Sixth seed Novak Djokovic enters the US Open having won the Cincinnati Masters, which made him the only player to have won all nine ATP Masters 1000 events. In July, he won his 13th major title at Wimbledon, and the two pieces of silverware ended a run of over two years without any ATP 1000 or Grand Slam trophy for the Serb.
And so as a rise in ranking has ensued, Djokovic is the favourite to win a 14th Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows in a fortnight.
It will be the first instance in almost two years, when neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal – the top two seeds in New York – would be the most favoured to win a major. Fedal had split the six majors prior to Wimbledon this year, after droughts of their own culminating in the Australian Open final in 2017, from where they traced their paths to the very top.
Since August last year, the No 1 ranking has swapped hands between Nadal and Federer four times, as the two remain atop the ATP rankings.
Djokovic, however, is fast climbing the ladder. And with no points to defend in the remainder of this season, he could realistically be looking at a top two finish come the year end, and could even have the number one ranking in his sight if he bags the US Open.
The draw has given us a mouth-watering prospect of a Djokovic-Federer quarterfinal, after the two had locked horns in the final at Cincinnati. However, the two would have a lot of work to do before they get there.
This is especially true for Federer who faces a potential third round match with Nick Kyrgios, with the two of them having served absolutely blinders of contests in the past. In the fourth round Federer could play Fabio Fagnini or Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeong Chung.
For Djokovic the early stages are relatively smooth on paper. The seeds in his section of the draw include Richard Gasquet, Lucas Pouille and Pablo Carreno Busta, none of whom should give the Wimbledon champion too much trouble.
On the other side of this half are Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic. And while Kei Nishikori and Cincinnati semi-finalist David Goffin are also in this section of the draw, a blockbuster Zverev-Cilic quarterfinal is very much on the cards.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal couldn’t have handpicked a better draw for himself. Not only are Djokovic and Federer in the other half, so are Zverev and Kyrgios – which means that he won’t be facing two of his greatest rivals or two of the biggest future prospects before the final.
In fact, there isn’t a single player in his entire half that Nadal would be particularly concerned about. Third seed Juan Martin Del Potro is slated for a potential semifinal against Nadal, who has beaten the Argentine at three of the past four majors. The potential quarterfinal for the World No 1 is against Kevin Anderson, who was the runner-up at the US Open last year and Wimbledon this year.
A potential third round matchup against Karen Khachanov and fourth round against Kyle Edmund could test Nadal, but neither should give him a scare in a best of five match at a major.
Also in Nadal’s half – but Del Potro’s quarter – are unseeded Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka, the only players who have managed to win multiple majors in the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic era. Murray has a favourable draw given that he isn’t seeded, but could face Del Potro in the third round.
Wawrinka, also unseeded, will face a rematch of his first round Wimbledon match as he opens against Grigor Dimitrov again. After a successful season last year, Dimitrov has largely gone downhill his year. And barring a strong showing at Flushing Meadows this season, the Bulgarian’s graph would continue to plummet.
This is the first time since Wimbledon last year that each of the traditional Big Four, or Big Five, will take part at the same major. This could signal the fact that the long maintained status quo is still very much there, but it could also give motivation for the upcoming stars to make their mark in the presence of the biggest names that have dominated the sport over the past decade and a half.
Even so, it is extremely unlikely that the winner of this year’s US Open would come outside of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. Given the draw, it should be a final between Nadal and the winner of the Djokvic-Federer quarterfinal, wherein the Serb currently has the edge.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have each won a major this year. The US Open could break the tie and decide who has had the best year, and might even determine who bags the year end No. 1 ranking.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won an unbelievable cumulative Grand Slam tally of 50 titles, having won 46 of the last 54 Grand Slam tournaments and hogged the No. 1 ranking 719 out of the previous 760 weeks.
The great news for tennis fans is that this three-way dominance has renewed, following Djokovic’s return to top form.