The 2020 US Open takes place in New York from 31 August-13 September 2020 but in this most unpredictable of tennis seasons, who will be crowned champion at Flushing Meadows?
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US Open 2020 predictions
For the first time in history, the US Open won’t be the final Grand Slam of the season as the global health crisis caused by COVID-19 has forced an unprecedented reshuffle of the tennis calendar.
Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin were crowned champions at the Australian Open in January before the crisis began, while Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War. The French Open’s unilateral grab for calendar space momentarily threatened to squeeze out the US Open altogether – but the USTA held its ground and the 2020 US Open will be played from 31 August-13 September at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
This will not be the US Open as we know it. No spectators will be allowed on the grounds, meaning that matches take place in empty stadiums. The size of player entourages will be limited and strict social distancing measures will be observed, with players tested for COVID-19 and required to withdraw if they test positive.
This unconventional US Open certainly won’t feature a full roster of star players. Defending champion Rafael Nadal and world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty have withdrawn, as well as Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Gael Monfils and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Novak Djokovic is expected to confirm whether or not he’ll lead the men’s field within the next couple of days.
One thing is for certain: The 2020 US Open will stand out as one of the most unusual editions of the tournament to be played since its inception in 1881. But what can we predict about how the US Open might play out?
U.S. Open predictions: Who will win the men’s title?
Defending the men’s US Open title has been a difficult feat in recent years – no man has won back-to-back titles in New York since Roger Federer won the last of his five straight trophies in 2008.
And that streak won’t be broken in 2020: Rafael Nadal, who won his third US Open title in sensational style with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in last year’s final, has become the highest-ranked men’s player so far to pull out of the tournament, relinquishing the chance to defend his title.
In Nadal’s absence, it is advantage Novak Djokovic – if he plays. The Serb is expected to confirm whether or not he will be playing the US Open in the next couple of days.
Three-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic currently sits atop the frozen rankings, even if his stock in other regards is plummeting after organizing the ill-fated Adria Tour exhibtion series, which was abruptly cancelled after a slew of players (including Djokovic himself) began testing positive for COVID-19. Djokovic is arguably the best hard-court player in the world, even if he hasn’t traditionally performed as well at the US Open as he has in Melbourne, and with very few other players who have won major titles likely to be in attendance, has a huge advantage over the rest of the field (as if being Djokovic wasn’t advantage enough).
Djokovic is also well rested after what will have been five months out of competition, although that can obviously also lead to injuries as players return to action – not to mention that he is a perfect 18-0 so far in 2020. Without Nadal or Federer in the field, or even 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka who has also withdrawn, the list of players who could potentially beat Djokovic at the US Open grows thin.
Where former champions are concerned, Djokovic at the moment looks to be one of three in the field, but the others do not look like realistic champions. Andy Murray may need a wildcard to even play and is still attempting to rebuild his career after hip surgery; he hasn’t played an official tournament so far in 2020. And 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, who is a world-beater on his very occasional day, has slipped out of the top 30 after a nightmarish 2019 season. We don’t know what shape Cilic is going to be in when he comes back from the sport’s hiatus, of course, but he hasn’t looked like a likely champion any time soon.
If it’s not going to be Djokovic, then we are looking at a new US Open champion. Who are the contenders?
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev would be among the biggest. The 24-year-old with the slightly unconventional game not only made the US Open final in 2019, but pushed Nadal all the way in that final, during an extraordinary run on hard courts which saw him reach six consecutive finals. Backing up a run like that is always difficult, and Medvedev is a temperamental character, but his grinding defensive game is ideally suited for slow hard courts and humid conditions like those at the US Open.
Dominic Thiem of Austria has been frequently seen on court even during the suspension of official professional tennis, but we shouldn’t forget that the 26-year-old Thiem was widely seen as next in line to win a major before the shutdown: Twice a finalist at the French Open, Thiem’s hard-court game improved immensely in 2019 and he dazzled with a run to the Australian Open final in January, losing to Djokovic in five sets. Possessed of incredible baseline power and increasingly carrying himself like a champion-in-waiting, Thiem can be relied on to be competitive.
Other younger contenders include 22-year-old Alexander Zverev, whose breach of social isolation guidelines has overshadowed his recent decision to trial a coaching partnership with David Ferrer. Zverev made his first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open in January, but has always struggled to perform his best at majors and his serving is erratic, which leaves him vulnerable over the best of five sets. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the reigning ATP Finals champion, could be a better bet; the Greek was incredibly unlucky to run into an on-fire Andrey Rublev in the first round of the 2019 US Open, and has been playing well in exhibitions during the shutdown. Rublev himself, a young Russian who has struggled with injuries but is possessed of blazing power, could even be a dark horse for the title at this most unpredictable of US Opens.
