TENNIS: The US Open has been as exciting as expected and has displayed some of the highest quality tennis of the year. With some fresh faces in the semi-finals, one of the four will take home a Grand Slam title for the first time.
Could we be in for some more five-set thrillers? We preview the two semi-finals here.
Ruud the favourite to go the distance
Casper Ruud has been knocking on the door of the big time for a while, having won three titles and reached the French Open final in 2022. Despite a convincing win for Rafael Nadal in the final at Roland Garros and a poor performance by Ruud’s standards, before then crashing out of Wimbledon in the second round, he has showcased his powers to bounce back and looks to be in a good place going into the semi-final at Flushing Meadows.
Defeating a struggling Matteo Berrettini in the last round, who looked to still be recovering from his difficult summer having contracted Covid-19, Ruud has had a relatively straightforward run to the semi-finals when ATP rankings are taken into consideration. However, no Grand Slam journey is easy and making it to the semi-finals and winning the quarters in straight sets proves he is not one to be overlooked despite his mixed form over the summer.
The Norwegian number one is the favourite of the remaining four to win the tournament outright and has the best odds at 1.54 to advance to his second Grand Slam final of the year.
Standing in his way is Karen Khachanov, a powerful player and master of the baseline forehand. In the quarter-finals, the Russian defeated one of the tournament favourites, Nick Kyrgios, in an entertaining match that went the five-set distance and was hard to predict throughout.
Showing great composure to hold out after a tense tie-break loss in the fourth set, Khachanov appears driven and looks to be making up for lost time at Wimbledon in the summer after being banned from the competition.
Though not claiming a singles title since 2018, Khachanov has consistently hung around the 30th mark in the ATP rankings and is certainly capable of beating the top players when he hits his best form. He is 2.8 to emerge victorious and make it to the final, though his loss to Ruud in the only match he has faced him as a professional could be a contributing factor in this tie.
Can underdog Tiafoe utilise home advantage?
Frances Tiafoe has been slowly improving at Grand Slams over 2022, getting knocked out at the second round in the Australian Open and then again at Roland Garros before going two better at Wimbledon, making it to the fourth round. He goes two better again in his home country and is set for a semi-final in front of a crowd that has been very vocal about its support for the man from Maryland.
Defeating both Andrey Rublev and Rafael Nadal on his way to the semis, Tiafoe has had arguably the most difficult run of the four semi-finalists and will surely take confidence from the fact he has defeated Nadal, the man who has won two Grand Slams in 2022.
If he can build on the momentum he has generated so far at Flushing Meadows, combined with the backing of a very supportive Arthur Ashe stadium, it is hard to see the fixture being as clear-cut as his 2.72 underdog odds suggest.
However, one outstanding tennis player will be out to stop him and make the first Grand Slam final of his young career. Carlos Alcaraz has been hailed by many as the future of the sport that will soon be parting ways with the ageing forces that have dominated it for so long and is only a matter of time away from making his mark on a major tournament.
Spaniard Alcaraz’s playing style is similar to his compatriot Nadal in both his aggression and the range of shots he has mastered and his acute ability to turn an opponent’s what-would-be-winning shot straight back at them even harder.
Closing in on his first Grand Slam title, Alcaraz will be spurred on by his impressive summer, having reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon, as well as from the two incredible wins he has claimed in the last two rounds in New York – from Marin Cilic and Jannik Sinner, two of the tournament favourites.
His profound abilities see him as the 1.56 favourite to win this tie, and based on the determination he showed in the two previous five-setters he arrives off the back of, he might be one to back for reaching the final and the title itself.