Carlos Alcaraz heads to New York City as the reigning champion, but Novak Djokovic will be no pushover. Get all the latest on tennis’ new rivalry with our US Open men’s singles preview.
The days of the big three might be over, but the new kid on the block seems all set to dominate for years to come.
Carlos Alcaraz is going from strength to strength, and it seems the only player capable of halting the Spaniard’s remarkable rise is one of the most successful players of all time.
Roger Federer might have gone and Rafael Nadal might be preparing to head off into the sunset, but Novak Djokovic is still going strong. And his rivalry with Alcaraz already looks like it could be one for the ages.
Alcaraz heads to Flushing Meadows as the reigning US Open champion. The 20-year-old has already thwarted Djokovic’s hopes of a calendar Grand Slam this year, and now he will be out to defend the title he claimed in emphatic fashion at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Here, we look at the key storylines heading into the US Open men’s singles.
Djokovic vs Alcaraz: Head-to-Head
Djokovic and Alcaraz have faced off four times across the past two seasons, and the record stands at two wins apiece.
Alcaraz got the better of Djokovic en route to winning the 2022 Madrid Masters, but the Serbian hit back at this year’s French Open, winning 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 in the semi-finals, with his younger rival battling injury in the closing stages of the contest.
Djokovic went on to triumph at Roland Garros, following on from his Australian Open success, yet Alcaraz gained revenge as he prevented the 36-year-old claiming a third grand slam title of 2023 with a magnificent win in the final of Wimbledon.
The latest chapter of their rivalry took place in Cincinnati last week, with nine-time US Open finalist Djokovic coming out on top in an instant classic.
If Alcaraz is going to become the first men’s player to successfully defend the US Open since five-time tournament winner Roger Federer did so in 2008, he will likely have to surpass a formidable Djokovic who shows no signs of slowing down.
In one of the most exciting grand slam finals of recent times, Alcaraz — the new king of Spain after Nadal’s injury troubles — proved his quality (as if he needed to) with an incredible success at The All-England Club.
The Centre Court crowd was treated to a five-set epic from which Alcaraz prevailed 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 3-6 6-4.
In the process, Alcaraz retained his world number one status and became the first Wimbledon champion not named Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Andy Murray since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 – before the Spaniard was born.
Alcaraz became the third-youngest Wimbledon men’s singles champion, after Boris Becker and Bjorn Borg. He also ended Djokovic’s chances of matching the record of five straight Wimbledon titles, which is held jointly by Federer and Borg.
“It’s great to win but even if I had lost, I would be really proud of myself with this amazing run, making history in this beautiful tournament, playing a final against a legend of our sport,” Alcaraz said.
“It’s incredible, it’s a dream come true to be able to play in these stages. It’s amazing, I didn’t expect to reach this kind of situation really fast. I am really, really proud of myself.”
The recent major form of Alcaraz and Djokovic means the US Open men’s singles competition looks less open than a highly competitive battle in the women’s draw.
A month on from that epic encounter at SW19, the duo served up another incredible final – this time at the Western & Southern Open.
Djokovic prevailed this time around, winning 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) in a near-four-hour back-and-forth tussle. The 23-time major champion had to claw victory from the jaws of defeat, and has now won a record 39 Masters 1000 titles across his illustrious career.
Alcaraz – who saved four championship points before finally succumbing – cried in his seat before giving an emotional post-match speech. He retains the number one status heading into the US Open, though Djokovic is only 20 points behind in the ATP rankings.
Djokovic, for his part, is loving the fresh rivalry, and his celebration after the victory showed how much it meant to him after the Wimbledon loss.
“Boy, you never give up. Jesus Christ,” he said to Alcaraz.
“Crazy. Honestly, I don’t know what else I can say. Tough to describe. Definitely one of the toughest matches I’ve ever played in my life. Regardless of what tournament, what category, what player. Anybody who’s watching on the stadium or on the TV has seen that this rivalry just gets better and better. Amazing player, tons of respect for him.”
