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US Open 2022 Expert picks & predictions: Can Medvedev capitalize on his hard-court majors form?
Our tennis expert Vinny Maukner looks ahead to all the action at Flushing Meadows ahead of the 2022 US Open...
Daniil Medvedev made back-to-back finals at the Australian Open in 2021 and 2022 on top of his US Open title last year - © Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
This time last year, Novak Djoković was one win away from becoming the first male player to win the Calendar Slam since Rod Laver back in 1969 and you could tell by his emotions that the 2021 US Open final was the most meaningful match of his extraordinary career. Now, the tables have turned and after Daniil Medvedev beat the Serb in straight sets, Djoković’s biggest rival Rafael Nadal went on to win the Australian Open as well as the French Open this year to move two majors ahead. Djoković then bounced back by winning his seventh Wimbledon title.
Ahead of the 2022 US Open, Djoković is “preparing as if [he] will be allowed to compete”, but it looks like he’ll have to watch the final major of the year from the sidelines due to coronavirus restrictions. It also seems highly unlikely that 2020 finalist Alexander Zverev will be able to compete after the foot injury that he suffered during his semifinal match against Nadal at Roland-Garros. With less than three weeks until the start of the US Open main draw, let’s have a look at the main contenders.
Daniil Medvedev (+225) is the most consistent hard-court player in the draw - © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
With clay being his least favorite surface and after the ban of Russian players from Wimbledon, Daniil Medvedev (+225) has been looking forward to the US Open for a long time. The current world No.1 is the most consistent hard-court player in the draw – assuming that Djoković is not allowed to play – as he made back-to-back finals at the Australian Open in 2021 and 2022 on top of his US Open title last year. Medvedev also finally won his first title in 2022 last week in Los Cabos and it is tough to imagine someone beating him over best-of-five tennis. I’m on the fence of betting him as my only outright, however, his odds shouldn’t go down below +200, which is why I’m choosing to wait until the draw is made.
The magic about Carlos Alcaraz (+350) has quietly stopped and after tennis fans were debating whether he would win one, two or even three majors in 2022, he hasn’t won a tournament since Madrid. Most recently, the young Spaniard lost back-to-back finals to Italian players Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti and while his results are outstanding for a player his age, he’s still overrated on the outright markets, considering that he hasn’t made it to the semifinal stage at Grand Slam level yet.
It has become a habit to speculate about the health of Rafael Nadal (+550) before major tournaments. The 22-time Grand Slam champion had to pull out of Montreal due to an abdominal injury, however, that shouldn’t stop him from competing at the highest level if he’s fit by the start of the US Open. A lot will come down to his draw as he’ll need some quick victories to start the tournament. If he gets worn down early on, his chances of going far will decrease quite a bit. Nadal’s odds should rather increase than drop before the start of the US Open.
Rafael Nadal (+550) had to pull out of Montreal due to an abdominal injury - © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Outside of Wimbledon, the US Open are Stefanos Tsitsipas’ (+1200) weakest major. The Greek never made it past the third round in New York and even with Djoković and Zverev potentially out, I would need bigger odds to get involved with him on the outright market. The same applies to Jannik Sinner (+1400) who only won his first match at the US Open last year. As for the Italian, his body is another piece that’s holding him back, and even though he’s a future major champion, it might take him another year or so.
The thought that Nick Kyrgios (+1800) is arguably the strongest challenger for Medvedev still feels unfamiliar, however, the flamboyant Australian is playing the most consistent tennis of his career right now. Kyrgios backed up his Wimbledon final appearance with a title win in brutal conditions in Washington last week. Call me stubborn, but I still can’t get myself to betting him on a major outright market, even though cases can be made that he should be favored over the likes of Tsitsipas or Sinner.
Nick Kyrgios (+1800) is playing the most consistent tennis of his career right now - © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
It’s also odd to see so many players in the +2000 range and even with Djoković out, there are too many question marks around Félix Auger-Aliassime (+2000) , Matteo Berrettini (+2000) , Taylor Fritz (+2500) or Andrey Rublev (+2800) to get involved early. I’ll monitor their leadup form closely and might bet one of them if the draw warrants it.
2020 champion Dominic Thiem (+2800) is slowly getting back to normal, but there’s still a lot of work to be done until he’s back to his former self. I’m excluding the Austrian from my shortlist just like Denis Shapovalov (+3500) , whose form could not be any worse.
Potential long-shot options include Cameron Norrie (+4000) , Hubert Hurkacz (+4000) , Jenson Brooksby (+4000) , Alex de Minaur (+6500) , Sebastian Korda (+6500) and Frances Tiafoe (+10000) . Depending on the conditions, I’d especially take a look at Norrie as heat and humidity favor the Brit, who has the ability to out-grind most of the field.
Right now, I’d still wait and see what form players arrive on in New York before placing any outrights on the men’s side. The draw matters a lot in a field with one big favorite and I’d preferably have my outright pick sitting in the bottom half, opposite of Medvedev.
