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Inside the Line...

Inside the Lines: Djokovic, Alcaraz a Cut Above Heading Into US Open

by Mike McIntyre

August 22, 2023

The biggest stars on the ATP Tour have shown us what their hard-court games look like heading into the final Slam of 2023 at the US Open. There seems to be a clear line dividing the contenders from the pretenders at this point after the action at the National Bank Open in Toronto and the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

On Court Action

World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz must be feeling pretty good having just made the finals in Cincinnati, contesting an epic match against Novak Djokovic where he held a championship point in the second-set tiebreak. Alcaraz will be heading into a major as the defending champ for the first time in his career so we’ll see how he handles that new-found pressure.

Alcaraz is the only man to have made the quarter-finals or better in both Toronto and Cincinnati which is unsurprising given the consistent nature of his game this year and his 53-6 record.

No. 2 Novak Djokovic didn’t show any signs of rust following a break to recover from fatigue post-Wimbledon. After skipping the Canadian Masters 1000, he took home his third title in Cincinnati against Alcaraz in a match that he called one of the greatest of his career. Djokovic has never won the US Open without having first played in Canada, but at the age of 36 he’s not taking any chances with his physical preparation for the Majors.

Beyond these two titans, World No. 6 Jannik Sinner has had a solid summer, capturing the first Masters 1000 title of his career recently in Toronto at the National Bank Open.

Daniil Medvedev won his only Slam to date in New York in 2021 but hasn’t been his usual lethal self this summer, with just a 3-2 record in the big hardcourt events.

Other top ten stalwarts such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Holger Rune and Andrey Rublev have all lost their A-games in recent events but could a return to the bright lights and big noise of New York City be exactly what they need to return to their best?

Stories to Watch

This week there’s but one tournament to lead up to the US Open and that’s the ATP 250 tournament in Winston-Salem. Usually, this event is contested by players who have yet to hit their stride in the summer hard-court swing or those who have delayed switching to the surface until the last minute.

For this year’s instalment, Borna Coric comes in as the No. 1 seed. Tallon Griekspoor and Seb Korda are the only other two top-30 players joining Coric in the draw.

Read also: Sinner Finally Breaks Through for Biggest Title in Toronto

In terms of stories to watch when the US Open hits, is there any bigger in the men’s game at the moment than the fight for the No. 1 ranking?

The top spot is once again up for grabs between current top dog Carlos Alcaraz and the ATP’s all-time leading man Novak Djokovic. After Djokovic’s triumph in Cincy, there is just 20 points between them. With Alcaraz needing to defend his maiden Slam title from a year ago, it seems very likely that Djokovic will reclaim the top spot by the end of the tournament.

No matter who occupies the top position, it’s pretty fair to say that these two men stand quite a distance apart from the rest of the pack in 2023. Djokovic has two Majors this year with his 10th Aussie Open triumph and third Roland-Garros as well as last week’s 39th career Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati.

Alcaraz has big titles with the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Madrid and his very first win at Wimbledon as well.

The two seem poised for the fifth instalment of their very gripping rivalry when the men head to New York next week.

Off Court Buzz

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov will not be taking to the court at Flushing Meadows as the knee injury he has been dealing with going back to the clay court season is still requiring time to properly heal. Shapovalov mentioned openly in his post-Wimbledon press conference that he might need to take a couple of months off to properly deal with the injury and subsequently withdrew from both his hometown tournament in Toronto as well as the following Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati.

Recently he shared on social media with his fans that he will also have to miss the US Open, a place where he made the quarter-finals in 2020, the best showing of his six attempts there.

Shapovalov, therefore, finishes 2023 with a 7-3 record at the Majors this year, failing to make the final eight at any of his appearances at those events for the first time since 2019.