US Open: draw reveals Novak Djokovic's path to Grand Slam

Novak Djokovic broke all kinds of records to become one of the greatest tennis players of all time. But he’s never been on a tennis sca...


Novak Djokovic broke all kinds of records to become one of the greatest tennis players of all time. But he’s never been on a tennis scavenger hunt like this.

Win the US Open, which starts Monday in New York, and he will break his tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and singlehandedly claim the men’s Grand Slam title record with 21. Win the US Open, and he will also end the Grand Slam by winning all four majors in the same calendar year. No man has done it in singles since Rod Laver in 1969, including the decisive tests of Federer and Nadal throughout Djokovic’s career. No player has made it in singles since Steffi Graf swept through all four majors in 1988, rarely losing a set along the way, then completed it by winning the Olympic gold in Seoul.

It was called the Golden Slam, and Djokovic missed his chance to shine as strong as Graf when he lost to Alexander Zverev in the semi-final of the Olympic tournament this month. Djokovic left Tokyo without a medal, citing a shoulder problem as he retired from the mixed doubles match for the bronze medal. He has not competed since leaving Japan but arrived in New York City early from Europe to recover from the jet lag and prepare to pursue what could be the highlight of his career.

After the US Open draw on Thursday, seed Djokovic now has a clearer idea of ​​what to expect, but barely full clarity. He will face a qualifier in the first round (the qualifying tournament is not over yet) and then face Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff or Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor in the second round. Djokovic is 6-0 against Struff and beat him in the second round of the Olympics in straight sets. Djokovic has yet to face 110th-ranked Griekspoor.

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

But Karatsev has struggled to win a singles match lately and better form will likely be needed to derail Djokovic in New York. He’s a man on a mission and has proven over the years that he can handle the pressure that comes with daunting tasks. He beat Nadal twice on clay in his stronghold at Roland Garros and toppled Federer three times on turf in his stronghold at Wimbledon.

Neither Federer nor Nadal will be in his way At New York. Both are out for the season (or beyond) with injuries. Dominic Thiem too, the reigning US Open men’s singles champion, who was slow to recover from a wrist problem. Besides Djokovic, the only men in the US Open draw to have won Grand Slam singles titles are Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, who fell to 36th place in the standings, and Andy Murray, which is # 114 and still continues its previous shape after hip resurfacing surgery.

Even with Serena Williams and Venus Williams withdrawals of the tournament, the women’s draw is full of major singles champions. There are 13 in all, including No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty and No.3 Naomi Osaka, two-time US Open champion who is in the same eighth in the table as former US Open champions Sloane Stephens. and Angelique Kerber. The now unranked Stephens will face Madison Keys in the first round in a rematch of their all-American 2017 US Open final. The winner will likely face 17-year-old Coco Gauff if Gauff manages to overtake his tough opponent in the first round, Magda Linette, 51st.

History is against Djokovic going to the Grand Slam. The most recent player to come close – Serena Williams – was shocked in the 2015 US Open semifinals by Roberta Vinci, an undernourished but resourceful Italian who was able to embrace this bright moment with a lot more free panache than Williams.

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

Weird twists can happen with so much on the line, and Djokovic can certainly talk about weird twists in New York. He eliminated in the fourth round last year by inadvertently hitting a linesman in the throat with a ball he hit after losing his serve in the first set to Pablo Carreño Busta. Djokovic failed and then lost to Nadal in the Roland-Garros final last year. But Djokovic has not been beaten in the Grand Slam since then, and the biggest threats in New York are likely to be the leaders of the new generation: Zverev and Matteo Berrettini, who are in the half of Djokovic’s table; and Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who are in the other half.

All four have reached the Grand Slam singles finals in the past 12 months. None have yet broken through. 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 lost to Djokovic in four sets in the wimbledon final in July. They are all gifted, taller than the 6ft 2in Djokovic and hungry. They all have had big game experience against him, so if Djokovic doesn’t do his best at Flushing Meadows it’s hard to see him win.

But although Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev have each beaten Djokovic on multiple occasions, none have yet beaten him in a best-of-five-set match. At 34, Djokovic remains the best long-term player and the most reliable of the closest to tennis. He is only seven games away from finding himself alone in the major men’s tally and joining a very exclusive club with a Grand Slam.

This dual quest would make headlines every year, but without Nadal, Federer and the Williams sisters in this US Open, it deserves our attention from the start.

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Newsrust - US Top News: US Open: draw reveals Novak Djokovic's path to Grand Slam
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