2021 US Open: Draw Announces Novak Djokovic’s Path To The Grand Slam

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Novak Djokovic broke all records on his way to becoming one of the greatest tennis players of all time. But he had never been on a tennis treasure hunt like this.

Win the US Open, which kicks off in New York on Monday, and he’ll break his ties to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and become the sole holder of the men’s singles Grand Slam title record with 21. Win the US Open and he will complete it. Grand Slam by winning all four major tournaments in the same calendar year. No one has done this in singles since Rod Laver in 1969, including the litmus tests Djokovic has done throughout Federer and Nadal’s careers. No player has done so in singles since Steffi Graf swept the four majors in 1988 and rarely lost a set along the way, and then peaked by winning the Olympic gold medal in Seoul.

It was called the Golden Slam, and Djokovic missed his chance to shine as brightly as Graf when he lost to Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament this month. Djokovic withdrew from the bronze medal mixed doubles match due to a shoulder problem and left Tokyo without a medal. He hasn’t raced since leaving Japan, but arrived early from Europe to New York to recover from jet lag and prepare himself to pursue the highlight of his career.

After the US Open draw on Thursday, top-numbered Djokovic now has a clearer idea of ​​what awaits him, but there is no complete clarity. He will face a qualifier in the first round (the qualifying tournament has not yet been completed) and then in the second round he will face Jan-Lennard Struff from Germany or Tallon Griekspoor from the Netherlands. Djokovic beat Struff 6-0 against Struff in straight sets in the second round of the Olympics. Djokovic has yet to face 110th placed Griekspoor.

After that, Djokovic’s path becomes more of a matter of conjecture. His third-round challenger could be Kei Nishikori, David Goffin, or Mackenzie McDonald, a former UCLA star who’s had a solid season. Djokovic’s fourth-round opponent could be Russia’s Alex de Minaur or Aslan Karatsev, who made a surprise run before losing to Djokovic at the Australian Open in January and then upset Djokovic on the dirt floor in the semi-finals in his hometown of Belgrade. Serbia Opens in April.

But Karatsev has struggled to win a singles match recently, and best form will likely be needed to derail Djokovic in New York. He is a man of duty and has proven over the years that he can handle the pressure that comes with daunting tasks. He beat Nadal twice on the ground at his stronghold Roland Garros and knocked down Federer three times on the turf at his stronghold at Wimbledon.

Neither Federer nor Nadal will continue their way in New York. Both went into the season (or beyond) with injuries. So is Dominic Thiem, the men’s singles champion of the US Open, who was slow to recover from his ankle problem. Aside from Djokovic, the men’s singles winners of the Grand Slam singles title in the US Open draw are 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, who is 36th in the standings, and Andy Murray, who is 114th. past form after hip resurfacing surgery.

Despite the retirements of Serena Williams and Venus Williams, the women’s draw is teeming with major singles champions. There are 13 in total, including #1 seed Ashleigh Barty and three-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka, who is eighth place in a draw with past US Open champions Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber. Currently unseeded, Stephens will face the Madison Keys in the first round in the rematch of the All-United States 2017 US Open final. If Gauff can beat her tough first-round opponent, 51st-placed Magda Linette, the winner will likely face 17-year-old Coco Gauff.

History goes against Djokovic’s victory at the Grand Slam. The latest upcoming actress – Serena Williams – was shocked in the semifinals of the 2015 US Open by Roberta Vinci, a powerless but resourceful Italian who was able to embrace that bright spotlight moment with much more freely swinging flair than Williams.

“Serena was two games away from the Grand Slam and you would never have thought she would lose to Vinci, but that’s the magnitude of the challenge,” said former top-five player Brad Gilbert, now a coach and ESPN analyst. .

Strange turns can happen when there’s too much in the queue, and Djokovic can definitely talk about strange turns in New York. In the fourth round last year, he eliminated himself by accidentally hitting a lineman’s throat with the ball after losing his serve in the opening set against Pablo Carreño Busta. Djokovic defaulted and lost to Nadal in the final of the French Open last year. But Djokovic has been undefeated in a Grand Slam match since, and the biggest threats in New York will likely be the next generation leaders: Zverev and Matteo Berrettini, who are in Djokovic’s draw half; and Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the other half.

All four have reached the Grand Slam singles finals in the last 12 months. None have been broken yet. Medvedev lost in straight sets to Djokovic in the Australian Open final in February. Tsitsipas lost in five sets to Djokovic in the French Open final in June, and Berrettini in the Wimbledon final in July lost to Djokovic in four sets. They’re all talented, taller than 6 feet 2 Djokovic and hungry. They all have great match experience against him, so it’s hard to see him win if Djokovic doesn’t give his best at Flushing Meadows.

But even though Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev have beaten Djokovic multiple times, none of them have yet beat him in a best-of-five set match. Djokovic, 34, remains the best long-form player and most reliable player in tennis. He’s just seven games away from standing alone in the men’s major and joining a very special club with the Grand Slam.

This double-duty may make headlines every year, but this US Open without brothers Nadal, Federer and Williams deserves our attention right from the start.

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