HomeSportWhat to look out for at the US Open

What to look out for at the US Open


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Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 28 August-10 SeptemberCoverage: Daily live text and radio commentaries across the BBC Sport website, app, BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Sports ExtraThe prospect of the fascinating rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz continuing in another Grand Slam final will be one of the key themes when the US Open begins in New York on Monday.Serbia’s Djokovic, 36, and Spain’s Alcaraz, 20, might be at the opposite ends of their careers but the pair are side-by-side as the world’s two best men’s players.Few are looking beyond the joint favourites to win the men’s singles at Flushing Meadows, where Djokovic is aiming for a record-equalling 24th major singles title and Alcaraz tries to defend the crown he won last year.Poland’s Iga Swiatek remains the woman to beat as the world number one tries to repeat her first-time victory at the hard-court major.Over the 22-year-old’s shoulder in the rankings are a host of proven and in-form talents, led by Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka and home players Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.Djokovic, Swiatek and Gauff are the star attractions when the tournament starts on Monday, while qualifier Lily Miyazaki is the only British player in action on day one. Arthur Ashe Stadium Louis Armstrong StadiumDay session (from 17:00 BST):Day session (from 16:00 BST):Iga Swiatek (Pol) [1] v Rebecca Peterson (Swe)Victoria Azarenka [18] v Fiona Ferro (Fra) Learner Tien (US) v Frances Tiafoe (US) [10]Sloane Stephens (US) v Beatriz Haddad Maia (Bra) [19]Steve Johnson (US) v Taylor Fritz (US) [9]Night session (from 00:00 BST, Tuesday):Night session (from 00:00 BST, Tuesday):Laura Siegemund (Ger) v Coco Gauff (US) [6]Stefanos Tsitsipas (Gre) [7] v Milos Raonic (Can)Alexandre Muller (Fra) v Novak Djokovic (Srb) [2]Tatiana Prozorova v Caroline Wozniacki (Den)Going into the final Grand Slam event of the year, BBC Sport runs through the major talking points in New York.Can anyone stop Alcaraz and Djokovic?Djokovic beat Alcaraz in a classic Cincinnati final last week, their third meeting in three monthsSuch has been the quality of Alcaraz and Djokovic over the past 12 months, few pre-tournament predictions are veering away from these two players contesting the men’s final in New York.The pair hold all four major titles, helping to create a gulf between them and the rest in the ATP rankings.Djokovic, back at the US Open after missing last year’s tournament because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19, will wrestle back the world number one ranking from Alcaraz if he wins his opening match.Alcaraz landed his first major title at Flushing Meadows in the absence of Djokovic and claimed another at Wimbledon last month, beating the Serb in a thrilling final.Their developing rivalry had been a slow burner. It was bubbling at the start of the season but without both present at key tournaments there was little chance for the pair to go toe-to-toe on the court. Now the match-up has ignited over the past few months following three compelling contests in the French Open semi-finals, the Wimbledon showpiece and last week’s Cincinnati final.Alcaraz and Djokovic cannot meet at the US Open until the final as a result of being the top two seeds.Players such as 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev, last year’s beaten finalist Casper Ruud, emerging force Holger Rune or recent Toronto champion Jannik Sinner – who have all suffered chastening losses to Alcaraz or Djokovic at majors this year – appear best placed to challenge them.Rafael Nadal, Djokovic’s long-time rival who plans to retire next year, is missing as he continues to recover from the hip surgery that has kept him out of almost the whole season.* denotes Russian or Belarusian player who is competing as a neutral athleteIs this Gauff’s time and will Swiatek’s stranglehold end?Expectation has surrounded Gauff ever since she arrived on the scene as a 15-year-old phenomenon in 2019.The American’s progress since then has been significant but steady, becoming a fixture in the world’s top 10 over the past 12 months without yet winning a major singles title.After a humbling first-round defeat at Wimbledon, the 19-year-old did some soul searching and her work with new coach Pere Riba, plus input from experienced consultant Brad Gilbert, has helped iron out the inconsistencies in her game.The results have been clear. Gauff has won the biggest titles of her career in Washington and Cincinnati this month, pitching her among the leading contenders at the US Open.No American player has won the singles title since Sloane Stephens in 2017 but third seed Pegula provides another genuine hope of a home champion.Pegula, 29, triumphed at the Canadian Open in Montreal – the other biggest tournament in the pre-US Open swing – and is hoping to turn her tour-level consistency into a first major success.Gauff (right) beat Swiatek for the first time in their eight meetings on her way to the Cincinnati titleJust as she was a year ago when she won her maiden US Open title, Swiatek is still the frontrunner – despite coming under increasing pressure from her nearest rivals.She leads the rankings after another impressive year on the WTA Tour, winning 53 of her 62 matches and claiming four titles.But Swiatek lost to Gauff and Pegula in her exits in Cincinnati and Montreal, while her stranglehold on the world number one ranking is again under threat from second seed Sabalenka.The 25-year-old Belarusian will top the rankings for the first time if she matches Swiatek’s performance in New York.Pegula’s consistency has helped her break apart from the so-called ‘big three’ of Swiatek, Sabalenka and Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, who is hoping to overcome the physical issues that have troubled her in recent months.Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova plays in the first major since she became a Grand Slam winner, while Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur – beaten by the Czech in the All England Club final and runner-up at Flushing Meadows last year – hopes to finally land a major title.Two-time champion Venus Williams, 43, is set to play in a 24th US Open – an Open era record for singles appearances – after being given a wildcard.Denmark’s former world number one Caroline Wozniacki also received a wildcard after the 33-year-old mother-of-two announced she was coming back from retirement.* denotes Russian or Belarusian player who is competing as a neutral athleteMurray set to lead British challengeMurray, 36, has been dealing with an abdominal injury during the build-up, withdrawing from tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati as a result.While the problem left him unable to serve, the former world number one – who won the first of his three major titles at the US Open in 2012 – has been able to train over the past week and is confident he is physically ready.Murray is one of six Britons to have earned direct entry into the main draw at Flushing Meadows and is joined by Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans, Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage and Jack Draper.Raducanu, however, is absent as she recovers from wrist and ankle surgeries.The 20-year-old, who memorably created history by winning the 2021 title as a teenage qualifier – had the operations in May and is hoping to make a competitive return to the court before the end of the season.Video replays to help umpiresTechnology has been a key part of the sport for many years but will be used for a new purpose at the US Open.The tournament has introduced a video-assist review system for chair umpires to be able to immediately check incidents – double bounces, hindrance and a player touching the ball or the net – if challenged by a player. “We haven’t had it before where the chair umpires will have the review at their fingertips,” said US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster.One thing that remains the same, though, is the tournament’s night schedule.Finishing matches in the early hours has been a regular source of concern for players, but organisers have resisted calls to change its scheduling to avoid potential late conclusions.US Open night sessions start at 19:00 in New York and feature two matches, meaning finishes in the early hours of the morning are common.”At the moment, we are staying the course with two night matches. We will continue to evaluate it,” Allaster said.

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