The US Open has proved to be the most evenly contested Grand Slam over the past decade, with six different winners in the last 10 years (Roger Federer does not even make that list) and nobody managing to sustain a period of dominance. There are a few youngsters who could just threaten the old guard this time around as well, although Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Federer remain the favourites. Here’s how the main contenders are shaping up ahead of the tournament.
Novak Djokovic - 11/10: As the world No.1, defending US Open champion and winner of the most recent Grand Slam - at Wimbledon - Djokovic will arrive in New York as the man to beat. He is the ultimate hard-court player with his supreme athleticism, consistent groundstrokes and formidable returns of serve, but there may just be a couple of glimmers of hope for his rivals. Firstly, he suffered a surprise loss to Daniil Medvedev in the Cincinnati semi-finals in the only event he has played since Wimbledon. Secondly, he can be vulnerable when conditions throw him off his rhythm just a bit, so high winds could be a real factor, as could the retractable roof, as there was fierce criticism last year about the oppressive heat and lack of air circulation.
Rafael Nadal – 4/1: Champion in 2017, Nadal had to pull out of his semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro last year due to injury. He should be fit and fresh this year, though, having withdrawn from the Cincinnati Masters following his impressive march to the Montreal title the previous week. The Spaniard has had a phenomenal year, winning at the French Open again and looking imperious at Wimbledon before he was vanquished by Federer in a classic encounter. The way he played in Montreal suggests he will take some stopping, and odds of around 4/1 make him a far more tempting bet than Djokovic.
Roger Federer – 6/1: The Swiss maestro continued to defy the ageing process at Wimbledon, coming within one point of the title before ultimately being felled by Djokovic. However, he has not had the same sort of love affair with the US Open since he won five straight titles from 2004 to 2008. He was shocked by John Millman in the fourth round last year and doesn’t go into this year’s tournament in the best of form, having lost in straight sets to Russian Andrey Rublev in Cincinnati. He clearly still has the game to go all the way, but it is doubtful that he could take out both Nadal and Djokovic at Flushing Meadows.
Daniil Medvedev – 14/1: Surging into the world’s top five on the back of a stunning run this summer, Medvedev has suddenly become the player most likely to break his Grand Slam duck. He has reached three big finals in a row, losing to Nick Kyrgios in Washington and Nadal in Montreal, before winning in Cincinnati. Even Djokovic was full of praise for the 23-year-old Russian after losing to him in the semi-finals, admitting that his tactic of going for big second serves every time had been brave and effective. Medvedev’s game looks in good order and his confidence is so high that he will be targeting another final in New York.
Best Of The Rest – Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem, heralded at various times as the leaders of the next generation before Medvedev’s recent emergence, can all be backed at 25/1. Of the three, none are in the best of form, although Thiem won on the clay of Kitzbuhel a few weeks ago and his victory at Indian Wells in the spring suggested that he could be a dark horse on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows.
Former champions Marin Cilic and Stanislas Wawrinka are similarly priced, along with previous runner-ups Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson, but their summer results have all been ordinary. Among the outsiders, the two that stand out as having the potential to make deep runs are perhaps Nick Kyrgios and Karen Khachanov.
It is Kyrgios’ temperament that gets questioned rather than his talent, but the way he won the title in Washington – including victory over Medvedev in the final – showed what a force he can be when his head is right. Just a couple of weeks later, he was smashing rackets and insulting umpires again after losing to Khachanov in Cincinnati, so it remains to be seen what frame of mind he brings to New York. Khachanov has the ability to drive opponents wild, though, with a powerful game that looks well suited to New York.
The likes of Thiem and Kyrgios could be worth keeping an eye on if they blaze a trail through the early rounds, while Medvedev looks like the real deal and is playing well enough to reach yet another final. However, he would probably have to beat both Nadal and Djokovic to lift the trophy and that is almost an impossible ask for such a novice. Djokovic is an understandable favourite, but Nadal’s odds offer a potentially greater reward.
The 2018 women’s final will live long in the memory, although not entirely for the right reasons, after Serena Williams’ extraordinary on-court meltdown during her loss to Naomi Osaka, when she branded the umpire a ‘thief’ and a ‘liar’. The match ended with both players visibly upset and the crowd in shock, but a new superstar had broken though in Osaka and she will be looking to defend her crown and the No.1 ranking she now holds. As ever with women’s Grand Slams, there are dozens of competitors who will fancy their chances, but what do the odds suggest?
Serena Williams – 9/2: Serena is still waiting for that elusive 24th Grand Slam title as she seeks to equal Margaret Court’s record. She has lost to Angelique Kerber, Osaka and Simona Halep in the three finals she has contested since returning to the sport following the birth of her daughter, and has had to deal with a series of fitness issues this year. Most recently, she pulled out of the final of the Rogers Cup due to a back injury. If she can last seven matches in New York, it would be the perfect setting to bring up her landmark Grand Slam title.
Simona Halep – 7/1: Halep produced a sensational performance to thrash Serena against the odds in the Wimbledon final, playing almost flawless tennis as her quick feet and skilful groundstrokes neutralised the power of her opponent. She hasn’t made too much of an impact in the North American hard-court season, going out early in Toronto and Cincinnati, while her recent record at the US Open is less than spectacular, but do not be surprised if she flourishes again on the big stage.
Ashleigh Barty – 8/1: The Australian briefly held the No.1 spot this summer after winning the French Open, and has a clever all-court game that can completely befuddle many of the other players on tour. However, she has never progressed beyond the fourth round at Flushing Meadows and is also coming into the tournament short of her best form.
Naomi Osaka – 8/1: Twelve months on from her maiden Grand Slam success, all eyes will be on Osaka in New York. The Japanese youngster followed up her US Open win by triumphing at the Australian Open in January, but the last few months have had just as many downs as ups since she made the decision to part ways with her coach. With a strong serve, ferocious groundstrokes and determined attitude, she was a class above everyone else last year and needs to rediscover the same mindset to have a chance of a repeat performance.
Best Of The Rest – There are so many women that could go all the way in New York but who lack the consistency to really back with much confidence. Surprisingly, one of the most consistent this year has been one of the youngest, Bianca Andreescu of Canada, whose main problem has been fitness. When she has played, she has been excellent, winning both Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup. She is only 19 but has variety to go with her big shots and has consistently beaten top players since the start of 2019.
One of the tournaments Andreescu skipped, in Cincinnati, was won by Madison Keys, whose controlled aggression saw her string together a number of impressive scalps on her way to the title. Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka are other power players who could take some stopping if they build up a head of steam, while Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens are more in the Halep mould of counterpunching.
Elsewhere, there will be a lot of attention on Coco Gauff at her first US Open. The 15-year-old made it through to the fourth round at Wimbledon and will have home support behind her in New York, but odds of 25/1 are only likely to entice the most optimistic of punters. Britain’s Johanna Konta is a similar price and has had a decent year, as have the likes of Sofia Kenin and Kiki Bertens.
If Serena can stay fit, she looks like a good bet to go a long way and perhaps make amends for the disappointment of last year. However, in such an open field it may be best to have a flutter on someone with even more attractive odds. Many players have had their moments this year, but Andreescu has had more than most. Osaka came almost out of nowhere to win Indian Wells in 2018 and was then victorious at the US Open. Andreescu, at a similar age, has already achieved the first part of that double and could script a similar story in New York.