At the 1973 US Open, John Newcombe and Margaret Court each won US$25,000 for winning the tournament. It was the first time equal prize money was awarded at a Slam, a cause championed and driven by Billie Jean King. This year is the 50th anniversary of that cause and both the Men’s and Women’s Champions will receive US$3 million, a much bigger slice of the bounty.
Lets look at the 2023 Slam year so far. It’s been a mixed bag for the women, with three different winners, Sabalenka (Australian), Swiatek (French) and the surprise victory of the tattooed lefty Vondrousov at Wimbledon. As for the men Djokovic won in Melbourne and Paris but was outplayed in the thrilling 5th set at Wimbledon by the 20-year wunderkind Alcaraz, who now has 2 Slams in the bag after winning in New York last season.
This all sets up some juicy scenarios in both draws heading into the next two weeks. One of these storylines is a player who hasn’t won a slam yet, Coco Gauff.
She comes into the tournament red-hot winning two lead up events, Washington and Cincinnati. It’s no coincidence that this uptick in form coincides with taking on Brad Gilbert as coach. He worked initial wonders with Agassi, Roddick and Murray and is doing the same for this 19-year-old American.
Her draw isn’t easy though, she’s in the same quarter as world number one Swiatek, who by her standards hasn’t had a good summer with losses to Gauff and Jessica Pegula in recent weeks, but the winner of this potential blockbuster quarter final between Swiatek and Gauff would go a long way to winning the tournament.
Other players in the top half who could get to a semi are the ever-unpredictable Kvitova, Rybakina, Muchova and the perennial Azarenka, who made the final here in 2020. The bottom half is more wide open as Sabalenka seems to have struck a semi final roadblock in big events with losses to Muchova at Roland Garros, Jabeur at Wimbledon and Muchova again in Cincinnati.
Should the seeds hold her semi opponent in New York would be Pegula (3), the winner in Toronto a few weeks back. Svitolina, Jabeur, Madison Keys and the unseeded former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu could all make deep second week runs.
So, who wins it all? It’s a good question but not the right question. The right question is can Coco Gauff deal with the immense pressure to win this slam on her home soil. She is a serious threat for the first time in her young career to win a major and lots of pundits are picking her to go all the way, but not me.
I can see her beating Swiatek but not Sabalenka. I think the Russian will beat her semi final demons, make the final and win her second major.
Lets move to the men. Many are calling the Cincinnati final last week between Novak and Alcaraz the best non-slam match in history. A four-hour final set tiebreaking barnburner that cemented the rivalry between a certified legend and a legend in the making. We have to enjoy this matchup whilst we can, as the Serb won’t be around at this level much longer, maybe two years.
Alcaraz is shaping up to be the player of his generation and in ten years or so he may have won 15 – 20 slams. They both seem to know the historical importance of these matches and we as fans can only hope they play each other as often as possible, especially in Slam finals.
This rivalry reminds me of Sampras-Federer, two champions at opposite ends of their careers, but unfortunately they only played once.
The Cincy final further proved Novak/Alcaraz are a long way ahead of the other players. The level they consistently reached is a level Sinner, Tsitsipas, Ruud, Rune, Medvedev, Rublev and Zverev just don’t have, which is why it’s hard to pick anyone other than Novak or Alacaraz for the US Open title.
The Spainard seems to have the tougher draw, with Sinner, Hurkacz, Zverev and Rublev in his half and I can’t see Novak being troubled until a potential quarter against Tsitsipas/Eubanks/Musetti or Fritz.
From there on either side of the draw, it would take the match of someone’s life for this not to end up a Novak/Alcaraz final. So, who wins? Well, apparently the balls are a bit fluffier but the court is playing relatively quick, so the conditions are a little different than Cincy, where the balls were flying.
The final would be a war of attrition, which sends both players to dark places physically, which is why I’d have to go with the 20 year old Alcaraz, even though he has a history of cramping.
The more youthful Carlos Alcaraz will win his 3rd Grand Slam.