The draw for the 140th edition of the US Open to be played under strict anti Covid-19 regulations, will be best remembered for being played in front of empty stands and the absence of many players including both defending champions.
The latest to join the men’s absentee list is Kei Nishikori who tested positive a couple of weeks back for the coronavirus and self-isolated and though now clear, decided against travelling up from Florida.
Players who have decided to accept the circumstances and make the trip to New York to participate in what will be the second major of the year – Wimbledon having been cancelled and the French Open switched from May to a week after the US Open – see this year as a great opportunity to make an impact in the absence of the likes of Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.
With just Novak Djokovic of the ‘Big Three’ competing, the young guns should view this event as their chance to break the stranglehold the threesome have had over the grand slam titles this past decade.
The Serb, the reigning world number one, is clear favourite and looking to close the Grand Slam title gap with his two main rivals but he will have competition as the draw which features seven of the Top 10 players including Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev, all young guns just waiting for their moment, plus fellow former champions Marin Cilic and Andy Murray.
Murray, playing in his first Grand Slam since undergoing hip surgery after last year’s Australian Open, is playing in the bottom half of the draw in what is probably the toughest quarter headed by the second seed Dominic Thiem.
The 33-year-old Brit, a former world No. 1 and holder of three grand slam titles, opens his challenge as a wild card ranked 134 against a nippy Yoshihito Nishioka, the 24-year-old world No.48 from Japan.
The Scot, who won the tournament in 2012, is eager to test himself at grand slam level and having this week, reached the last 16 at the warm-up event played on the same courts without suffering any physical problems, he should prevail over five sets.
He beat Frances Tiafoe and the world No.7 Alexander Zverev – his first win over a top ten player since 2017 – before losing out to Milos Raonic for the loss of four games.
Success in the opening round should see him face the 15th seeded Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime and then fellow Brit Dan Evans, seeded 23, for a place in the last 16 where Marin Cilic could well be waiting.
Evans kick off his campaign Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil.
Staying in that quarter, the second seeded Dominic Thiem should have no problems until the third round where he should clash with the Croatian Cilic. However, there are plenty of strong challenges skulking in that section in the form of Milos Raonic and Roberto Bautista-Agut who clash early, as well as Karen Khachanov and Sam Querrey.
The top quarter features Novak Djokovic who seems to have a comfortable passage ahead of him until at least the last 16 where he could meet John Isner, followed by either Denis Shapovalov or Reilly Opelka provided he recovers from the knee injury which forced him to retire at the warm-up event.
Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic could also pull out a surprise following his run to the last eight at the Western & Southern Open.
Kyle Edmund is also drawn into this section and provided he can get past Alexander Bublik from Kazakhstan, will have his hands full when he faces Djokovic in round two.
Djokovic should find himself facing Stefanos Tstitsipas in the semi-finals who is having a great week in the warm-up where he has made it to the last four.
He has a favourable draw in what is a weak section: Borna Coric in round three and possibly Dusan Lajovic in the next and Alexander Zverev in the quarters.
Zverev, seeded 5, will be tested from the outset when he opens against the big serving Springbok, Kevin Anderson who underwent knee surgery last February.
Diego Schwartzman seeded 9, provides Cameron Norrie with a tough opening match.
In the final quarter topped by the third seed Daniil Medvedev, are Andrey Rublev, Grigor Dimitrov and Matteo Berrettini, and all have the potential to go deep at this year’s Open.
The two Russians Rublev and Medvedev could provide a very interesting quarter-final.
Having followed the Western & Southern Open which, as the Cincinnati Masters, has provided the warm-up event at Flushing Meadows for the US Open, viewers – remember no spectators – can expect much of the same so the final line-up could well read Djokovic, Medvedev (instead of Roberto Bautista Agut) , Tsitsipas and Raonic (as against the expected Dominic Thiem) with Djokovic ending the fortnight holding aloft the trophy for a fourth time as he claims his 18th grand slam singles title.