The 2021 US Open takes place in New York from 30 August-12 September 2020: Will Dominic Thiem and Naomi Osaka be able to defend their titles?
US Open 2021 predictions
The fourth and final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open brings the best male and female players in the world together amidst the hustle and bustle, glitz and glamour of New York.
Last year proved that tennis, the sport that never stops, and New York, the city that never sleeps, are a brilliantly resilient combination even at the most difficult times. Despite a six-month shutdown of all professional tennis which
ended just weeks before and a host of other challenges, the 2020 US Open took place within a strict bio-security bubble and behind closed doors – but nevertheless managed to be extremely memorable. Dominic Thiem took advantage of a draw denuded of the titans of men’s tennis to claim his maiden major title, defeating Alexander Zverev in a five-set final which ended in a tie-break; while Naomi Osaka hit a storm of winners on and off the court to defeat a resurgent Victoria Azarenka and claim her second US Open title.
The 2021 US Open takes place from 30 August-12 September and sees Thiem and Osaka return to defend their titles. Thiem will have to hold off the returning Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – multiple US Open champions all – while Osaka must contend with a draw that includes seven-time champion Serena Williams and former winners Bianca
Andreescu, Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber alongside the likes of Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep.
US Open Predictions: Who Will Win the Men’s Title?
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have all claimed the US Open title multiple times, but it’s also been the major which has seen the most first-time champions crowned over the past decade or so, with Juan Martin del Potro (2009), Andy Murray (2012), Marin Cilic (2014), Stan Wawrinka (2016) and now Dominic Thiem (2020) making their breakthrough into the ranks of Grand Slam champions there.
Will one of the Big Three restore order in New York in 2021, or could we see another first-time major winner crowned?
Will Thiem defend his US Open title?
Although most of us thought that Thiem’s Grand Slam breakthrough would come at the French Open, where he made the final in 2018-19, the Austrian’s improvement on hard courts during 2019-20 – especially his run to the Australian Open final – made his elevation to the ranks of major champions look like a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. So when Djokovic’s shock fourth-round default guaranteed a new men’s Grand Slam champion at the 2020 US Open, it was no surprise that Thiem was the one who rose to the occasion.
The question now is whether Thiem, in his tennis prime at 27, will be able to defend that title. The slow hard courts of New York do work for him, and he continues to improve the aggressive aspects of his game. The big question is if he can beat Djokovic over the best-of-five sets on hard courts, because he’s pretty much proved he can beat anyone else.
Can Novak love New York again?
Djokovic looked absolutely nailed on for his third US Open title in 2020, with neither Nadal nor Federer nor even Stan Wawrinka playing the tournament, but his chances went up in smoke when he swiped at an out-of-play ball during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta and struck a lineswoman in the throat. Naturally he was defaulted.
The Serb ended 2020 having lost a one-sided match to Nadal in the French Open final, watching the Spaniard tie Federer’s all-time record of 20 major titles while Djokovic himself remained on 17. Djokovic will be determined to close that gap in 2021, but the US Open does seem to be the place where physical and mental fatigue can catch up with him. He’ll still be incredibly tough to beat there if he’s fit.
Medvedev to make major breakthrough?
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev had his Grand Slam breakthrough at the 2019 US Open when he made a run to the final, pushing Nadal to five sets, and although his 2020 season was quite forgettable, he did nevertheless make it back to the semifinals in New York. He also ended 2020 in triumph by winning the Paris Masters and going unbeaten to claim the Nitto ATP Finals title, defeating Djokovic and Nadal along the way.
Medvedev is temperamental, a bit mercurial, and his ability to beat the Big Three over the best-of-five sets remains unproven – but it’s not hard to imagine him doing so, particularly on the slow hard courts of the US Open. And if the crowds are allowed in for the 2021 edition to fuel Medvedev’s run, look out.
Nadal looks for fifth US Open title in 2021
It seems counterintuitive that Nadal should be more successful at the US Open than Djokovic, but the Spaniard has twice the Serb’s titles in New York and has won two of the past four US Opens to boot.
Nadal’s improved serve in particular has reaped real rewards for him at the US Open and if the Spaniard is fit for the 2021 tournament – a big ‘if’, admittedly, as he will be 35 at the time – he will be as dangerous as anyone.
Best of the rest
Roger Federer once ruled the US Open, winning five titles in 2004-8, but he has only made the final twice since then and after multiple knee surgeries in 2020, glory for the Swiss in New York looks unlikely – if he is to win a 21st major, it seems much likelier to come at the Australian Open or Wimbledon. Federer needs the stars to align for him a little bit these days, but still, don’t count him out.
Alexander Zverev had championship points at the US Open in 2020, but the way he performed on his way to the final and in that final didn’t suggest he’s really ready to win a Grand Slam, not without conquering his tendency to double faults and his addiction to passive play on key points.
Stefanos Tsitsipas looks to perform better on quicker courts than the ones in New York, but Andrey Rublev might be a better bet – the powerful Russian has the weapons to overwhelm just about anybody, had a superb 2020 season and has a good history at the US Open, making the quarterfinals in 2017 and 2020.
US Open 2021 Men’s Tips
Novak Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite (at the time of writing) to win the 2021 US Open at 5/4 @ Paddy Power, and there’s reason in it: Since 2006, the Serb has been in the semifinals or better in New York for all except two editions (when he was in the draw).
And yet, those two editions were the last two, when Djokovic retired while on the ropes against Wawrinka in 2019 and suffered his shock default in 2020.
With Djokovic now 33, and physical issues starting to crop up for him more frequently, the US Open – as the fourth Grand Slam in the year – might be a harder task for him to win than it used to be. Moreover, Thiem and perhaps Medvedev are emerging as players who can realistically beat him on hard courts over the best-of-five sets, something that for a long time almost no one except Wawrinka could conceivably do.
Thiem, Medvedev and Rafael Nadal are all priced similarly by the market as potential US Open champions in 2021, and you can make a very good case for all three. Thiem (6/1 @ bet365) might struggle with the pressure of being defending champion at the US Open, which is the major strike against him. Medvedev (6/1 @ bet365), obviously, has a few more question marks as a player who has never won a major, but has been in the mix for the past two editions of the US Open. With Nadal (7/1 @ Bet Victor), the big question is whether or not he’ll be fit, but if he is, he should also be expected to be in the mix for the title.
Other contenders look concomitantly longer shots, as you would expect. Federer (12/1 @ Bet Victor) hasn’t been past the quarterfinals of the US Open since 2015 and the humidity prevailing in New York in early September seems to take a toll on him these days. Stefanos Tsitsipas (14/1 @ Bet Victor) has yet to prove he can win a major anywhere, and if he does, it is much more likely to be elsewhere. Andrey Rublev (35/1 @ Bet Victor) is impressive, but unproven; former champions Stan Wawrinka (50/1 @ bet365), Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro all have fitness and injury problems of varying severity, and Milos Raonic (35/1 @ Bet Victor) struggles to stay fit, while Marin Cilic is hopelessly out of form. The likes of Roberto Bautista Agut (100/1 @ Bet Victor), two-time semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta (100/1 @ Bet Victor) and Diego Schwartzman (150/1 @ Bet Victor) could well feature in the quarter- and even semifinals, but lack the weapons to win.
Overall the US Open has been the major which has seen new champions break through more than any other in men’s tennis. With that in mind, you could do a lot worse than back Medvedev, the 2019 finalist and 2020 semifinalist, to go just a little bit further in 2021.
US Open 2021: Women’s Predictions
In comparison to the wide open men’s draw, in which a new champion was guaranteed, the semifinal lineup of the 2020 US Open women’s singles featured two former champions in Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, and the latter faced three-time finalist Victoria Azarenka for the title.
Osaka was brilliant at the US Open, but nevertheless came through a draw which was lacking the majority of the top 10, with Karolina Pliskova the only top women’s player based in Europe who opted to travel. The 2021 US Open should have a full cast of top women – who will be the champion?
A hat-trick for Osaka in 2021?
Now a three-time major champion, Osaka continues to prove that she’s a phenomenally effective player on hard courts. Indeed, you would back the Japanese-Haitian player to beat just about any woman she might face at the US Open in 2021 – if Osaka is feeling good. If not, she can lose to anybody.
And thus far in her career, Osaka has not enjoyed being a defending champion. She also has to negotiate the Tokyo Olympics shortly before the 2021 US Open, where she will be burdened with a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation.
Barty and Halep look for US Open breakthrough
Neither Ashleigh Barty nor Simona Halep played the US Open in 2020 but both are among the favourites for the title in 2021.
Halep was a US Open semifinalist back in 2015 (when she should have won the title, really) but has not been able to make it past the second round for the past three years; she’s been unlucky with the draws, but it shows how vulnerable the counterpunching Romanian is to an attacking player.
Barty has never been past the round of 16 at the US Open, and as we know the Australian is 1-5 against top-10 players at Grand Slams, so she remains a bit of an unproven quantity.
Serena – stuck on seven?
The opposite of an unproven quantity would be Serena Williams, seven times a US Open champion since 1999 and 2014. The title has eluded Williams since, as the all-time-record-tying 24th major has eluded Williams since her return from maternity leave, but she’s done better in New York than anywhere else since that return, making the US Open final twice and the semifinals in 2020.
Nerves and inspired younger opponents Osaka and Bianca Andreescu combined to hand Williams those defeats in the 2018-19 finals, and against fellow veteran Victoria Azarenka she physically ran out of steam after a scorching first set in the 2020 semifinals. Playing matches on back-to-back days now seems a bit beyond Williams as the American, who will be on the brink of her 40th birthday at the 2021 US Open, struggles with chronic injuries and it now feels like too many things have to go right for Serena – being able to keep her matches short early in the tournament, avoiding injury and not needing to play her quarter- and semifinals on consecutive days – to make her a safe bet for the title.
Andreescu leads other US Open contenders
Canada’s Andreescu dazzled with her run to the title in 2019, but it’s tough to know what to expect from her in 2021, because she didn’t play a single match throughout 2020. Still, with the way Andreescu proved at Indian Wells, the Rogers Cup and US Open in 2019 that she can beat absolutely anybody if she’s healthy despite lack of experience and match practice, she’s very much a player to beware.
Victoria Azarenka turned the clock back to her world no. 1 days with her American hard-court performances in 2020, and although she has question marks around injury and fitness as well as her personal life, the three-time US Open finalist could be extremely dangerous in 2021.
The other name not to forget is that of Sofia Kenin. The American proved that her Australian Open title was no fluke when she made the French Open final in 2020 and while she lacks overwhelming firepower, Kenin is a tremendous competitor who makes herself very hard to beat. If a draw softens even slightly, look for her to be primed to take advantage.
US Open 2021 Women’s Tips
Five first-time major champions have emerged at the US Open over the past decade, but it’s tough to see who might win their first title in New York in 2021: Big servers Karolina Pliskova (16/1 @ Bet Victor), Jennifer Brady (20/1 @ bet365), Madison Keys (22/1 @ Bet Victor) and Aryna Sabalenka (22/1 @ bet365) are the likeliest contenders (and Pliskova and Keys have already made US Open finals). But Pliskova is a Grand Slam underperformer, Keys is injury-prone and it remains to be seen whether Brady can back up her impressive 2020; Sabalenka has only made the last 16 at a Grand Slam once, although if she is to win anywhere, it would be the US Open.
So it seems likely we’ll see a player who already knows what it’s like to win a major lifting the trophy at the US Open in 2021. Naomi Osaka (8/1 @ bet365) is absolutely superb on hard courts, but remains a bit too inconsistent to be a safe bet and hasn’t thrived on being defending champion at majors in the past; the Tokyo Olympics are also likely to take much of her energy in 2021. It’s very difficult to know what to expect from 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu (10/1 @ bet365), but if she’s fit, she almost seems a better bet than Osaka.
