Can Carlos Alcaraz defend his US Open title?
By TOI Team August 8, 2023 Update on : August 8, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz’s sensational rise to prominence has come at the perfect time for men’s tennis. The dominant era of the ‘Big Three’ came to an end with Roger Federer hanging up the racket, and with Rafael Nadal constantly struggling with injuries, Novak Djokovic was more or less the last man standing.
The sport was in desperate need of a refresh and the young Spaniard has certainly shaken things up. After winning his first career title at the 2021 Croatia Open Umag, Alcaraz ramped things up a notch last year and made people sit up and take notice as his outstanding performances drew comparisons with Nadal.
He landed five trophies throughout the course of the season, including victories in Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid. However, Alcaraz’s big breakthrough came when he sealed his status as a Grand Slam winner at the US Open last September — beating Casper Ruud in a four-set thriller at Flushing Meadows.
With Djokovic denied entry to the United States due to his vaccination status, that Grand Slam was arguably there for the taking for the 20-year-old. But as in any sport, you can only beat what is put in front of you at the time and Alcaraz did that with great aplomb.
Alcaraz’s stock has only risen further this year as he’s won six titles, adding victories in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Queen’s Club to his CV while defending his Barcelona and Madrid titles. However, the biggest win of his career to date came at Wimbledon last month when he beat Djokovic in a marathon contest on Centre Court to claim a second Slam.
The next task for Alcaraz is defending his US Open title and this time Djokovic will be in attendance at Flushing Meadows. The bookmakers can hardly separate the pair in the US Open tennis betting, with the Spaniard slightly favoured at 11/8 over his Serbian rival (6/4) and there’s a good chance they could meet in the final once again.
The Wimbledon final was just the third time Alcaraz and Djokovic have faced off against each other and the 20-year-old’s victory gave him a 2-1 advantage over ‘Nole’ in their head-to-head record, with Alcaraz’s other success over Djokovic coming in the semi-final of the 2022 Marid Open while the Serbian beat the Spaniard in the final four at Roland Garros earlier this year.
If they are to meet at Flushing Meadows, it would be the first time they have clashed on a hard court and it would be interesting to see how that pans out. But it’s worth noting that the US Open isn’t one of the Slams Djokovic has been able to dominate as much as the others. He’s won just three times at Flushing Meadows and the last of those was in 2018.
There are threats from former US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and maiden Grand Slam seeker Jannik Sinner, who has won the majority of his career titles on hard courts. But it would seemingly take something special from those players to get the better of Alcaraz in New York. The US Open will likely be between Alcaraz and Djokovic and it’s incredibly tough to call who would come out on top should they meet in the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium on September 10. It really is 50/50.Read more: Can Carlos Alcaraz defend his US Open title?