THE final Slam of the year and everyone is predicting an Alcaraz v Djokovic final in the men’s event and either Pegula or Gauff in the women’s singles.

With Alcaraz and Djokovic on opposite sides of the draw, their first prediction looks likely, given their dominance already this year.

But Alcaraz has a tough draw ahead if he is to defend his title in two weeks time.

He could face an in-form Jannick Sinner in the quarters while Djokovic faces a matchup with Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Sinner reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon earlier this year to record his best Grand Slam finish, so form is on his side. He then took out the the Canadian Open title. One to watch.

And who could not forget that marathon five-set defeat by Alcaraz in New York last September.

Djokovic will be buoyed by his success over Alcaraz in Cincinnati, but history shows he’s not had much success at Flushing Meadows in recent years.

Covid and a disqualification to name just two issues.

Others to watch out include 2022 finalist Casper Ruud, who could meet Frances Tiafoe in the quarters.

Daniil Medvedev is a former champion and has a relative easy path to the quarters, so not one to dismiss.

Projections are just that, and every Slam has the habit of throwing a curve ball – but there general consensus in that Alcaraz will meet Sinner, Medvedev v Rublev, Ruud up against Rune and Djokovic against Tsitsipas will be the last eight line-up.

IN the women’s draw a prediction of a winner has been almost impossible over the past five or so years.

A so-called changing of the guard has not seen a dominant and consistent new face. But many in New York are predicting a hometown American winner.

Doubles partners Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff won the two recent warm-up events in Montreal and Cincinnati.

But for either to win they will have to overcome a large European continent, led of course by Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, and Elena Rybakina.

Swiatek, despite recent losses, will be the favourite and we have to remember she had s similar lead up to last year’s event – and won it.

But there’s a pack of very hungry women chasing her. Swiatek v Gauff in the quarters is a mouthwatering possibility – with the winner a potential 2023 champion.

Rybakina has endured some marathon matches leading up to New York. Has she had enough time to recover and face some stern opposition in her quarter of the draw?

Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari and Karolina Muchova all stand in her way.

Pegula is a dark horse form player – she’s made six Grand Slam quarterfinals in the last two years.

She will start against Camila Giorgi, then could meet Wimbledon semifinalist Elina Svitolina, before potential matchups against either Madison Keys or Liudmila Samsonova.

And Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova could be a very tasty quarterfinal clash.

Then there’s Sabalenka, a perennial semifinalist, but also a loser at this stage.

She’s had worked on her error count and improved dramatically but there are some tough names in this quarter of the draw to worry her: Karolina Pliskova, Donna Vekic, Daria Kasatkina and Tunisian Ons Jabeur, another predicted to reach the quarters.

IF the US Open saw itself at truly global, it wouldn’t give a two hoots about the ongoing debate in New York and other major cities over a ‘fixture clash’ with the NFL – gridiron to all non-Americans reading this column.

The problem? The men’s championship match is played on the first NFL Sunday of its season.

To some, it’s a problem. So the latest idea from the Big Apple says the tournament shouldn’t start on a Monday and end on a Sunday, it should start the tournament and end the tournament one day earlier — so you start the 14-day event on a Sunday and end on a Saturday.

Game, set and touchdown!

John Isner celebrates after beating Milos Raonic in New York in 2018. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

ONE player calling it a day after New York is John Isner. The tall American announcing last week he will will retire from professional tennis after playing Flushing Meadows.

Isner will probably be remembered for that Slam semi-final appearance and a victory in the longest match in the sport’s history.

Isner reached a career-best ranking of world No.8 in 2018, shortly after reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon, won 16 singles titles and has hit more than 14,000 aces, an ATP Tour record.

That includes 113 – the most ever in a match – in his win against Nicolas Mahut that lasted 11 hours, five minutes across parts of three days in the first round at the All England Club in 2010 and ended at 70-68 in the fifth set.

Simona Halep in better times after winning the French Open in 2018. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

ANOTHER player not in New York will be Simona Halep. The Romanian was automatically withdrawn from the event because of her ongoing doping suspension.

Halep tested positive for Roxadustat last year and was then hit with a second charge in May over “irregularities in her athlete biological passport.”

The former world No.1 faced a hearing in front of an independent tribunal in June but a month later the ITIA confirmed the Romanian’s suspension was still on.

Her fight to return to the court is still ongoing and she has accused the ITIA for “killing my reputation”.


INTERESTING side story about the US Open appeared last week when the USTA announced that The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative has certified the US Open as a Safe Space.

The LGBTI+ organisation has worked with the USTA to provide equality for employees, players, coaches, officials, fans, and all those who attend the event.

But didn’t you know … the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was was run by the Mafia for many years.

The Genovese crime family controlled the majority of gay bars in Greenwich Village, a neighbourhood in southern Manhattan that was quickly becoming a hub for the city’s gay community.

The family even bribed New York’s Sixth Police Precinct with around $1,200 a month to keep the bar open, operating under the guise of a private “bottle club”.

A grandstand view to watch Wimbledon next year could cost you almost a thousand pounds. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

LOOKING forward nine months, Wimbledon has released hospitality tickets for sale for 2024.

And the price?

The ‘Treehouse’ experience includes a Michelin starred chef creating gourmet food, centre court tickets for the first 10 days (note no finals), and an exclusive balcony with live DJs: From £975 per person plus tax.

THE Novak Djokovic-led PTPA has received praise for their efforts that led to the ATP’s financial security program for players last week.

The program guaranteed base earnings, which assures top 250-ranked singles players of a minimum income level each season.

The initiative to provide a minimum wage to lower-ranked players is similar to the PGA golf tour.

Mikael Ymer slips at Wimbledon during in his match against Felix Auger-Aliassime.Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

WTF moment …

Some people just don’t get it when it comes to rules, or in the case of professional sportsmen or women, blame the agent or manager.

Swedish player Mikael Ymer is the latest, having been banned for 18 months for failing to take a mandatory drugs test – THREE times – and then blooming his agent.

Ymer still insists he didn’t break the rules, but he did. Not once or twice, but three times he was asked to attend, but didn’t.

The young Swede has now thrown the baby out with the bath water and quit the sport.

A sad loss to professional tennis, as he was clearly a gifted player, but blaming your agent?