US Open women’s predictions
The US Open has crowned a different women’s champion in each of the last five years – will that patten continue in 2020, at the most unusual staging of the tournament we have seen in decades?
Some of the most memorable moments on the tennis calendar have come at the U.S. Open in recent years, including Flavia Pennetta’s stunning run to a first major title in 2015, Sloane Stephens’ comeback story in 2017 from injury to a Grand Slam trophy, Naomi Osaka breakthrough for her maiden slam in one of the most controversial finals in history against Serena Williams and another rising star in Bianca Andreescu replicating Osaka and securing her first major with a blistering defeat of Serena in the 2019 showpiece.
Several players, including two-time major champion Simona Halep, have expressed reservations about travelling to the US Open during this global health crisis, but both of the 2019 finalists have gone on record about intending to return.
Andreescu, who delivered a sensational performance to beat Williams in the 2019 final and claim her maiden major title, hadn’t played a WTA match in 2020 before the season was shut down thanks to a knee injury. But if there’s one thing we know about the 20-year-old Canadian, it’s that she doesn’t need a lot of matches in order to find her game: When she won the Rogers Cup and US Open back-to-back in 2019, she had only played a single match since March due to injury (and that was on clay in May). If Andreescu is fit, look out.
Williams, who shares the record for most US Open titles in the Open Era with Chris Evert, last won the tournament in 2014. Since then, she has lost twice in the semifinals and twice in the finals, including a controversial – but one-sided – defeat to Naomi Osaka in 2018. The legendary American, who continues to chase the 24th Grand Slam title which would see her equal Margaret Court’s all-time record, but when she hasn’t been sidelined by injury, Williams – once the most reliable closer in sport – has frozen in finals, finding herself comprehensively outplayed by a succession of opponents. (It isn’t limited to finals either – witness Williams’s error-strewn defeat to Wang Qiang in the third round of the Australian Open in January.) On the other hand, few players have more practice at handling adversity or coming back from lengthy spells of inaction to find their game quickly.
Simona Halep has expressed doubts about playing the US Open, but the Romanian with two major titles was 10-2 before the shutdown – and might be one of the players who comes back from the hiatus particularly psychologically refreshed. And Belinda Bencic, a US Open semifinalist in 2019, plays great tennis on American hard courts and should certainly not be discounted.
Osaka, the two-time Grand Slam champion who claimed her first title in New York in 2018, is another leading contender for the title. Osaka did not do well at defending either of her major titles, but with that weight off her back, and if she is healthy, the Japanese-Haitian has a stunning power game which is capable of beating anyone. Similarly, big-serving Madison Keys was a US Open finalist in 2017 and generally plays her best tennis at the majors, but can often lack intensity in big matches. Aryna Sabalenka is another incredibly powerful player capable of rendering opponents irrelevant when she is on song – the Belarusian struggled in 2019 but bookended her season with titles, is an excellent hard-court player and had just won the Premier title in Doha before the 2020 season was shut down. Can she pick up where she left off when it comes to the US Open?
With so little recent match practice for the players and such unusual and unpredictable conditions, players with steady counter-puncher games who can weather a few ups and downs might be particularly good picks for the US Open. These types of players would include 21-year-old Sofia Kenin, who won her maiden major title at the Australian Open in January and has an exemplary competitive attitude, and Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine, who was a semifinalist at the US Open in 2019. Equally, young or lesser-known players who have the fearlessness of youth and whose games are less familiar to their opponents could take advantage of an unsettled WTA Tour: Dark horses and/or long shots for the title would include former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, powerful Dayana Yastremska and teenage superstar-in-the-making Amanda Anisimova.
