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HomeFashion2023 US Open Preview: The Alcaraz-Djokovic Countdown Begins—And Everything Else You Need...

2023 US Open Preview: The Alcaraz-Djokovic Countdown Begins—And Everything Else You Need To Know

Few things have captivated tennis fans like the still nascent but ever-building rivalry between the world’s two best men’s players: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic. They’ve played four times; each has won twice. Alcaraz came out on top after their five-set thriller in this year’s Wimbledon final, though Djokovic got his revenge a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, winning what many are calling the best non-major match in ages in three relentlessly tight sets.

The world’s number-one ranking, currently held by Alcaraz, isn’t really at stake here: Assuming Djokovic wins his first match, because of tennis’s intricate way of determining rankings, he’ll return to number-one. This is pure bragging rights. It should be noted, though, that while one of Djokovic’s many virtues is his utter unflappability and consistency, Alcaraz has been somewhat spotty lately—and faces the far tougher path to the finals here, with 2021 Open champion Danil Medvedev, Jannik Sinner (whose career record against Alcaraz is a healthy 3-3), and Alexander Zverev all on his side of the draw. (For the record: Djokovic plays tonight, Alcaraz tomorrow night.)

There are, of course, other very talented men playing for the title; fact is, though, Alcaraz and Djokovic are in a league of their own—at least when both are completely healthy and on their games—and their earlier matches have unfolded so brilliantly that virtually everybody is willing them to meet in what could be a final for the ages. Solely because of their respective draws here, though, the stars would seem to be aligned for Djokovic to capture a fourth Open title and his record 24th Grand Slam.

An exciting match tonight

First-round match to watch, tonight: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Milos Raonic. Tsitsipas is seeded 7th but inconsistent; Raonic has been injury-plagued but is dangerous when hitting healthy, as he seems to be now.

A relatively open women’s field

On the women’s side, the field is far more open than the men’s. Iga Swiatek, the world number-one and the defending Open champion, is well-poised to repeat—and a month or so ago may have been seen as a lock to do so. Some significant upsets since then—particularly at the hands of Americans Jessie Pegula (seeded 3rd) and Coco Gauff (seeded 6th), both of whom are riding rockets at the moment—make this tournament almost wide-open, certainly when you add this year’s Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka, seeded second, to that elite field. If Swiatek is to make it to the finals, she’ll have to go through 4th-seed Elena Rybakina, last year’s Wimbledon champion. Fifth-seeded Ons Jabeur, so far the eternal bridesmaid, will also be willing herself to a final. So, yeah: It’s any of the above. I’ll go out on a limb and call this one for Sabalenka: Sure, she’s got one Slam already, but she’s been so close a number of other times and is still hungry and still swinging for the fences.

First-round matches to watch: Rybakina drew the formidable Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the first round, today at 2: 15 pm ET on the Grandstand court. If she hopes to go deep, Rybakina needs to watch out for an early upset here. Plenty of eyes will also be on wild card (and former number-one and Grand Slam champion) Caroline Wozniacki, who’s facing Tatiana Prozorova on Monday night in the first Slam match of her comeback.

Important anniversaries

Let’s also recognize two important anniversaries that this year’s Open marks: In 1970, a group of women players soon known as the Original 9, led by Billie Jean King, frustrated at both the sexism and the lack of financial opportunities for women pros, organized their own tour; three years later, the Women’s Tennis Association was founded, with King as president, and thanks to both King and the power of the WTA the US Open that year, for the first time, awarded women the same prize money as men. Fifty years later, both King’s work and the collective power of the brave women players who put their careers on the line have been recognized around the world.



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