US Open: Five men to watch

Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic may have dominated pre-tournament build-up, but they are not the only players to keep an eye on in New York

Jannik Sinner won the National Bank Open and will be among the main US Open contenders (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Jannik Sinner won the National Bank Open and will be among the main US Open contenders (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

By Oli Dickson Jefford, Sportsbeat

Finding someone to predict anything other than a Novak Djokovic or Carlos Alcaraz US Open victory could well be a thankless task.

Their five-set Wimbledon final was followed this past weekend by an elongated Cincinnati final, Djokovic turning the tables on his SW19 defeat and prevailing in his first US tournament in nearly two years.

But while many will say the Serbian and world No.1 Alcaraz are the only two men capable of victory in New York, a few potential rivals will be looking to chuck their hats into the ring.

With less than a week until action gets underway at Flushing Meadows, we take a look at a handful of players to keep an eye on.

Jannik Sinner

Sinner is arguably the most likely candidate to stop the Djokovic-Alcaraz stranglehold on Grand Slam tennis.

The Italian strikes the ball as well as anyone and comes into the US Open having finally claimed his first Masters 1000 title at the National Bank Open in Toronto, after two previous final defeats at that level.

Sinner, who will be seeded sixth in New York, also reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon last month - though he was beaten convincingly by Djokovic.

And he was also defeated by Alcaraz at this tournament 12 months ago, spurning two match points in a five-set thriller, though he did win their most recent meeting over three sets in Miami this April.

There is no denying Sinner is a contender here, but questions remain whether he is ready to win seven best-of-five matches in a row.

Alex de Minaur

Australian No.1 De Minaur returns to the scene of his best major result off the back of the most solid season of his career.

Three years ago in the ‘bubble’ US Open, De Minaur reached the last eight of a Slam for the first and currently only time in his career, but with a good draw the 13th seed could well be back at that stage.

The 24-year-old won the biggest title of his career to date in February, at the ATP 500-level event in Acapulco, and then reached another ATP 500 final at Queen’s back in June.

In recent weeks he has also been the runner-up in Los Cabos and then, in the biggest final of his career, in Toronto - making this the first season where he has reached four ATP finals.

His Slam performances have not been spectacular this year, though, so he will need to work on translating his tour form onto the bigger stages.

Tommy Paul

This US Open marks 20 years since Andy Roddick became the last American man to win a Slam singles crown, and Paul is among an array of US contenders looking to break that astonishing duck.

For so long he failed to back up what had been a stellar junior career but his senior career sparked into life back in January, with a surprise run to the Australian Open semi-final.

The 26-year-old backed that up by reaching finals in Acapulco and Eastbourne, and has been arguably the most impressive of his countrymen in recent weeks.

Paul stunned Alcaraz in three sets on his way to the last four in Toronto, and again pushed the Spaniard in a three-hour contest in Cincinnati the following week.

Seeded 14th at Flushing Meadows, Paul has never approached a major with this much confidence and a strong performance will be needed to stop him in his tracks.

Hubert Hurkacz

A popular figure with both fans and his fellow players, few would begrudge Hurkacz a strong run in New York over the next fortnight.

The Pole does have some pedigree at this level, reaching the semi-final of Wimbledon two years ago - but that is the only time in his career that he has gone further than the fourth round of a Slam.

But Hurkacz won the sixth title of his career in Marseille earlier in the season and has shown some encouraging form at Grand Slam level in 2023.

He was a final set tiebreak away from defeating Sebastian Korda and reaching the last eight at the Australian Open, while he also pushed Djokovic to four sets in the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Hurkacz will be 17th seed in Flushing Meadows and the heat and humidity of New York should suit his big-serving game, if he is able to maintain his 2023 consistency.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Davidovich Fokina’s exit from Wimbledon could not have been more dramatic, a shockingly mistimed underarm serve handing Holger Rune match point in what was an enthralling five-set contest.

But just over a month later the Spaniard - a former junior Slam winner - has the chance to bounce back on a similar stage, and build on what has been the best 12 months of his career to date.

Davidovich Fokina sits at a career high of 21st in the ATP Rankings and though he has only reached one ATP final in his career - in Monte Carlo two years ago - his game style works, and entertains, on all surfaces.

The US Open has been a fairly happy hunting ground for him in the past, reaching the fourth round in 2020 and also last year, where he fell in five sets to Matteo Berrettini.

Davidovich Fokina reached the last eight of Roland Garros two years ago and - if he can turn those five-set battles in his favour - a second major quarter-final may come his way soon.