US Open 2020 tournament information
Name: US Open
Location: New York, USA
Venue: USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
Dates: 31 August-13 September 2020
Category: Grand Slam
Draw size: 128 singles
Men – Roger Federer, Jimmy Conners, Pete Sampras (5)
Women – Serena Williams, Chris Evert (6)
Men’s singles – Rafael Nadal
Women’s singles – Bianca Andreescu
U.S. Open player performance
Who are the best-performing male players at the U.S. Open?
|Roger Federer||5 (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)||2 (2009, 2015)||QFs||89-14|
|Rafael Nadal||4 (2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)||1 (2011)||Champion||64-11|
|Novak Djokovic||3 (2011, 2015, 2018)||5 (2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016)||R16||72-11|
|Andy Murray||1 (2012)||1 (2008)||Didn’t play||45-12|
|Juan Martin del Potro||1 (2009)||1 (2018)||Didn’t play||35-9|
|Stan Wawrinka||1 (2016)||0||QF||44-13|
|Marin Cilic||1 (2014)||0||R16||36-10|
|Kei Nishikori||0||1 (2014)||R3||25-10|
|Kevin Anderson||0||1 (2017)||Didn’t play||22-9|
|Daniil Medvedev||0||1 (2019)||Runner-up||8-3|
Who are the best-performing female players at the U.S. Open?
|Serena Williams||6 (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)||4 (2001, 2011, 2018, 2019)||Runner-up||101-13|
|Kim Clijsters||3 (2005, 2009, 2010)||1 (2003)||Didn’t play||38-6|
|Venus Williams||2 (2000, 2001)||2 (1997, 2002)||R2||79-18|
|Svetlana Kuznetsova||1 (2004)||1 (2007)||Didn’t play||35-15|
|Sam Stosur||1 (2011)||0||R1||22-14|
|Angelique Kerber||1 (2016)||0||R1||25-11|
|Sloane Stephens||1 (2017)||0||R1||19-7|
|Naomi Osaka||1 (2018)||0||R16||14-3|
|Bianca Andreescu||1 (2019)||0||Champion||7-0|
U.S. Open betting tips
Only a few bookmakers are currently offering odds on US Open tennis, but that is certain to change as the tournament approaches and ATP Tour tennis officially returns on 14 August.
The current favourite to win the US Open men’s singles title is Novak Djokovic at 6/4 @ 888Sport, and it’s not hard to see why, with neither Federer nor Nadal playing.
Djokovic has not yet confirmed his participation, but he has been seen practicing on hard courts, and the 17-time Grand Slam champion was 18-0 in 2020 before the ATP Tour was suspended. Without the fatigue of a long season to slow him down, it will take something truly special to beat Djokovic at the US Open and five sets will give him plenty of time to work out the rust and kinks. The biggest threats to a Djokovic victory at the US Open are Daniil Medvedev (7/1 @ 888Sport), the 2019 runner-up who has beaten Djokovic in best-of-three but not in best of five, and Dominic Thiem (7/1 @ 888Sport) who pushed Djokovic to five sets in the Australian Open final. Thiem has beaten Djokovic on hard courts in best-of-three and in best-of-five set matches on clay, and the Austrian has played an intense schedule of exhibition matches to maintain competitive sharpness during the shutdown. Slow hard courts are almost as good for Thiem as clay and he’s in his tennis prime – could the 2020 US Open be the time for him to put it all together?
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On the women’s side, there are slightly more odds available, perhaps because both six-time US Open champion Serena Williams and defending champion Bianca Andreescu have committed to playing in September 2020.
Williams (8/1 @ 888Sport) recently committed to playing the Top Seed Open in Lexington two weeks before the US Open so it looks like the 23-time major champion is thoroughly serious about making another attempt to capture no. 24 in New York. Williams has played a limited schedule for so many years now that she seems less at risk than most of an early exit – she is excellent at playing her way into a tournament – but she still hasn’t won a set in four Grand Slam finals reached since returning from maternity leave, including crushing defeats to Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu at the last two US Opens.
Defending champion Andreescu (9/1 @ 888Sport) has only played six matches since winning the US Open – all in 2019. She demonstrated a remarkable ability to play her way into tournaments despite lengthy absences in 2019, but it’s a complete unknown how Andreescu will handle the pressure of being defending champion, or adapt to the unusual conditions at this year’s US Open.
Simona Halep is 7/1 @ 888Sport, but looks at this juncture like she might not play, prioritising the French Open instead. Naomi Osaka, the 2018 US Open champion (10/1 @ 888Sport) would absolutely be expected to play and is a better shout than most, including hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka (20/1 @ 888Sport). Madison Keys (20/1 @ 888Sport) is also likely to play and performs well at Grand Slams to a point, making a US Open final in 2017, but has yet to prove she really has a winner’s mentality on the biggest stages. At this vantage point, if you are not willing to bet on Williams, you could do worse than look to Osaka or to the likes of Belinda Bencic (30/1 @ 888Sport), a semifinalist in 2019, or Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (20/1 @ 888Sport).
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*All odds correct as of 16.40 BST on 17 July 2020