With Medvedev’s loss to Kyrgios, the 2022 US Open looks once again to enhance its reputation as the Grand Slam for the many rather than the few.
Between 2004 and 2008 Roger Federer won the US Open an incredible five times in a row, a record in Open-era tennis. However, in 2009 Federer was shocked by Juan Martin Del Potro as the Argentine overpowered Federer to win a thrilling five-set epic in the final. Since Federer’s defeat to Del Potro in 2009, the US Open seems to have become the most ‘open’ of all the Majors on the circuit. Post Federer’s dominant era, the tournament has been won by nine different players in its last fourteen showings. To put this into perspective, this is nearly double the number of players that have won the other three Majors during this time frame. In addition to this, no one has retained the title in New York since Federer in 2008 and following Medvedev’s loss to Kyrgios, this looks to stand till at least 2023.
The US Open has quickly established itself as the Major that seems to provide the best opportunity for players to claim their maiden Grand Slam title, with the likes of Del Potro, Murray, Cilic, Thiem and Medvedev all having the US Open as their first Grand Slam win. A whole host of young players will be hoping to follow in these champions' footsteps and win in Flushing Meadows. The likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Jannick Sinner and Matteo Berrettini will be well aware, especially after the loss of Medvedev, that this is a golden opportunity to claim the title in New York.
But what is it about the US Open in recent years that has made it the Grand Slam for the many rather than the few? One of the most common explanations for this is the placement of the US Open in the tennis calendar. As the last of the four Grand Slams, it is possible that the usual Champions, Nadal and Djokovic, have become fatigued after a year of competing for every Major title. This then lends itself to other players who are perhaps fresher after performing less well in the previous Majors in the year. It would be wise to consider players that have had a more relaxed year on court, the likes of those that missed out at Wimbledon. This theory heavily lends itself to Berrettini, who will be hoping to capitalise on his ‘freshness’ heading into the tournament, having missed Wimbledon due to a positive covid test.
Although there is some validation to claims that the timing of the US Open is what causes it to be such an open tournament, I believe there is a more credible reason… The US Open is renowned for its ‘neutral’ surface. Unlike the natural grass surfaces of Wimbledon or the clay at Roland Garros, the US Open courts are artificial and provide a more consistent and reliable bounce. The consistency of the US Open provides a more even playing surface and seems to neutralise the advantages that Nadal and Djokovic have on the other surfaces. Additionally, the acrylic that makes up the hard courts at the US Open are the most common material used for tennis courts. Whilst the likes of grass and clay are limited to particular regions, hard courts can be found across the world meaning that it prevents a court specialist from emerging and dominating. All of this contributes to making the US Open the best chance for many players to get their hands on a Grand Slam title.
Overall, it is normally players who are the fittest, with the strongest baseline hit that succeed in America. The likes of the previously mentioned Matteo Berrettini certainly fit these criteria, but keep an eye out yet again for Carlos Alcaraz, Jannick Sinner and any other players hoping to gain their maiden Major title, as it appears the US Open is one for those hoping to break their Grand Slam duck.