While nothing can ever be taken for granted ahead of two weeks of grand slam play, it would take a substantial effort from one of the other contenders to prevent the latest chapter in this thrilling rivalry from arriving in the final at Flushing Meadows.
US Open Contenders: Young Guns Set to Shine?
So while the stage is all set for Alcaraz and Djokovic to do battle again, who else might consider themselves worthy of being named a US Open men’s singles contender?
Jannik Sinner heads to NYC with a maiden Masters 1000 title under his belt following his success in Toronto earlier in August that highlighted his elite hard-court credentials. The Italian reached the quarter-finals at the 2022 US Open and squandered a match point in his defeat to Alcaraz, so should be a live threat in the latter stages. However, he lost in his first match in Cincinnati, which is clearly not ideal preparation.
World number four Holger Rune cannot be discounted. The 20-year-old Dane seems destined to join Alcaraz at the very top of the sport, though he is coming off a back injury that ended his run at the Western & Southern Open and it’s a while since he put a long run together on a hard court.
Last year’s runner-up, Casper Ruud, may be backed too. The 24-year-old has already reached three grand slam finals, and will be hoping for fourth time lucky should he progress to the showpiece match this time around. That being said, he has only won one ATP Tour-level event this year.
The biggest threat, then, may arrive from Daniil Medvedev. The Russian has enjoyed a fine 2023 – winning five titles, including two Masters 1000 trophies – and is up to number three in the ATP rankings.
Medvedev overcame Djokovic in the 2021 US Open final, ending the latter’s attempt to win all four majors that season. He also made the final in 2019, narrowly losing a five-set epic to Nadal. Alcaraz would not have been thrilled to see Medvedev placed in the same half of the draw.
Stefanos Tsitsipas won in Mexico this month, though after reaching the final of the Australian Open and the quarters at Roland Garros, he could only make it to the last 16 at Wimbledon, and the Greek has dropped down to world number seven.
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe will be out to impress in front of the home crowd. Tiafoe won the first title of his career in June.
Former US Open champion Andy Murray, meanwhile, missed out on a seeding, but the Scot has been handed a favourable first-round tie against Corentin Moutet. He could face 2020 finalist Alexander Zverev in round two.
Data Slam: Djokovic Hunts Double Figures
- Novak Djokovic could become the first player in the Open Era to reach 10 men’s singles finals at multiple grand slams, having reached a 10th final at the Australian Open earlier this year.
- Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors have won the men’s singles title at the US Open the most times in the Open Era (five times each).
- Connors holds the most men’s singles match wins at the US Open in the Open Era, with 98 victories. Among active players, Djokovic holds the most with 81 wins.
- If Djokovic reaches the semi-final, it would be his 47th appearance in the last four of a major, making it the most of any male player in the Open Era.
- Djokovic and Richard Gasquet will make their 72nd main draw appearance in a slam. In the Open Era, only Federer and Feliciano Lopez have more major appearances (81 each).
- Murray could win his 200th grand slam match, becoming the first player from Great Britain to achieve the feat and the eighth male player in the Open Era.
- Alcaraz could become the fifth player in the Open Era to win multiple titles on clay, grass and hard court in a calendar year, after Connors (1974), John McEnroe (1984), Federer (2004) and Rafa Nadal (2008). In the event of victory, Alcaraz would be the youngest of the five.
- The last American male to win the US Open was Andy Roddick in 2003, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final.
- Djokovic could become the third male in the Open Era to win the Australian Open, Roland-Garros and US Open in a calendar year after Rod Laver (1968) and Mats Wilander (1988).
- Should Djokovic triumph, he will be the first player to win three grand slam tournaments in a calendar year four times. Djokovic and Federer have both achieved the feat three times.
- Alcaraz is aiming to become the first player in the Open Era to win multiple men’s singles titles at the US Open before turning 21.
- Djokovic has spent 3,525 minutes on court in grand slam events in 2023, more than any other player. He has converted 100 break points across this year’s majors, and struck 810 winners.