Photo Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
All eyes are on Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as present, past, and future storylines collide.

The 2023 US Open begins on August 28th. Here are the stories to watch.

Will Novak Djokovic Reclaim his Crown?

Novak Djokovic returned to United States soil in grand fashion last week by winning the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. He overcame world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) in a 3 hours, 49 minutes win-for-the-ages…literally. Djokovic (36) is sixteen years older than Alcaraz (20).

Cincinnati marked his first tournament appearance in the country since his gut-wrenching loss to Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 US Open finals, mere sets away from completing the calendar slam.

The moment was bittersweet. He missed out on the rare accomplishment he so fiercely wanted, but he finally won the hearts of the fans, which he has coveted more than anything throughout his career forged in the beloved shadows of Federer and Nadal.

Then Covid happened and select governments began refusing his entry due to his steadfast commitment to his own bodily autonomy. He was deported from Australia in 2022, then returned in 2023 and won the tournament. Sweet revenge.

He was not allowed in the United States for any tournaments in 2022 or the first half of 2023, a span that included the 2022 US Open. But the restrictions were lifted in May, and now it’s game on.

Djokovic remains the No. 2 seed behind Alcaraz, and their infant-stage rivalry now stands at 2-2. Cincinnati mattered, but Wimbledon mattered more. Alcaraz’s victory over Djokovic at Wimbledon validated the hype. Djokovic had won Australia and the French Open, and was trying to tee up another shot at the calendar slam. But Alcaraz proved to be a legitimate foil.

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Novak was greeted warmly in Cincinnati. Will New Yorkers treat him the same way?

He has two big motivations at Flushing Meadows. One, reclaim New York after being denied entry last year, just like he reclaimed Melbourne. That revenge tour is still ongoing. Two, dig in against the Alcaraz steam train once again. How much fire does he have left after taking solo possession of the most major titles with 23? Rafa isn’t even here to threaten catching him.

It must feel strange. No Roger. No Rafa. It looked like he was going to have an clean path to aim for an absurd 30 major titles, but as sports does, a newcomer has arrived to give history a gut check.

The Carlos Alcaraz Express

If you didn’t believe it a few months ago, you do now. The future is here.

Alcaraz has handled the pressure of being a Wimbledon champ rather well. He hasn’t been in top form this summer, but he has been formidable nonetheless.

Tommy Paul got the better of him in Montreal, then Alcaraz quickly avenged that loss one week later in Cincinatti, en route to the magnificent final against Djokovic. Check out this backspin highlight:

Now Alcaraz will play in his first major tournament as a defending champion. Last year he took advantage of Novak’s forced absence to claim his first Grand Slam title. He missed Australia due to injury, fell in the French semis to Novak, and won Wimbledon. So he currently owns two of the four majors (Djokovic has the other two).

His ascension to world No. 1 was no fluke, but it does come with an asterisk given how many ranking points Novak was prevented from defending. To bring that point home, all Djokovic has to do in New York is win his first round match this week to reclaim the No. 1 ranking. So after the first round, go ahead and consider Novak the No. 1 seed.

Alcaraz is a 100% legitimate world No. 1, though, and when he does eventually take back the top spot, there will be no asterisk.

He seems built for the pressure. Can he defend his title? Will he play Novak again? Will one of his contemporaries trip him up? All eyes are on the future…which is actually the present.

Homecourt Contenders

There are five seeded American men playing their home major this year. Can any of them leave a mark?

#9 Taylor Fritz

Taylor Fritz has had a good run as a top 10 player. StilI, it feels like he is in need of a big moment on a big stage. His win against Nadal last year at Indian Wells was tantalizing. He needs to find a way to rattle the tennis world at a major, though. Fritz seems most at ease playing on home turf—this could be his time.

#10 Frances Tiafoe

On the other hand, Frances Tiafoe had his Grand Slam moment last year at Flushing Meadows, once again at Rafael Nadal’s expense. He has been largely silent since then. As a top 10 seed, the expectation is that he should threaten a semifinal run. He’ll have to win at least two difficult matches to do that.

#14 Tommy Paul

Tommy Paul is coming into this year’s Open in the best form of all the American contenders. He had the best win of his career a few weeks ago in defeating Alcaraz in a composed three set battle. Although he lost the rematch one week later, it was anything but a gimmie for the world No. 1.

He is at that point in his career where he is starting to maximize his potential. What is unknown right now is if he is peaking or still tapping into latent talents.

Can Tommy Paul keep riding the wave and have a genuine breakthrough this year? As a 14 seed he can fly under the radar a little bit, but most of the players in the locker room know he’s playing more like a top 10 seed right now. Anything less than a quarterfinal run will be a disappointment.

#28 Christopher Eubanks

This is the guy everyone is itching to see again. After his incredible Cinderella run at Wimbledon, Christopher Eubanks rocketed from unknown journeyman to surprise seed at the US Open. His challenge will be absorbing all the media attention and external responsibilities and fanfare that comes with it. Eubanks will be a big fan favorite under the bright lights of the big city. His nerves will determine his outcome. They served him well in Wimbledon.

Shooting stars typically come down to earth, especially once the tour has a chance to watch film and create game plans. Eubanks has a 3-4 record this summer following his Wimbledon success, including back-to-back first round losses. His confidence is probably pretty low. Maybe what he needs is another huge stage.

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#31 Sebastian Korda

Sebastian Korda has some of the purest strokes on tour today. He hasn’t been able to convert his admirable ball striking into reliable victories though. At No. 31, he is probably seeded exactly where he needs to be. One senses he is a couple years away from being a fixture in the top 10. A big result at the year’s final major would be a huge confidence boost heading into next season.

John Isner will Retire after US Open

Three Best First Round Matchups

24 Ugo Humbert vs. Matteo Berrettini

25 Alexander Bublic vs. Dominic Thiem

7 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Milos Raonic

Dark Horse

Dominic Thiem


1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. 2 Novak Djokovic


2 Novak Djokovic