- The US Open will get underway on Monday at Flushing Meadows, New York
- Novak Djokovic will be hoping to bounce back from losing the Wimbledon final
- Instant replays are set to be used at this year’s tournament for the first time
The final tennis major of the year will get underway on Monday when fans flock to Flushing Meadows for the start of the US Open.
Mail Sport takes a look at the key talking points ahead of the tournament.
This fortnight will be new territory for Carlos Alcaraz in that he will be defending a Grand Slam title for the first time.
Last year the Spaniard was a worthy winner at Flushing Meadows, although a contributory factor was the absence of Novak Djokovic due to him being barred from the United States because he is unvaccinated.
Djokovic is never more dangerous than when he has a point to prove and in beating Alcaraz recently in Cincinnati he looked determined to show that what happened at Wimbledon should not be considered the norm.
The two of them will be heavily favoured to meet in the men’s final, but this being the US Open nothing can be taken for granted. The conditions suit a wide array of players and this is the least predictable of the four Slams.
Djokovic himself has not won it for five years, but he has to be the favourite, given the pressure on Alcaraz, who has a tougher draw.
Home glory for the women?
Serena Williams made her emotional farewell here last year and there has not been a home female winner since Sloane Stephens in 2017.
Hopes are high that there could be another after the two big tournaments which followed Wimbledon. American No 1 Jessica Pegula won the Canadian Open earlier this month and that was followed by the No 2, 19 year-old Coco Gauff, winning in Cincinnati eight days ago.
Tennis craves a new American superstar and it is possible one might arrive, but Grand Slams make different demands on a player. Pegula is remarkably consistent week to week, but the fact remains that she has never gone past the quarter-finals in a major.
Gauff should fully blossom one day, but she has been a long time in the works.
Defending champion Iga Swiatek will justifiably be favourite and world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who won the last hard court Grand Slam in Australia, is close behind. There have been eight different female winners here in the last nine years.
The seven British singles players in action have broadly received favourable first round draws and there ought to be a reasonable amount of winners from them.
However, nothing can be assured given the array of fitness and form issues coming in. Cam Norrie has struggled by his consistent standards this summer and so has Dan Evans, apart from his unexpected surge to win the title in Washington.
Andy Murray missed Cincinnati due to an abdominal strain and the promising Jack Draper dealt with more shoulder issues which caused him to withdraw from Winston-Salem.
The hope will be that someone can put together a sustained run towards the second week in the singles and it will be interesting to see if Katie Boulter can follow up on her grass court form. The most likely to be around for the finals weekend is doubles ace Neal Skupski.
New balls please
This year in New York there is a change in that the women will be using the same, heavier Wilson balls as the men, after the change was requested by the WTA.
Previously the women used a lighter and quicker ball, but the new type was brought in at lead-up events this month. Interestingly, the speed of the ball was probably a contributory factor to Emma Raducanu’s remarkable triumph two years ago.
A lot of players will find the new balls easier to control and they will probably help those who thrive in slightly slower conditions, like Swiatek, who can generate their own power.
It could be argued that there are already too many events where conditions are slow and that this will further erode the game’s variety.
Another fear is that hitting a heavier ball will take more of a physical toll on players and lead to more injuries.
Five courts at Flushing Meadows will see the umpire’s chair equipped with a link to a type of VAR system, allowing players and officials to request instant replays of contentious moments, aside from the usual practice of the lines being electronically called.
The video technology is being employed on a trial basis, with players allowed to question decisions from the chair and fans in theory able to see what is being shown on the big screen.
Instances would include something like whether a ball has bounced twice before being scrambled over the net, an area which has met with controversial calls already this season.
In practice the system may not be used too much as the kind of incidents being called into question do not occur regularly.
It has also been notable that, when asked, many players seemed unaware of this new facility.