The North American hardcourt swing is a go after a short stint on clay post-Wimbledon. Three majors are in the books, with Rafael Nadal winning both the 2022 Australian Open and French Open to break the record with 22 major titles won. Former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic won his seventh Wimbledon title to sit one major title behind Nadal. That leaves ATP’s fourth major of the year, the US Open, on deck in late August.
Transitioning from clay to grass back to hardcourt makes for an interesting dynamic on tour, one that bettors could benefit from. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the North American hardcourt swing leading up to the US Open in New York.
Early odds to win the 2022 US Open
Novak Djokovic +160
Daniil Medvedev +240
Carlos Alcaraz +335
Rafael Nadal +550
Stefanos Tsitsipas +1000
Clay brings volatility because of the inconsistency of the surface. The players who excel on the red dirt are good with both physical and mental stamina as the rallies are long and grueling. Grass is about big serves and quick points. Those who can serve and volley or play well at the net typically have a good grass season. Action is back to hardcourt where the player pool of who can win opens up. Those who play well from the baseline will contend, and the ATP has a lot of baseliners nowadays.
Return of the Russians
Wimbledon put a ban on this group of players from participating in the third major of the year, leaving Daniil Medvedev (No. 1), Andrey Rublev (No. 8), Karen Khachanov (No. 26), Aslan Karatsev (No. 37) and Ilya Ivashka (No. 53) sidelined. Most have made an appearance during the clay break, with the exception of Medvedev. That leads me to the start of my list of players to watch in the lead-up events to the US Open.
It’s easy to forget Medvedev because it feels like it’s been so long since we’ve seen him. Clay is not particularly his best surface, but he spent most of the clay season recovering from an injury anyway. He then had a couple of deep runs on grass, losing back-to-back finals in the Libema Open and the Halle Open. Meddy has 13 tour titles, six won on outdoor hard, including 2018 Winston-Salem Open, 2019 ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati, 2021 ATP Masters 1000 Canada, and of course, the 2021 US Open, where he defeated Djokovic in straight sets in the final.
That makes four of his six outdoor hardcourt titles won during the later part of the year. Djokovic is the best returner in the world but you could definitely put Medvedev up there right next to him. His length and wingspan makes it really difficult to get anything past him. My only gripe is that Medvedev lacks the variety I would expect to see from someone holding the World No. 1 title, but what he is good at, the baseline game, he’s really good at. This is Medvedev’s time to shine.
I’m still waiting for that breakthrough. It’s coming. The 24-year-old American is so close to having that big-time win. I’m not talking about defeating an injured Nadal in the Indian Wells final, I'm talking about breaking through that big-time moment in a major. Could this be the season it happens? Fritz pushed Djokovic to five sets in the 2021 Australian Open third round, pushed Tsitsipas to five sets in the 2022 Australian Open fourth round, and nearly picked off Nadal losing in a fifth-set tiebreak in the quarterfinals of last month’s Wimbledon.
Fritz has the weapons to excel in not only these lead-up events but also in New York. He has the serve, power strokes both on the forehand and backhand, and is now gaining the confidence of contending in these marquee matchups. Fritz doesn’t hold a good record, 16-16 in the five prelim events to the US Open, but he’s evolving. His best record is in Los Cabos, a 9-4 win/loss record that perhaps he could look to expand on.
Is Thiem back? It has been a rough couple of years for the 2020 US Open champ. The Austrian, who peaked as World No. 3 in the rankings from March 2020 through February 2021, has since dropped all the way down to No. 352 and currently sits at No. 274. Why? Surgery from a wrist injury. After winning the 2020 US Open, Thiem delivered one of the greatest comebacks, defeating Nick Kyrgios in five sets of the third round of the 2021 Australian Open after going down two sets to love. I always mark that match as the one that broke him. Thiem went 5-7 after, playing his last match of the year in June 2021 and not making his tour return until April 2022.
Including last year, Thiem was on a 10-match losing streak but has now won six of his last eight matches since early July. The one-handed backhand is still a thing of beauty and his power forehand is making its way back to full force. What Thiem needed was confidence and it looks like he’s finding it just in time for a new hardcourt season. It’s unclear which events he’ll be playing prior to the next major but backing him is something to consider again as he’s only getting stronger, more confident and more in form with each match.
How far can the Spaniard go? We’re about to find out. Alcaraz is sixth in the rankings and is still only 19 years old. At the time of writing, Carlitos holds a 38-5 record in 2022, is 13-0 in ATP 500 events, has reached the quarterfinal in seven events, the semifinal in six and has won four titles. He’s played in only 10 tournaments. It was the 2021 US Open where he started to show glimpses of his future progression, defeating Tsitsipas in a fifth-set tiebreak in the third round. He followed that up with another five-set win over Peter Gojowczyk, but by the time he reached the quarterfinal, he did not have the health to continue and retired early in the second set against Felix Auger-Aliassime.
He certainly has health and fitness now. It’ll be interesting to see what Alcaraz can produce the rest of the year. He has all the weapons to contend for a major — the slice, drop shot, kick serve, power strokes, the court sense. And now he has the experience of running deep in tournaments and winning.