.
Fritz should open with wins over qualifier Brandon Holt, son of Tracy Austin, Pedro Cachin or Aljaz Bedene, then Stan Wawrinka or Botic van de Zandschulp, and should also be capable of dismissing possibly Casper Ruud, Tommy Paul or Sebastian Korda in the last 16 should he still be involved then.
Tsitsipas could be a quarter-final foe, but Fritz is becoming so good that no opponent is safe if he’s on top of his own game.
Andy Murray, US Open champion ten years ago, could go well in the second quarter he shares with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Fritz, but the legendary Brit is no certainty to shine.
In the past Murray has tended to step up his performances towards the end of campaigns, but it's difficult to be confident about whether that might happen at his advanced age.
The Scot's game looked in excellent order late last season and hopes were high that he might enjoy a successful 2022, but that hasn't really happened and his campaign has been generally unremarkable.
After overcoming a career-threatening hip injury, it's possible that Murray could step up again and belie his age. But the sport's young stars are showing signs of getting a handle on the three-time major hero and his Slam-winning days are highly likely to be behind him.