Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic after the Cincinnati Masters final | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

WITH LESS THAN a week to go at the 2023 US Open, fans have been treated to the tournaments typical blend of late-season fatigue and rowdy crowds resulting in unpredictable results, but the leading contenders are still in play. Despite a 16-year age difference, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz’s rivalry is reaching its zenith. Alcaraz may be the presumptive heir to Djokovic’s title as the world’s premier tennis player, but the Serbian won’t be relinquishing his crown without a fight.

The pair have met on four occasions, with both claiming victory twice. Alcaraz was successful in their biggest battle at Wimbledon in July, but Djokovic has since avenged himself in the final of the Cincinnati Masters. Their head-to-head history is only one aspect of their intense rivalry. Djokovic vs Alcaraz isn’t only an individual clash between two of tennis’ brightest stars, but the last bastion of the sports golden era holding back an onslaught from the next generation. All in all, the build up has been immense and the US Open is primed to become the next battleground in this enduring rivalry.

The 2023 US Open has delivered on the tournaments usual promise of scintillating summer heat, late-night finishes, and disorderly spectators, but has also featured a handful of dream runs, comeback stories and massive upsets. Now, the stage is set for a finale that will live long in the memories of all those privileged to witness it. Here’s what you can expect from the US Open’s closing stages.

Who can win the US Open?

Apologies for anyone getting tired of the Djokovic vs Alcaraz matchup (as if the rivalry isn’t the greatest spectacle tennis has to offer), but it’s looking increasingly likely that the pair will meet again in the final of the US Open. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to predict with any conviction who will emerge victorious in such a final, but that’s part of why the matchup is so exciting.

Alcaraz is the US Open’s number one seed and defending champion and has cruised into the quarterfinals, only dropping one set in his first four matches. The Spanish wunderkind has become the just the second man to reach three US Open semi-finals before the age of 21 (after Andre Agassi) and has finally broken through the dominance of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer’s fabled big three.

Djokovic could easily have been sent reeling after losing the Wimbledon final, but the Serbian maestro has kept his cool and will be bolstered by his win over Alcaraz in Cincinnati, and the fact that he’s guaranteed to reclaim the world number one spot after the US Open, win or lose. It’s too early to call a sure-fire champion, but Djokovic and Alcaraz remain the US Open’s most likely winners.

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Outside of Djokovic and Alcaraz, who can win the US Open?

Alright, enough of the obvious contenders. There’s no guarantee that Djokovic or Alcaraz will even make the final. In fact, there are a number of players apparently hell-bent on upsetting the status quo. 12 seeded Alex Zverev may have said it best, “There’s other players that can play in the draw. There’s other players that both of those guys have lost to.”

“It’s disrespectful in a way to talk about a final when your next opponent is still there. Both of those guys are not thinking about the final yet,” Zverev said. Zverev, a one-time grand-slam finalist, has returned to Tennis’ apex after suffering a devastating ankle injury. The German will have his shot at ruining everyone’s dream final when he faces Alcaraz in the quarter finals tomorrow.

Outside of the two favourites, former world number one Daniil Medvedev might have the best chance at winning the US Open. The enigmatic Russian won the tournament in 2021, and remains a strong challenger for the title this year. “We’re going to try to beat them and stop them from playing each other,” Medvedev said of the Alcaraz/Djokovic rivalry before this year’s tournament. “The goal is, after this US Open, that we talk about me.” If Medvedev and Alcaraz both win their quarter finals, they will meet in the semis.

How did Australians do at the US Open?

Australian tennis is in good hands following the abrupt retirement of Ash Barty, and the prolonged injury woes of Nick Kyrgios. While no Australians remain in either the men’s or women’s singles tournaments, 15 Aussies competed in the main draws. Sure, only five of them made it past the first round, but a handful of our homegrown heroes have distinguished themselves from the pack.

Alex De Minaur was in career best form heading into the US Open, having made the final of the Los Cabos Open and Canada Masters last month, and looked primed to make a deep run in New York. After a string of dominant wins, the ‘Demon’ eventually bowed out in the fourth round at the hands of Daniil Medvedev, but not before taking the opening set off the Russian.

Rinky Hijikata’s breakthrough has been the story of the tournament. Having never appeared in the main draw of a grand slam prior to this year, the 22-year-old made it all the way to the last 16. The result will see Hijikata make his top-100 debut, and guarantee he has everyone’s attention at future tournaments.

Ajla Tomljanovic made her first competitive appearance since October of 2022, and marked her return from injury with a win before pulling out of her second-round matchup with yet another injury. Over in doubles, Matt Ebden is still alive in the semi-finals and has a good chance of winning the whole thing.

Who can win the women’s singles at the US Open?

There will be a fresh face in the number one spot in the WTA rankings after the US Open’s conclusion. Iga Swiatek, who has held the top spot for 75 consecutive weeks, was unable to defend her US Open title and crashed out of the tournament early, meaning that Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka will take her place atop the rankings.

It’s been an exemplary demonstration of the WTAs penchant for producing chaotic results at this year’s US Open. With eight players remaining, only two are top eight seeds. As the highest remaining seed, Sabalenka is the biggest threat to win the women’s singles. Teenage prodigy Coco Gauff is the primary contender outside of Sabalenka, and the sixth seeded American will have home-crowd advantage to boot. It’s also worth keeping an eye on reigning Wimbledon champion Markéta Vondroušová, who has proven she can defeat just about anyone on tour when the pressure is high enough.

Has there been controversy at the US Open?

It wouldn’t be a US Open without a considerable chunk of controversy. This year, a familiar culprit has caused some disruptions: weed. Since Nick Kyrgios complained last year that US Open crowds stink of marijuana—a hot head calling out pot heads—multiple players have echoed that sentiment.

First, Maria Sakkari noted strong odours emanating from the crowd during her opening round match, then Alex Zverev elaborated on a similar experience, and he didn’t hold back. “Court 17 definitely smells like Snoop Dogg’s living room,” Zverev said, proving that the US Open is the sporting equivalent of a Bob Marley concert.

On a more serious note, a fan was also ejected from Zverev’s fourth round clash with Jannik Sinner. During the match, a fan shouted what Zverev claimed was “the most famous Hitler phrase there is.” The fan was removed from the arena, and the match, which eventually went all the way to five sets, continued. Zverev later made light of the situation, “It’s his loss, to be honest, to not witness the final two sets of that match.” Given that the clash was the highlight of the tournament so far, we’re inclined to agree.

When are the finals of the US Open?

Time flies when you’re having fun, and there’s already less than a week to go in the 2023 US Open. The women’s final will take place on September 10 and the men’s a day later on September 11th.

Where can I watch the US Open?

The US Open is broadcast on the Nine Network and Stan Sport, with coverage starting from 1am AEST.


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