New York | Alcaraz leads the way at the US Open

The draw for the fourth and final grand slam of the year has been made with all four Brits dropping into the top half headed by the world number one, Carlos Alcaraz.

Three have also unfortunately, been drawn in the same quarter as the top seed who is very much favourite to reach the final and defend his title against the second seeded Novak Djokovic.

For Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie, the first week will certainly be tough but they will first have to get past opening round opponents in Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia and Russia’s Alexander Shevchenko respectively to get their campaigns under way with Evans, if successful, the first of the Brits having to face Alcaraz in round three and the winner then facing the British No.1 Norrie, seeded 16.

Meanwhile Andy Murray is slightly lower down the draw. He opens against Frenchman Corentin Monet, world ranked 71, as he continues his campaign to reach the levels of his career prior to suffering and undergoing hip surgery.

Andy Murray prepares for the US Open

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The former world No.1 and US champion, currently ranked 37, has not reached the last 16 of a major since 2017 and if he succeeded in getting past that round this year, he could run into Alcaraz in the quarter finals. The Scot did make round four last year.

However, any similar runs will depend on whether he has overcome his latest abdominal injury which saw him pull out of the Toronto and Cincinnati Master events earlier this month.

If Murray beats the Frenchman, he could play Bulgarian 19th seed Grigor Dimitrov in the second round with whom he practised with on Thursday.

That leaves Jack Draper down at No.54 in the draw, who remains Britain’s best hope to take over from our current crop of leading players provided he can remain free of the injuries which seems to be plaguing him this year.

Having retired from the French Open with a shoulder injury, Draper returned to the fray two weeks ago in a Challenger event in Winnipeg and two days ago played at the Winston-Salem Open where the 21-year-old reached the second round only to again retire after 58-minutes of play.

Draper is down to face Moldova’s Radu Albot in his opening match.

On the eve of the draw, both Murray and Draper confirmed their fitness for the coming fortnight but British fans will have their fingers crossed there are no recurrences and can remain injury free.

Finally, from a British perspective, Liam Broady hopes to join his countrymen in the main draw by coming through the qualifying competition where he has reached the Qualifying Round
with Japan’s Shimabukaro Sho providing his final hurdle.

Novak Djokovic practices at Flushing Meadows

(Photo by Frey/TPN/Getty Images)

The main topic of conversation though, is whether Alcaraz and Djokovic can make it to the final and provide another epic battle which saw Djokovic take his third Cincinnati title after nearly four hours of fierce action.

The 20-year-old Spaniard starts his title defence against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, while Novak Djokovic – who returns to Flushing Meadows after missing last year’s event because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19 – faces France’s Alexandre Muller.

Of the two, Alcaraz would seem to have the tougher draw in his first grand slam title defence and ha,s in his terms, struggled a bit having been taken to three setters in his last seven matches.

Should he clear his first three rounds as expected, former finalist Alexander Zverev, Jannik Sinner, the sixth seed or even former champion Stan Wawrinka at 38 could provide him with trouble in the quarter finals, as could Andy Murray who loves a long five-setter!

Meanwhile Djokovic couldn’t have asked for a better draw in his return to the US Open for the first time in two years. It will be a question of how many sets he losses, if any. The Serb will likely meet American Mackenzie McDonald who is favourite to upset the out-of-form Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the opening round. In the quarters, Djokovic could face another American ninth seed Taylor Fritz, Italian teen Lorenzo Musetti or maybe Stefanos Tsitsipas, though the Greek has usually struggled in New York and could go down in his opener to the returning big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic!

Djokovic hasn’t won the US Open since 2018 and is chasing his 24th Grand Slam title to tie the Australian great, Margaret Court. He would also return to the No.1 world-ranking if he succeeds.

Daniil Medvedev should feature in the latter stages

(Photo by Aaron Doster/Getty Images)

The other main title contenders are Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Denemark’s Holger Rune, seeded three and four respectively.

While Medvedev isn’t in the best of form he shouldn’t be tested in his opening matches. The Russian opens against Hungary’s Attila Balazs but he could run into trouble when he faces either Australia’s Max Purcell, Croatia’s Borna Coric or another Aussie Alex de Minaur, who beat him in Canada.

The 2021 champion however, will still back himself against his compatriots Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, plus Matteo Berrettini and Hubert Hurkacz, all prospective quarters final opponents.

But one shouldn’t discount Norway’s Casper Ruud or Frances Tiafoe of the US who both had deep runs last year, with Ruud reaching the final.

Neither have showed their best form this summer and the favourite to emerge from this quarter, is American Tommy Paul who reached the semi-finals in Melbourne and upset Alcaraz in Toronto.

Spanish icon Rafa Nadal, Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Australia’s controversial Nick Kyrgios, are all absent from this year’s event and have been joined on the sidelines by Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Germany’s Jen-Lennard Struff whohave recently withdrawn their entries.

Casper Ruud is still looking for the form which took him to last year's final

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)



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