US Open 2022 Women – Armada of contenders trying to take down Świątek again
Iga Świątek (+250) won six consecutive tournaments before losing in the third round at Wimbledon - © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
The news about Serena Williams retiring after this year’s US Open will be the talk of the town on the women’s side. The 23-time Grand Slam champion probably won’t catch up to Margaret Court’s 24, however, the American will go down as one of the greatest players to have ever played the sport.
Just like with the men, there’s one heavy favorite on the women’s side, namely Iga Świątek (+250) . The Pole has looked invincible earlier this year, however, after winning six consecutive tournaments, she has now lost her third-round match both at Wimbledon and her home tournament in Warsaw. Assuming that the courts are playing on the faster side again this year, there’s a chance the world No.1 gets overrun by a big hitter and therefore, I’m looking for bigger-priced selections elsewhere.
Two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka (+650) has only played two tournaments since the French Open as she also had to retire from her first-round match in Toronto due to a back injury. Bookmakers are still pretty high on her considering the fact that Osaka is more of a part-timer currently and hasn’t won a tournament in over one and a half years. The added injury concerns encourage my plans on digging deeper and keeping the former No.1 out of my considerations.
Coco Gauff (+1100) could pose a real threat to Iga Świątek having reac hed the French Open final this year - © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Coco Gauff (+1100) seems like a strong challenger for Świątek on courts that play significantly faster than those at Roland-Garros. The 18-year-old has made great strides this year and finally backs up the market’s love for her. Even though I think she can get her first major title at this year’s US Open, I’d still wait for her draw as odds shouldn’t drop too much until the tournament’s start.
The US Open are Simona Halep’s (+1200) worst major and even though she added some pace to her game throughout the years, the Romanian only made it past the third round once in five years. Halep still shows some great tennis here and there, however, her body lets her down more often, which is why I’m doubtful about her chances to go on another big run at a major now.
In the same range as Halep, we find the most recent major champion Elena Rybakina (+1200) , Ons Jabeur (+1400), Aryna Sabalenka (+1400) , Bianca Andreescu (+1600) and Maria Sakkari (+1700) , all of whom I’m lower on than the oddsmakers. Rybakina redlined for two weeks at Wimbledon and I’d be surprised if she did so in back-to-back Slams. Jabeur never made it to the second week in New York while Sabalenka’s service struggles are back and Andreescu still has to show that she’s back to being an elite player whereas Sakkari usually gets tight in crucial situations. If you’re into an ultimate feelgood story, Serena Williams (+1600) is also in that same price-range, however, as much as I’d cheer her on to end her career on a high, I’d be shocked if she came close to winning her twenty-fourth major singles title.
Emma Raducanu (+2000) became the first player to win a major from qualifying at last year’s US Open - © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Emma Raducanu (+2000) shocked the tennis world when she became the first player to win a major from qualifying at last year’s US Open. The young Brit hasn’t won a tour-level match before and hasn’t done well adjusting to the main tour as she’s only 13-17 since her dream run in New York. Not only hasn’t she been able to find her tennis from last summer, she also had to fight through injuries constantly. The US Open magic might continue, but I’d still price Raducanu higher after what we’ve seen from her in 2022.
Barbora Krejčíková (+2000) , Jeļena Ostapenko (+2000) and Garbiñe Muguruza (+2500) all have Grand Slam titles to their names, however, neither of them has won the US Open and their form appears to be light years away from that to be altered this year. Another player struggling for quite a while now is Anett Kontaveit (+2500) , whose No.2 ranking spot doesn’t speak for the consistency of top women’s players.
Anett Kontaveit's (+2500), No.2 ranking spot doesn’t speak for the consistency of top women’s players - © Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK
Arriving in the range where it makes sense to place some outrights pre-draw, I do think that Belinda Bencic (+2500) and Amanda Anisimova (+2800) are at least equally talented as most of the players mentioned above. Bencic has won the singles’ gold medal at last year’s Olympics in the heat and humidity of Tokyo and the US Open have always been her best Grand Slam. Having made the quarterfinal last year and the semifinal in 2019, the Swiss is ready to take the next step now. An ankle injury stopped her before Wimbledon, but she seems to be healthy again right in time for the US Open.
Betting on Anisimova is always a gamble, however, if she runs hot, there aren’t many players that can stop her. The young American has also added some consistency at Grand Slam level as she made the second week in every major so far this year. I’m looking forward for her to continue that trend and even go a little further at her home Grand Slam.
The range of potential major champions is wide on the women’s side, and one might also consider Victoria Azarenka (+3500) , Karolína Plíšková (+3500) , Madison Keys (+3500) , Petra Kvitová (+3500) , Angelique Kerber (+3500) or Jessica Pegula (+4000) . Nevertheless, neither of them has convinced me this year and it would take a super easy draw to make me consider betting them on the US Open outright market.
US Open 2022 Outright Picks:
Belinda Bencic at +2500
Amanda Anisimova at +2800
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Images courtesy of: © Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports, © Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports, © Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports, © Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports, © Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK