Stars seek to dethrone Alcaraz and Swiatek – 10 players to watch at the US Open

Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek, the current world number ones, will bid to defend the titles they won last year.

Andy Sims
Thursday 24 August 2023 10:00 BST
Carlos Alcaraz is the reigning US Open champion (Steven Paston/PA)
Carlos Alcaraz is the reigning US Open champion (Steven Paston/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The US Open, the final grand slam of the year, begins in New York on Monday.

Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek, the current world number ones, will bid to defend the titles they won last year, but a host of rivals will be out to dethrone them.

Here, the PA news agency picks 10 players to watch at Flushing Meadows.

Carlos Alcaraz

The obvious place to start is with the electric 20-year-old Spaniard who won his first grand slam title at last year’s championships. Alcaraz underlined his superstar status by outlasting Novak Djokovic over five sets to win a maiden Wimbledon crown last month despite having played only 11 matches on grass prior to the tournament.

Iga Swiatek

Poland’s finest will go in search of a fifth grand slam title, which would take her level with Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova. Swiatek has not matched the dizzying heights of last year’s 37-match winning streak but still marched to a third French Open crown and reached the semi-finals in Cincinnati last week.

Novak Djokovic

The 23-time grand slam champion returns to Flushing Meadows having missed last year’s instalment due to his decision not to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Still smarting from losing his Wimbledon title, Djokovic overcame Alcaraz in an epic three-setter to win in Cincinnati as their burgeoning rivalry cranked up another notch.

Elena Rybakina

Last year’s surprise Wimbledon champion has proved she is no flash in the pan, going on to become one of the most consistent players on the WTA Tour. She backed up her SW19 exploits by reaching the Australian Open final before winning Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Rome. However, she retired injured in Cincinnati and has complained about the scheduling.

Jannik Sinner

Italian hot shot Sinner won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto a fortnight ago to underline his credentials. The 21-year-old reached the quarter-finals in New York last year when he had a match point against Alcaraz before bowing out in five sets. If his thumping forehand finds its rhythm Sinner can be a major threat over the next two weeks.

Coco Gauff

It is hard to believe American Gauff is still a teenager given she burst onto the scene at Wimbledon in 2019. Her career seemed to have stalled horribly since reaching the French Open final last year, but Gauff has enjoyed a timely upturn in form and won in Cincinnati, beating Swiatek along the way, for a fifth career title and a third of 2023.

Frances Tiafoe

Immensely watchable and likeable, American Tiafoe broke into the top 10 for the first time in his career after winning in Stuttgart in June. A semi-finalist last year, the 25-year-old is a genuine tennis showman with an explosive range of shots to match his infectious personality; Tiafoe recently pranked Andy Murray by peering over his shoulder throughout a TV interview.

Caroline Wozniacki

One of the tennis stories of the year is the return to the court of popular Dane Wozniacki, more than three years after she retired. Now the mother of two young children, the former world number one and 2018 Australian Open champion marked her return by beating Kimberly Birrell 6-2 6-2 in Montreal this month before losing to Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

Holger Rune

A Danish hot head whose talent is occasionally matched by his temper. Rune, 20, is up to a career-high fourth in the world and is the third of the young pretenders, along with Alcaraz and Sinner, who are predicted to dominate the sport for years to come. However, his Cincinnati campaign was ended by a back injury.

Venus Williams

Now 43, Williams has received a wild card to compete at the Open. She won back-to-back titles at Flushing Meadows in 2000 and 2001 after reaching the final on her debut in 1997. Williams recently returned to competition after missing nearly six months through injury and managed her first win over a top-20 player in four years against Veronika Kudermetova.

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