US Open 2023: Ambition with a touch of caution

Just hours before this year’s US Open begins, the stars of the WTA and ATP got into the spirit of Media Day this weekend.

Ons Jabeur & Iga Swiatek / Finale US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Romain Vinot

With the draw set for the last Grand Slam of the season, the favourites to win the tournament are making their final preparations on the courts at Flushing Meadows. Between practice sessions, watched closely by avid tennis fans, the 2023 tournament’s seeded players answered the media’s questions over the weekend.

Novak Djokovic: “I get nervous as anybody else”

Having triumphed in Cincinnati on his comeback to competition, after being away since the Wimbledon final, Novak Djokovic quickly got into the swing of things in New York. Looking very comfortable in front of the spectators at Flushing Meadows during “fan week”, the man with 23 Majors to his name is still nervous about embarking on this new campaign.

“I get nervous as anybody else really. People think that I don't have any stress or tension. Actually in contrary, I have quite a lot of that. I have to deal with it, manage it. Everyone has their own way of managing the emotions and trying to be in optimal balance emotionally, mentally, and physically in order to perform their best.“

“At 36, still have the drive. I love competition. In a match like the Cincinnati final, really trying to not accept defeat as an option, and really give it all, really give it all. It's kind of a cat-and-mouse play really on the court. There's a lot of things that are happening. You're trying to outplay or outsmart your opponent tactically, but then you have to fight with your own demons as well, the self-doubt, tension, all the things that are happening in the midst of such battle.”

Carlos Alcaraz: “I'm not focus on the defending champion, the points”

Djokovic’s greatest rival in the race to the title will once again be Carlos Alcaraz. This is the first time that the man from Murcia has come to a Grand Slam as the defending champion, but he is determined to stay grounded. He is becoming more and more popular on the tour as the season progresses.

“My life change a lot [smiles]. Probably is different life, talking about the way that I'm more, let's say, famous. A lot of people is starting to know my name after the US Open last year, for example. The personal life didn't change at all.  I'm the same guy, normal guy.  Obviously I feel that I'm more mature on court. I feel that I'm a better player than I was a year ago. Even I got my first Grand Slam last year, but I feel like I'm more mature and I'm better“

“This week, this practice week, I try to do exactly the same thing that I did last year, trying to practise the same way that I'm going to play, and focus on that.  I'm not focus on the defending champion, the points, whatever. I'm just focus on show my best level, try to improve in every practice, and let's see how is going to be the tournament.”

Iga Swiatek: “This is a totally different chapter”

Iga Swiatek must be getting used to coming to tournaments as the defending champion. Having won three of the last six Grand Slam tournaments, the World No.1 remains cautious, despite her previous experience in the Majors. 

“On one hand you always want to kind of take experience from last year, find all these positive things that happened, take strength from that. On the other hand you have to remember that it's totally different story. A lot can happen during like these 12 months. So I try to, yeah, take everything step by step, not really go forward with my thoughts, think that I need to do something more because last year I won.“

“Yeah, remembering this is a totally different chapter always helps. I also want to kind of just take a lesson from last year. I learned a lot during US Open. This was probably the most important tournament in terms of me believing in myself and progressing on hard courts.”

Marketa Vondrousova: “Stay in your head and stay focused”

This is a whole new experience for Marketa Vondrousova. Now with a Grand Slam title under her belt and a member of the Top 10, the player from Sokolov not only has to deal with her opponents’ expectations, but also those of the spectators and the organisers.  

“Definitely more media [smiles]. Yeah, I mean, I just want to stay focused on practice and everything around. I get bigger courts now, so that's a nice change. I feel like you just have to stay in your head and stay focused. It's definitely more pressure and more people are talking about you. Yeah, I just want to enjoy the matches and we'll see what's going to happen.”

Marketa Vondrousova / Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Ons Jabeur: “The Wimbledon loss still hurts”

Having been defeated by Vondrousova in the Wimbledon final, Ons Jabeur has only played one tournament since that disappointing loss. Beaten in Cincinnati by Aryna Sabalenka, who she could meet in the quarterfinals of this 2023 tournament, last year’s runner-up took some time to recover but is ready to rise to this new challenge.

“I'm happy to be here. It's a great honour to come back as a finalist […] I honestly wasn't ready to play Montreal. I wasn't ready to come back soon on tour because I felt like I needed time for myself. They say time heals. I'm still waiting a bit. The Wimbledon loss still hurts [smiles]. It's much better than a month ago, for sure. Yeah, just I think I'm 28 years old now, I've learned from the mistakes of playing, playing, playing tournaments all the time. I think I was really proud of myself to just take a step back, enjoy time with my family, and get ready for the next tournaments.“