The American dream

Reigning champ Djokovic goes for fourth title as ‘Big 3’ favourities again; Serena chases 24th Major crown

NEW YORK, August 25

Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic have enjoyed a years-long stranglehold on Grand Slam titles and that dominance is unlikely to end at the US Open where a cast of hopefuls will try to end their reign. 

The ‘Big Three’ have combined to win each of the last 11 Grand Slams, with Serb Djokovic having triumphed in four of the last five blue riband events and a popular pick to successfully defend his New York title despite being dealt a tough draw. 

ESPN tennis analyst and former world No. 1 John McEnroe fully expects one member of the threesome to triumph in New York and suggested that the task of toppling them in a best-of-five sets is currently too tall an order. “You have to beat potentially at least two of them, in some cases three of them. That’s seemingly almost impossible to do,” McEnroe said. “Perhaps with a little bit of luck something happens where a draw opens up. They’re human. At some stage they’re going to start losing more.” 

Top seed Djokovic will begin his title defense against Roberto Carballes Baena, and before a projected semifinal clash with five-time winner Federer could meet former champion Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round. One player who is widely considered a possible threat is Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, who has proven to be the most in-form player in the lead-up to the US Open and is Djokovic’s projected quarterfinal opponent. 

Medvedev has never made it past the third round in New York but is more confident than ever after reaching the final in tune-up events in Washington and Montreal before securing the biggest title of his career in Cincinnati. Medvedev has beaten Djokovic twice this season. 

Federer, owner of a record 20 Grand Slam titles, considers himself in fine form despite a forgettable US Open tune-up that consisted of a swift third-round upset in Cincinnati. The 38-year-old Swiss third seed has played just two matches since last month’s Wimbledon final, where he failed to convert two championship points on his own serve in the fifth set against Djokovic, but is raring to go. “This is probably the best I’ve felt in years coming into the US Open again, which is encouraging,” said Federer. 

Three-time champion Nadal, whose title defence at last year’s US Open ended with him retiring from the semifinals with a knee injury, has also declared himself ready for battle. The Spanish second seed has been drawn in the opposite half of rivals Djokovic and Federer and his biggest hurdle to the final could be fourth seed Austrian Dominic Thiem, who is his projected semifinal opponent. Nadal, who will strive for efficiency in a bid to limit the punishment the hardcourts can inflict on his troublesome knees, may appear to have the easier path of ‘Big Three’ to the final but was not about to acknowledge as much.

Women’s trophy up for grabs 

As many as 10 women competing at this year’s US Open have a realistic shot at raising the trophy including all-time great Serena Williams and big-hitting teenager Bianca Andreescu. That is the view of former world No. 1 Chris Evert who said on Friday that without a dominant force it is the depth of the women’s game that should be celebrated. “There are probably eight to 10 women who could win (the title), which is something we’ve said the past two years,” Evert said. “Women’s tennis is not dominated by anybody.” 

Pressed to pick a favourite, Evert said Williams, who is chasing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title, tops the list. The six-time US Open champion reached the Wimbledon final in July but her hard-court season has been limited to one tournament, the Rogers Cup in Toronto where she was forced to retire from the final against Andreescu with back spasms. Evert said the New York crowd could give the American the boost she needs to avenge her defeat by Japan’s Naomi Osaka in a controversial final at Flushing Meadows last year. “Serena always comes to mind first because I always feel that a healthy Serena is still going to beat everybody,” said the winner of 18 Majors, including six US Open titles.  

Big-serving Madison Keys, who reached the US Open final in 2017 and won the Cincinnati Open on Sunday, is playing with more maturity, which makes her even more dangerous, Evert said. 

Wimbledon champion and fourth seed Simona Halep is the most dependable player in the draw and her speedy, defensive style will be a tough test for anyone. World No. 1 Osaka, who has struggled since winning the Australian Open and had a quiet hard court season, could like Williams benefit from the energetic backing of the New York crowd as she looks to retain her title. — Reuters 

139th edition of the US Open

PRIZE MONEY 

Men’s/women’s singles winner: $3.85 million 
Men’s/women’s singles runner-up: $1.9 million 
Total prize pot: $57 million 

SHOWCOURTS 
Arthur Ashe Stadium 

Capacity: 23,771 

The stadium is named after Arthur Ashe who won the men’s singles title at the inaugural US Open in 1968, the Australian Open in 1970, and Wimbledon in 1975. 

Louis Armstrong Stadium 
Capacity: 14,053 

It was opened during the 2018 US Open to replace the 1978 stadium of the same name. It has a retractable roof, the largest of its kind among number two stadiums at Grand Slam venues. 

TOP SEEDS 
Men’s singles 

1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) 

2-Rafa Nadal (Spain) 

3-Roger Federer (Switzerland) 

4-Dominic Thiem (Austria) 

5-Daniil Medvedev (Russia) 

6-Alexander Zverev 

(Germany) 

7-Kei Nishikori (Japan) 

8-Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece) 

Women’s singles 

1-Naomi Osaka (Japan) 

2-Ash Barty (Australia) 

3-Karolina Pliskova 

(Czech Republic) 

4-Simona Halep (Romania) 

5-Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) 

6-Petra Kvitova 

(Czech Republic) 

7-Kiki Bertens (Netherlands) 

8-Serena Williams (US) 

Defending Champs 
Men’s singles

Novak Djokovic 

woMen’s singles 

Naomi Osaka 

MOST TITLES 
Men’s singles 

Before 1968: 7 — Bill Tilden (US), William Larned (US), Richard Sears (US) 

Open Era: 5 — Roger Federer (Switzerland), Pete Sampras (US), Jimmy Connors (US) 

Women’s singles 
Before 1968: 

8 — Molla Mallory (US) 

Open Era: 6 — Serena Williams (US), Chris Evert (US) 

YOUNGEST CHAMPION 
Men’s singles 

Pete Sampras (US) (1990): Aged 19 years, 28 days 

Women’s singles 

Tracy Austin (US) (1979): Aged 16 years, 8 months, 28 days 

OLDEST CHAMPION 
Men’s singles

William Larned (US) (1911): Aged 38 years, 

8 months, 3 days 

Women’s singles

Molla Mallory (US) (1926): Aged 42 years, 5 months, 27 days 

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