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Expert Picks: Who will win US Open 2022?

  • Matt Trollope

How will Rafael Nadal fare in his latest comeback in a remarkable 2022? Will Daniil Medvedev and Emma Raducanu go back-to-back at Flushing Meadows? And what can we expect from the great Serena Williams, in what is most likely her last ever tournament?

These are some of the biggest storylines ahead of next fortnight’s US Open in New York.

Our experts discuss all this – more of which you can listen to on the latest episode of The AO Show podcast – as well as who they think will thrive in the year’s final Grand Slam event.

LISTEN: The AO Show podcast – Let's hear it for New York

The panel

Todd Woodbridge: 22-time major doubles champion and now tennis commentator
Casey Dellacqua: Former world No.26 and doubles Grand Slam champion
Wally Masur: Former world No.15 and US Open singles semifinalist in 1993
Simon Rea: Former coach of Nick Kyrgios and Sam Stosur

Rafael Nadal is currently undefeated at the Slams in 2022. Will that continue in New York?

WOODBRIDGE: "I think it's going to be challenging for him coming in, because of lack of match play since Wimbledon. One of the key things for me about the US Open is match fitness... the brutality of some of the hot humid days at the Open over five sets can really do damage to how far you go in that tournament. You might get through that one match but it really takes a lot out of you for that second or third match. I don't think there's any issue about confidence, when you look at what he's been able to do at the other Slams. That one tough match he lost in Cincinnati to Coric, I think that's something he'll be disappointed with. He needed one to three more matches in that tournament, I think, to be able to go all the way in New York."

MASUR: "He's got a determination and a will of steel, so never underestimate him. He's got some protection in the seeding. But I do agree with Todd, I think he's very vulnerable here. It's interesting to say he's undefeated in the Slams, because defeat comes in different ways. The nature of the Slams is the cumulative effect of the matches, which can wear you down. For Rafa, well into his 30s, that's a problem. And not having the matches under his belt is a problem. Historically, the US Open is probably the quickest tournament on tour. Lively conditions, quick balls... I've always found it hard at the US Open to find form. If you come in with form, it's great. But do you have that trust when the ball's really flying off your racquet? I don't know. Rafa may not be as far off as we think, but I'm just not convinced he's gonna win this one."

REA: “I think, perhaps more than anyone else in the history of the game, he's demonstrated to us all time and again, that he’s one we can be less worried about, and be much more strongly relied upon, even with those question marks over health, recent form or lack of match play. Can he contend and win this title? Absolutely. To this point he's has been a phenomenal year, and who’s to say that doesn’t continue here? If we think back to where he was 12 months ago, 2022 has been a fairytale, even for someone of his lofty standards.

It's been a slightly underwhelming season for Daniil Medvedev. What needs to happen for the world No.1 to defend his US Open title?

DELLACQUA: "I think a positive sign was his run in Cincinnati. Obviously he went down to Tsitsipas, but had a couple of good wins over Fritz and Shapovalov as well. I think in terms of form, he's been building... I think in terms of title defence and being conditioned, I think he's in a good place to push the final once again."

WOODBRIDGE: "I feel like he has so many off court distractions coming at him, and they haven't been necessarily been of his doing. We saw him really edgy in Canada with a fan, and usually, when he's engaging in a positive way with fans, even if it's a little bit sarcastic, he's in a good headspace. I think he's in that defensive headspace. I expect him to go deep, like Casey, but I think the edginess is going to make it hard for him to defend the tournament."

RELATED: Mind game key for Medvedev at US Open, says Woodbridge

MASUR: "I agree that there's some really weighty issues, including the ban from Wimbledon. The fact that it's best of five plays into their hands (Nadal and Medvedev) a bit. Because they're just so consistent in their effort, and so hard to beat over the course of five. Even Kyrgios made the comment, when Nick beat Medvedev in Montreal, that yeah, it was a good win, I played well, but to beat him at a Slam, I'd probably have to do it for another two sets, in the heat. It's not easy, because Medvedev has no great weaknesses. He just keeps coming at you. I think he's had enough matches. So he's probably building nicely, and is where he wants to be."

REA: “Talking again of question marks, there‘s some maybe over Daniil form wise, maybe more so than we’ve been recently accustomed to with him, anyway. Conditions suits him here in New York; the heat and humidity’s an absolute factor. The courts look like they’re playing in a really lively manner, the ball’s jumping. It’s a very physical encounter. No-one is better prepared from a physical perspective. I think he’s able to make this into a torrid, survival of the fittest-type battle, best-of-five sets every second day. Nobody seems to be able to do it better than him. I think that’s a big difference, as opposed to Montreal or Cincinnati, with less matches and best-of-three format. Can he win it? Absolutely.”

Outside of those two, which players strike you as the most likely to succeed at Flushing Meadows?

WOODBRIDGE: "I think the outsiders are the two young guys that have been playing some exceptional tennis, in Sinner and Alcaraz. It'll be tough for them to go all the way, but the quality they're starting to show... their mindset, their physicality, the way they're maturing as athletes, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a breakout event for either one. Particularly Alcaraz, because I feel his all-court game is built for the hard courts, as much as it is for clay."

MASUR: "I think the Washington and Montreal experience was gold for Kyrgios. Those matches were huge. We know he likes to have an abbreviated schedule and he's very good at coming in fresh. The way it played out, losing to Taylor Fritz in Cincinnati, gave him about 10 days off to wind down and start to prepare. In any given match, he would be my favourite. Against any player in the draw. And he's one of my favourites for the event."

