Who Has the Momentum Going into the US Open?

With the last Grand Slam of the calendar approaching, it is the perfect time to review the relative strengths of the field and who has done the most to increase their hardcourt edge in the past year.

We often look to the North American hardcourt events in July and August as indicators of what is to come at the US Open. If we are to take anything from Cincy (the last Masters event ahead of the Open) giving us a Daniil Medvedev-David Goffin final, it may be to expect the unexpected as the main draw matches get underway at Flushing Meadows.

‘Fire’ in Russian is ‘Пожар’ (pronounced prozhar), so I am calling Medvedev, Пожар-Medvedev for the next two weeks. Since Wimbledon, Medvedev has made it to the final of every hardcourt event he has played, winning Cincy and defeating Novak Djokovic along the way. That streak has helped to put Medvedev among the most improved players on hardcourt in the past year. In fact, among the top 15 highest rated players heading into next week’s major, Medvedev has gained the 2nd highest number of rating points (+307) in the past year; just behind the 323 point swing of Albert Ramos.

Change in hardcourt-adjusted ratings from 2018 to 2019 for players currently rated 2100 or higher. Colors (yellow) highlight which players have gained 200 points or more.

One year jumps of 300 rating points or more are rare. Especially among players who are already playing at a high level. In the past 20 years, the five players who have been the most improved going into the US Open are all well-known names. In only one of these cases did that rise coincide with a deep run at the US Open (Coria reaching the QF in 2003). It does make us wonder how regression to the mean or the possible fatigue of longer-than-expected runs in the warmup events could counteract any confidence the most improved players could have ahead of the Open.

Player Year Hardcourt Rating 1-Year Gain
Tommy Haas 2012 2312 536
Milos Raonic 2012 2286 532
Stefanos Tsitsipas 2018 2268 365
Rafael Nadal 2005 2326 346
Guillermo Coria 2003 2210 335

In many ways, the shuffle in ratings on the women’s side is more interesting in the men’s. We all likely expected fewer points separating the top contenders, as has been the case for several years now at the WTA’s major events. What no one likely saw coming was for two of the strongest US Open contenders— Sofia Kenin and Bianca Andreescu— to have climbed in the ratings so quickly.

This time last year, Kenin had 350 fewer rating points. If that weren’t dramatic enough, Andreescu’s gain has been even more massive. In just 12 months, the Canadian phenom has improved har rating by nearly 600 points. That is the equivalent of a quantum leap when it comes to one-year improvement. Indeed, that is 100s of points ahead of even Kim Clijsters miraculous resurgence in 2009-2010.

Change in hardcourt-adjusted ratings from 2018 to 2019 for players currently rated 2100 or higher. Colors (red) highlight which players have gained 200 points or more.

It is the perfect time for so many young North American players to step up their game. When we take these trends along side the rise of Coco Gauff, the recent title win of Madison Keys in Cincy, and the resurgence in form of Serena Williams; there is going to be plenty for North American tennis fans to cheer for in the coming days.

Player Year Hardcourt Rating 1-Year Gain
Kim Clijsters 2010 2292 440
Caroline Wozniacki 2008 2155 371
Angelique Kerber 2012 2246 361
Justine Henin 2003 2296 356
Sabine Lisicki 2011 2158 346