On the eve of the US Open 2019 commencing on Monday in New York, we look at five key players in the men’s draw who will be either looking to maintain supremacy or attain glory. The excitement is building among fans awaiting another intriguing fortnight of tennis action under the bright lights of Flushing Meadows, an arena where drama is a key element of the show.
The final major of the year certainly promises several intriguing storylines and we’ve delved deeper into five key men to watch this year; the champion, the key challenger, the danger-man, the young talent, and the enigmatic dark horse. We’ll have Set Betting pools available on site throughout the tournament,
The Champion – Novak Djokovic (1)
Serbian star Djokovic will be eagerly awaiting his return to Flushing Meadows and his favoured hard courts, 12 months on from his title win against Juan Martin del Potro.
It was here that Djokovic re-asserted himself as the game’s leading force once again and the 16-time major winner will be confident of backing up his status as bookies’ favourite to grab a 17th Grand Slam and fourth at the US Open.
After his victory against Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Djokovic will be confident of taking another step to potentially overtaking the Swiss and Rafael Nadal as the player with the most Grand Slam titles. That would be a monumental achievement and is far from a certainty given that both his rivals are still active, however another trophy here would be a great start.
The Key Challenger – Rafael Nadal (2)
Often underrated for his comparative lack of Grand Slam titles on hard and grass courts in comparison to his otherworldly achievements on clay, 18-time Slam champion Nadal will also be full of confidence in his quest for a fourth US Open title. The Spaniard extended his record as the player with the most Masters 1000 titles with victory at the Montreal Masters in the lead-up to Flushing Meadows, destroying Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the final.
It should be noted that Nadal fell victim to one of the most brutal and dominant losses he has experienced against Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open in January, also on a hard court. That came off the back of Nadal of some imperious form in the previous rounds.
Any potential psychological scars could prove crucial but, considering Nadal is not coming off any injuries and has confidence from his win in Montreal, the Mallorcan should be seen as the most likely challenger to Djokovic.
The Danger-Man – Daniil Medvedev (5)
The Russian ‘Bear’, as his surname roughly translates to, has been an immense force on the tour in recent weeks. Now boasting 44 match wins this season, four more than his nearest challenger Nadal, Medvedev will be entering the US Open off the back of final appearances in his previous three tournaments, two of them being Masters 1000.
Although he lost the first two, against an inspired performance from Nick Kyrgios and then a masterclass from Nadal in Montreal, it was third time lucky for the Russian as he came back from a set down to defeat Djokovic in the final in Cincinnati.
One of the ‘next-gen’ talents along with the likes of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and countryman Karen Khachanov, Medvedev is by no means a newcomer to the tour. At 23 years old, he began the season with a solid ranking in the top 25 but his rapid ascent has seen him now achieve a career-high ranking of 5 (as he is seeded here).
An unorthodox player who produces exceptional variety in his shots, he has the booming serve you would expect of a man of 6’6, yet also the foot speed and general movement that most wouldn’t.
Grand Slam tennis is a different kettle of fish to any ‘regular’ tournament, and Medvedev must still prove he can translate his form onto the biggest of stages. However, if he can do that, this may be the tournament that we see a new Grand Slam champion. One thing is for certain, nobody will want to face this dangerous young Russian.
The Young Talent – Alex de Minaur (Unseeded)
Although several youngsters are making waves on the tour recently, it is the young Australian de Minaur who has enjoyed a mini-renaissance recently.
Talked about and highly-regarded for several years, de Minaur is still only 20 and the extremely fleet-footed Aussie has already grabbed two ATP titles from four final appearances, most recently beating American Taylor Fritz to win the ATP 250 title in Atlanta.
He enjoys hard courts most of all and managed to reach the third round here 12 months ago, falling to former champion Marin Cilic. That effort was commendable considering the vast difference in experience and he will be confident of at least matching that result this year.
Due to a run of poor form earlier in the season, de Minaur dropped from his career-high ranking of 24 in March, and currently sits at 36. Consequently, he will be unseeded here, which may be problematic in terms of a tough draw. However, provided he navigates his initial matches successfully, he has the talent to make a splash.
The Enigma – Nick Kyrgios (28)
On his day, Nick Kyrgios is the arguably the most talented and entertaining player in tennis. A bold statement, certainly, but the Australian has shown he is capable of things on the tennis court which seem almost impossible and implausible. Some shots leave fans and commentators in shock due to the sheer audacity of him attempting them, let alone the clean winners they so often produce.
The biggest problem for the Australian is that his explosive temper and juvenile behaviour get him in trouble and severely handicap his performances and any hopes of consistent results. If Kyrgios can harness the form that he showed in winning the Washington Open, during which he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, he is certainly a contender to go deep into the tournament.
It would be hard to imagine the volatile Aussie managing to keep himself together for 7 matches over two weeks but, with his recent upturn in form leading to his inclusion in the seedings for the tournament, his path should be somewhat smoother. Although Kyrgios is still young, he has to harness his potential and talent before it is too late and this could be a great stage for that to finally happen.
A focused Kyrgios is an asset to tennis but those flashes of brilliance need to be translated into successful results and achievements. He is equally capable of winning a tournament or crashing out in the opening round and definitely falls under the ‘enigma’ category. It will be intriguing to see just which Kyrgios we get.