REA: “I think it’s that next brigade we’ve been talking about for a while, and who are slowly, steadily starting to emerge. I look at Auger-Aliassime, Sinner, Tsitsipas is knocking on that door. Kyrgios showed with his run at Wimbledon just how capable he is. If Kyrgios can be really ruthless and business-like in the first week, look out come the second week. Because one thing we do know, against the heavyweights of the game, like a Medvedev or Nadal, Nick’s not taking a backward step. And I think on the local side, I think Taylor Fritz is a chance to go really deep at this US Open.”

In what seems to be shaping as her last ever tournament, what would you consider a good result for Serena Williams?

DELLACQUA: "I've seen our own Rennae Stubbs out on court with Serena Williams, and the thought process behind that was apparently that Stubbsy is trying to get Serena to play more practice sets, as opposed to just using a hitting partner. A lot of the time when she hits the court, we know her presence, and she obviously built this reputation of being so intimidating and one of the best players, but a lot of the women over the years have played her, worked her game out, you can break down her game a little bit more easily. So I think she does need to play practice sets, and get in that mindset of getting out there and feel good in a match situation. It's gonna be tough for her, obviously. I think if she can get through a couple of rounds, I think that's a really good result. I can't say I feel like she's going to come out the eventual winner."

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WOODBRIDGE: "Wally alluded to this earlier; you can't find form at the Open. You have to come in with the confidence from the other tournaments. And she just doesn't have that. And she has just been away from the game for too long to be able to find that, at 40 years of age. I think she certainly deserves the right to go to the US Open and farewell all of her fans from an on-court perspective, but from the perspective of actually taking the championship and getting to that extra Grand Slam number, that isn't going to happen. I think she probably knows that in her heart of hearts."

MASUR: "If she can win a couple of matches I think that would be a great result, and the idea she might spend two or three matches on Ashe stadium would be brilliant. And she's earned the right, absolutely, to say goodbye on her terms. But just too little tennis over the last couple of years to really be a threat, and it's been interesting just looking at the results on the WTA tour... I think some of those big hitters are going to be awfully dangerous at the US Open. If Serena runs into one of those great first-strike players, that's gonna be really difficult."

REA: “I think if she's able to get through two or three matches in the first week, then she's gonna be better for the run and benefit from that time on court, and confidence and momentum starts to grow. I think it's less so about physically what that might take out of her, and more about what she might gain from having to wrestle and struggle and find a way through some of the early rounds. Do I think she can be there at the pointy end? It's probably a fairytale, but the romantic in me believes in that. When it's 50/50 and on a knife-edge, if she can find a way through, then look out come the second week.”

How likely is it that Emma Raducanu could repeat her title run, and what would it take for her to do so?

DELLACQUA: "Since winning the last US Open, she's lost 18 of 33 matches. But in the last week in Cincinnati, went on to beat Serena and Azarenka. So is starting to find some form. And these courts and conditions suit a player like her."

MASUR: "When Raducanu had that break-out moment, and it was quite extraordinary, her world changed. And she didn't really adapt to it. Probably what changed most was her approach; the dedication of training, day-in, day-out, that point-by-point experience. With the US Open looming, she's starting to find a bit of form. But too little, too late. Is she ready? I'm not quite sure. But can she get there in the future, certainly."

RELATED: Can Emma Raducanu defend her US Open title?

WOODBRIDGE: "Any great player that we watch, they're consistent. They have consistency in their daily routines, on court, off court. For Emma, her life changed after winning the tournament last year, and there has been no consistency in anything since. The coaches have changed all the time, there's been no opportunity for her to really settle in as a young player, let alone a Grand Slam champion. I think there's just an enormous amount of stress coming in to defend a major like she is. For me, a great result would be to get to the last 16. And if she accomplished that, then I think she's heading in the right direction again. I really want her to do well."

REA: "From the outside looking in, she has a remarkable ability to handle that success, and then the subsequent struggles or losses that have mounted, almost as if in her own mind she knows that was all the stars aligning. She believed she could get there, but that was almost ahead of the curve she thinks she's on. And she's mature enough to know she's gonna take more hits along the way before she can get back there. I think there's a lot to be said for that. I think that maturity, and willingness to absorb the tough things this sport can dish out, that's going to take her a long way, not just with this US Open in mind, but across the rest of her career. She wouldn't be up the top of my list to win, but if she's able to make the second week, I reckon that's a great result for her, in light of all those factors.”

In the most open of women's fields, who do you consider the favourite, and why?

DELLACQUA: "I'm going to go with a complete outsider, in Jessica Pegula. She's been pretty consistent throughout the year, a really big hitter, really professional and consistent with the way she goes about her tennis. She's matured a bit."

WOODBRIDGE: "I'm going to go with somebody who I think should have won a Slam by now, who hasn't, who has been playing pretty well this summer, but is always a 50/50 proposition, but a great ball striker, and that is Madison Keys."

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MASUR: "I said Simona Halep at Wimbledon, and I'm gonna say Halep again, but I say it with no certainty. She's gone pretty well this year, she's a tremendous mover, she'll get a little bit of help with her serve on the faster court. But it's so open; whoever has got the right mindset on the day is going to get this done."

REA: "I think Iga Swiatek has to come in again as the favourite... by her lofty standards, has the year gone off the boil slightly? Perhaps. But that was always bound to happen. In terms of the hard-court swing, someone like Jessica Pegula has demonstrated through consistent performance that she can be right there. We still see glimpses of Petra Kvitova's best tennis coming to the fore. And the one I have at the top of my list, maybe bracketed with Swiatek, is Simona Halep. I think she's about due. The liveliness of the ball I don't think will bother her."