Finally, some good news for the US Open organisers with Novak Djokovic declaring his intentions to compete at Flushing Meadows following all the speculation that he wouldn’t. Unfortunately, there was also bad news, the women’s defending champion, Bianca Andreescu, has decided against!
It was not an easy decision to make with all the obstacles and challenges on many sides. But the prospect of competing again makes me really excited Novak Djokovic
Djokovic, the world number one, is flying out to New York tomorrow, Saturday, to compete in the warm-up event the week before the major and has accepted the conditions which the organisers have imposed on participating players to safeguard them against Covid-19.
“It was not an easy decision to make with all the obstacles and challenges on many sides,” the three-time US Open said of the quarantine ‘bubble’ which has been set up around Flushing Meadows, something he has objected to for the past few months.
“But the prospect of competing again makes me really excited.”
Djokovic is now the only member of the ‘Big Three’ who will be competing at this year’s American leg of the grand slams with reigning champion Rafa Nadal, a four time champion, deciding not to travel to the Big Apple and defend his title, and five-time winner Roger Federer recovering from a knee operation.
Between them, the three have won 40 of the last 51 Grand Slam titles, including the last 13.
It is a great opportunity for Djokovic to shorten the gap of grand slam singles titles between himself and his two rivals, as he currently stands on 17 with Nadal on 19 and Federer on a record 20, in a field which will be lacking a number of top players, like France’s Gael Monfils, Italy’s Fabio Fognini, Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 winner, and the controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios.
On the women’ side, the withdrawals have not been as extensive but the absence of the defending champion, Bianca Andreescu, will hurt.
She has decided not to play because she says she has not been able to prepare properly for it, mostly because of the pandemic restrictions in Canada.
“After many discussions with those closest to me, I have made the difficult decision not to return to New York this year,” Andreescu said in a statement on Thursday.
“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level.”
“The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there,” Andreescu said recollecting her straight sets win over Serena Williams last year.
“However, I realize that the unforseen challenges, including the COVID pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”
She joins a women’s absentee list that includes Australia’s top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, Ukraine’s fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina, seventh-rated Kiki Bertens and past winner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.
As a consequence, like Djokovic in the men’s draw, Serena Williams will now be able to finally realise her ambition of equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 single grand slam titles in the weakened field and then, hopefully, following that up by setting her own record a few weeks later, at the French Open which was rescheduled from May to late September because of Covid.