NEW YORK: A year after what seemed like a fairytale episode of the US Open – when the fresh-faced Emma Raducanu came through the qualifiers to win the title and Daniil Medvedev stopped an emotionally-drained Novak Djokovic just one match short of a historic calendar Grand Slam – the season appears to have an arcane ring to it. Again.
The men’s and women’s events in Ohio, the big stop leading into New York, where unseeded players came up trumps, ostensibly hit a palimpsest note. Borna Coric, who was ranked 152 at the start of the tournament, sidelined for a year with a right shoulder injury, won the men’s title. The 25-year-old Croatian is the lowest-ranked player ever to win a Masters 1000. The women’s winner was France’s Caroline Garcia, the first qualifier ever to win a WTA 1000 title.
Surprises aside there are promises of big strikes this fortnight.
Medvedev, the wiry Russian, is in a five-way chase for the top spot in the rankings with Rafael Nadal being in pole position. Nadal, winner of the Australian and French Opens, is in pursuit of a fifth title in New York. The 36-year-old is not defending any points as he didn’t play here last year. Medvedev, the world No. 1 along with the fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud need deep runs to challenge the Spaniard.


Iga Swiatek might head the women’s draw, but a combination of factors – including the Pole’s 4-3 win-loss record in her last three events which follows her unbeaten streak of the season that came to end at Wimbledon – has opened up the field. The world No. 1 starts against Italy’s Jasmine Paolini and could play the 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in round two for the second time in as many tournament outings.
And just like 12 months ago, the season’s last Slam kicks off with a series of questions with the spectra of unlikely answers lurking around the corner.

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