2022 US Open Men’s Singles Roundtable Predictions: Champion, Dark Horse and Early Exit

Rafael Nadal 2022 Australian Open

Ahead of the final Grand Slam of 2022, five Last Word on Tennis writers – Vithun (@VitIllankovan), Jakub Bubro (@bobrojakub), Shane Black, Damian Kust (@damiankust) and Glenys Furness – make their US Open predictions for the Men’s Singles tournament. We also have a separate roundtable for the Women’s singles.

US Open Men’s Singles Roundtable Predictions

Champion – Who will win the US Open?

Vithun: (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas [GRE]

This appears to be the most wide open Grand Slam on the ATP side in recent times. World No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medevdev is the favorite but he regularly underperforms when he is seen as the one to beat at a tournament–he has only one title whilst holding the top ranking (an ATP 250 event in Los Cabos) and has never successfully defended any ATP title.

The good fortune continues to come Rafael Nadal’s way with Novak Djokovic (a player he has not won a set against on hard courts since 2013) not able to participate this year. However, my gut feeling is he will not win the title as the only time he won three Grand Slams in a calendar year was over a decade ago (2010) and he has recorded at least one defeat in Grand Slams every year and he has yet to do so in 2022 (withdrawing before his Wimbledon semifinal, match means it wasn’t recorded as a defeat).

You can make a case for many names after those two but I am going to go for Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek just reached the final of the ATP 1000 event in Cincinnati, beating Medvedev in the semifinals (which could also be a semifinal match at this year’s US Open). Despite never advancing past the 3rd Round at the US Open, I believe this could be Tsitsipas’s time to change that given the wide open field, relatively lower expectation and the US Open being the easiest Slam to sneak (given its position on the Tennis calendar).

Jakub: (2) Rafael Nadal [ESP]

The preparation has been next to none for the 36-year-old but I just cannot help thinking that Nadal will lift his 23rd Grand Slam trophy in New York at the end of the fortnight. Nadal looked well on his way in Wimbledon before he was stopped by an abdominal tear at the semifinal stage. The Spaniard lost his comeback match in Cincinnati to eventual champion Borna Coric. The draw has been pretty kind to Nadal as he should be getting through the first two rounds rather easily before a potential challenge from Miomir Kecmanovic. Nadal should have time to ramp up and he has shown himself to be near-unbeatable when at his best and I am confident that he can bring that here.

Shane: (3) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]

I believe 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz is in the perfect position to raise his first Grand Slam title this year in Flushing, New York. The young phenom is currently ranked #3 in the Singles Race to Turin but seems to be flying under the radar entering the US Open. The Spaniard notched just two wins in two North American hard-court events which has seemingly lessened the hype around him ahead of the US Open.

I, however, believe this was an ideal lead-up for Alcaraz as he chases Grand Slam title #1. Alcaraz has proven he can win big matches in Flushing, shown by his five-set Centre Court victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas a year ago. The draw sets up well for the 19-year-old. Drawing Sebastian Baez in round one is not ideal, but I would be shocked if Alcaraz fell to anyone in the first week, including #25 seed Borna Coric. His potential round of 16 matchup against Marin Cilic is about as light as you can get that deep into a major. He is on the opposite side of the draw from Tsitsipas, #1 seed Daniil Medvedev, and Nick Kyrgios. I love Alcaraz’s chance to make the quarterfinals and foresee him having a great chance to win the whole thing.

Damian: (2) Rafael Nadal [ESP]

Before the draw was made, I figured I was going to pick Daniil Medvedev. However, I just really dislike the idea of the Russian facing Nick Kyrgios or Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round. One is among the most in-form players this season, the other has done a lot of damage to Medvedev in the past (as he generally struggles against other flat-hitters). Rafael Nadal only had one match in the warm-ups, but I think with the draw he has allowing him to get a few easier rounds in before facing trouble, he can play himself into form. After all, he’s barely lost matches in 2022.

Glenys: (3) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]

The young gun has been getting better and better lately. Although defeated by Brit Norrie in the quarter final of Cincinnati, over best of five sets the Spaniard should have the measure of just about anyone. Nadal is likely to be his only challenger, but the youngster on form will get his maiden Slam.

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Dark Horse – Which (other) player outside the Top 8 seeds will advance furthest?

Vithun: (11) Jannik Sinner [ITA]

I have the Italian making the semifinals in my draw projection. Sinner has been very consistent at the Grand Slams in 2022 reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. If injury hadn’t forced him to retire injured in the 4th Round of this year’s French Open, I believe he would’ve reached the final. His draw gives him an opportunity to go the furthest he has in a Grand Slam to date–his projected 4th Round opponent Hubert Hurkacz generally underperforms in the Majors and he has had the number of Carlos Alcaraz this year (winning both of their 2022 meetings), his projected quarterfinal opponent. Therefore, Sinner is my dark horse pick to for this year’s US Open.

Jakub: (10) Taylor Fritz [USA]

The obvious pick here outside the top 8 seeds for a deep run. Fritz has taken his game to the next level in 2022, winning Indian Wells and coming excruciatingly close to a Wimbledon semifinal. The lead-up has not been ideal for the American, forced to retire from a match in Washington but he has been getting better and better, finishing with a quarterfinal run at Cincinnati that included wins over Nick Kyrgios and Andrey Rublev. Fritz has a nice draw to boot, opening against a qualifier and then Aljaz Bedene or Pedro Cachin with the high seed in his section being Casper Ruud. My prediction for the 24-year-old is to make the semifinals, getting past Stefanos Tsitsipas/Matteo Berrettini but falling to Daniil Medvedev.

Shane: (13) Matteo Berrettini [ITA]

Though some may not consider Matteo Berrettini a prototypical “dark horse” at this year’s US Open, his #13 seed certainly puts him in that category. The Italian moved down the rankings this spring not because of his play on the court, but his time off it. Berrettini was sidelined from early March to early June due to a right-hand injury. He then missed Wimbledon after testing positive for COVID-19. I foresee the Italian, who currently holds his lowest world ranking since the 2019 US Open, coming out with vengeance at this year’s event. He will remind the fans why he was ranked #6 in the world just four months ago. I also am a big fan of the way the draw broke for the 26-year-old. He should cruise through the first two rounds before a likely encounter with Francisco Cerundolo in round three. After that, it sets the stage for what could be one of the matches of the tournament against Stefanos Tsitsipas. If Berrettini gets by the Greek, I truly believe his ceiling becomes 2022 champion in Flushing.

Damian: (25) Borna Coric [CRO]

Perhaps it’s a little unwise to just expect Borna Coric to bring his Cincinnati form to New York. After all, when he won the Parma Challenger back in July, in many ways playing similar tennis to his performance a couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t really the start of a prolonged period of excellence. But Coric has done well in New York in the past and has a decent draw with Carlos Alcaraz in the third round, who should be pretty upset-prone. If the Croat can serve as well as he’s been and keep injecting pace off the FH side like he wasn’t in his prime, I like his chances to reach the quarterfinals.

Glenys: (22) Frances Tiafoe [USA]

Tiafoe made the quarterfinal in the Silicon Valley Open and should be able to get fairly deep in Flushing Meadows, having had some tight best-of-three matches in the lead up to the US Open. Hopefully his fitness can hold out over a best-of-five format and he can progress beyond the 4th Round in a Grand Slam for the second time in his career.

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Early Exit – Which of the Top 8 seeds will suffer the earliest exit?

Vithun: (8) Hubert Hurkacz [POL]

Apart from a run to the Wimbledon semifinals last year, the Pole is rather underwhelming at Grand Slams, only reaching the second week on a Grand Slam on one other occasion (although it was at this year’s French Open). Having never advanced past the 2nd Round of the US Open, Hurkacz is my pick to be eliminated earliest out of the Top 8 seeds at this year’s US Open.

 Jakub: (3) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]

Alcaraz’s season has been absolutely incredible, ascending to the Top 4 as a teenager and winning Rio De Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid. It has finally begun to slow down on North American hard courts. The Spaniard took a loss to Tommy Paul in his Montreal opener and fell to Cameron Norrie in the Cincinnati quarterfinals. Alcaraz is defending a quarterfinal here from last year when he got a stunning victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. The draw is quite tough for Alcaraz as Cincinnati champion Borna Coric looms in the third round, where I see the 19-year-old’s US Open campaign ending. If Alcaraz does go through, a resurgent Dan Evans or past champion Marin Cilic could defeat him a round later.

Shane: (6) Felix Auger-Aliassime [CAN]

I am a fan of Felix Auger-Aliassime, I really am. His inconsistencies, however, can be mind-boggling to watch. The 22-year-old Canadian is the #6 overall seed at this year’s US Open, though he is more of a fringe top-ten level player in my eyes. Auger-Aliassime is just 6-6 in his last 12 matches. Those losses included a head-scratcher to Jason Kubler and a 6-1 6-2 beatdown at the hands of Casper Ruud. He is set to face a qualifier in round one which I see as a win, but a round two matchup against the winner of Jack Draper vs Emil Ruusuvuori could get dicey. Both Draper and Ruusuvuori have been playing better tennis than the Canadian in the lead-up to this US Open. I see the 22-year-old, with the pressures of holding his highest-ever seed at a Slam, falling in round two at the 2022 US Open.

Damian: (5) Casper Ruud [NOR]

Don’t get me wrong, Casper Ruud has improved his hard-court game massively. But it’s not going to be that simple for him in New York. While I don’t think Kyle Edmund is ready to beat him in the best-of-five format this early in his comeback, the Norwegian should have his hands full with Zhizhen Zhang in the second round. The Chinese is playing with so much confidence right now, taking the ball early from both wings and hitting with devastating power. On hard courts, it seems like he could be even stronger than he was on clay during the summer, as he’s getting a lot more out of his serve. Zhang has every tool required to beat Ruud and it’s not like the Norwegian will have an easier time playing guys like Tommy Paul or Taylor Fritz after that.

Glenys: (8) Hubert Hurkacz [POL]

The Pole hasn’t had that good a run in to Flushing Meadows. Although seeded, his first round match is a tough match up against Otte. The German has made some tour semifinals this year and is no slouch.

Main Photo from Getty.