Serena Williams (15/2 @ Paddy Power) absolutely cannot be discounted, and I maintain that if she is going to win that 24th major, it will be at Wimbledon or the US Open. The crowd can help her in New York, but also pressure her; and she needs a dose of luck to be able to win.
Ashleigh Barty’s game and personality don’t seem a great fit for the US Open, and the Australian (9/1 @ bet365) has never been as far as the quarterfinals there; it’s also a question mark how Barty will handle 2021 in general, having played so little in 2020. Simona Halep (10/1 @ bet365) is more likely to feature in the closing stages, even though she’s lost early at the US Open in the past few years, but remains vulnerable to an unlucky draw. Victoria Azarenka (12/1 @ bet365), now a three-time finalist, plays superb tennis at the US Open and has been close to winning the title several times now, but fitness and personal issues both feel like persistent question marks for the former world no. 1.
Sofia Kenin (14/1 @ Bet Victor) is a real name to look out for, as is Coco Gauff (21/5 @ Bet Victor) (who needs to sort out her serve, however) and perhaps big-serving Johanna Konta (40/1 @ Bet Victor); Belinda Bencic is temperamental, but plays tremendous tennis in New York and is an absolute steal at 50/1 @ Bet Victor.
Question marks hang over everybody, but the prospect of Andreescu returning to take back the title she was denied the opportunity to defend in 2020 is a very real one.
US Open 2021 tournament information
Name: US Open
Location: New York, USA
Venue: USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
Dates: 30 August-12 September 2021
Category: Grand Slam
Draw size: 128 singles
Men – Roger Federer, Jimmy Conners, Pete Sampras (5)
Women – Serena Williams, Chris Evert (6)
Men’s singles – Dominic Thiem
Women’s singles – Naomi Osaka
US Open player performance
Who are the best-performing male players at the US Open?
|Roger Federer||5 (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)||2 (2009, 2015)||Did not play||89-14|
|Rafael Nadal||4 (2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)||1 (2011)||Did not play||64-11|
|Novak Djokovic||3 (2011, 2015, 2018)||5 (2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016)||R16 (defaulted)||75-12|
|Andy Murray||1 (2012)||1 (2008)||R2 (lost to Felix Auger-Aliassime)||46-13|
|Juan Martin del Potro||1 (2009)||1 (2018)||Didn’t play||35-9|
|Stan Wawrinka||1 (2016)||0||Didn’t play||44-13|
|Marin Cilic||1 (2014)||0||R3 (lost to Dominic Thiem)||38-11|
|Dominic Thiem||1 (2020)||0||Champion (d. Alexander Zverev)||22-6|
|Kei Nishikori||0||1 (2014)||Did not play||25-10|
|Kevin Anderson||0||1 (2017)||R1 (lost to Alexander Zverev)||22-10|
|Daniil Medvedev||0||1 (2019)||SF (lost to Dominic Thiem)||13-4|
|Alexander Zverev||0||1 (2020)||Runner-up (lost to Dominic Thiem)||13-6|
Who are the best-performing female players at the US Open?
|Serena Williams||6 (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)||4 (2001, 2011, 2018, 2019)||SF (lost to Victoria Azarenka)||106-14|
|Kim Clijsters||3 (2005, 2009, 2010)||1 (2003)||R1 (lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova)||38-7|
|Venus Williams||2 (2000, 2001)||2 (1997, 2002)||R1 (lost to Karolina Muchova)||79-19|
|Naomi Osaka||2 (2018, 2020)||0||Champion (d. Victoria Azarenka)||21-3|
|Svetlana Kuznetsova||1 (2004)||1 (2007)||Did not play||35-15|
|Sam Stosur||1 (2011)||0||Did not play||22-14|
|Angelique Kerber||1 (2016)||0||R16 (lost to Jennifer Brady)||28-12|
|Sloane Stephens||1 (2017)||0||R3 (lost to Serena Williams)||21-8|
|Bianca Andreescu||1 (2019)||0||Did not play||7-0|
|Victoria Azarenka||0||3 (2012-13, 2020)||Runner-up (lost to Naomi Osaka)||40-13|