New York | Djokovic and Osaka head US Open seedings
The 32 men and 32 women who will be seeded in the singles draws at the 2019 US Open were revealed by the USTA on Wednesday. Both defending champions and World No 1s top each of their respective lists, as reigning men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic and reigning women’s singles champion Naomi Osaka are the draw’s top seeds
I’m going to fight for a title as everyone else does, and I like my chances. I feel good and I look forward to it Novak Djokovic
Overall, 9 former US Open champions will be seeded at this year’s tournament as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka will also be featured in the men’s draw, and Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber are among the women’s seeds.
Britain’s Johanna Konta is seeded at No 16.
Djokovic is chasing a 17th Grand Slam singles title in New York next week while former World No 1 Roger Federer, seeded 3rd for the tournament, seeks a 21st major crown. Rafael Nadal is seeded second.
All set to cruise into the US Open as hot favourite, a semi-final defeat at the Cincinnati Masters last week has at least given hope to his challengers that Djokovic is not invincible.
The Serb was on a roll until Cincinnati, having won 3 titles, including two Grand Slams, on 3 different surfaces this year, winning the Australian Open in January, taking the ATP Masters event in Madrid in May, before saving two match points to overcome his old foe Federer in the longest men’s singles final at Wimbledon in July.
Last weekend’s defeat by Russian Daniil Medvedev, however, did not shake the confidence of a man who has spent nine months as the game’s top ranked player.
“I see mostly positives really in my game,” he said after Saturday’s loss, only his 7th in 45 matches this year.
“I lost to a player that was playing amazing, so I’ll take that and I’ll move forward to New York and have a good practice week.
“Then, of course, get myself ready for the Open. I love playing in those conditions there on centre court. I’m going to fight for a title as everyone else does, and I like my chances. I feel good and I look forward to it.”
Djokovic, who has won 4 out of the last 5 Grand Slams, his only loss over the past 13 months being in the semi-finals of this year’s French Open, will still be one of the favourites to win his fourth US Open title.
A triumph at Flushing Meadows would also take him to within one of Nadal’s total of 18 Grand Slam titles and to within three of Federer’s record 20.
If there is one possible distraction, it comes off the court as the 32-year-old faces opposition from rivals for political dominancy of the ATP Players Council, the body set up to give tour members a voice.
Djokovic has led the Players Council since October last year but his two main rivals Federer and Nadal returned to the body earlier this month, a move that was seen by many as a united front to counter Djokovic’s influence.
The council will meet in New York ahead of the US Open and the subtext will add to an already fierce rivalry among the 3 men who have dominated the men’s game for more than a decade.
In the women’s draw, Osaka won her first Grand Slam title in a controversial final victory over Serena Williams last year and then followed it up with her second Slam at the Australian Open in January.
The rising star has become the second highest-paid female athlete in the world, behind Williams, off the back of a host of lucrative sponsorship deals, but with the tennis world at her feet, the 21-year-old struggled to kick on.
A difficult few months saw her fail to win a tournament, lose her No 1 ranking and crash out of Wimbledon in the first round.
She opened up about her struggles on social media earlier this month, calling the last few months the ‘worst of my life’.
“I can honestly reflect and say I probably haven’t had fun playing tennis since Australia and I’m finally coming to terms with that while relearning that fun feeling,” Osaka wrote.
Ahead of her US Open defence, Osaka has also been hit with injury, a knee problem forcing her to retire in the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Masters last week.
The Japanese is adamant she will defend her title, saying she would most likely play in New York even against her doctor’s wishes.
Osaka, who changed her coach in February, has reclaimed the No 1 ranking and will be a match for anyone at the US Open if in the right physical and mental shape.
A key challenge for the Japanese will be dealing with the inevitable questions about last year’s final, which left Osaka in tears during the presentation ceremony.
Much of the criticism of Williams centred on how her actions had spoiled a precious moment for Osaka, who was even moved to apologise for beating the home favourite.
Williams has since apologised to Osaka, but that does not mean she will take it easy on the Japanese if their paths cross in New York again.
In their first meeting since that infamous final, Williams had little trouble handing out a straight-sets win over Osaka at the Rodgers Cup semi-finals in Toronto earlier this month.
The two other reigning Grand Slam champions are seeded in the top four, with Australia’s French Open champion Ashleigh Barty seeded 2nd and Romania’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep seeded 4.
Former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova is seeded 3rd in the women’s draw.
The draw for the men’s and women’s singles takes place in New York on Thursday.
Men’s Singles Seeds
1. Novak Djokovic, Serbia
2. Rafael 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
9. Karen Khachanov, Russia
10. Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain
11. Fabio Fognini, Italy
12. Borna Coric, Croatia
13. Gael Monfils, France
14. John Isner, United States
15. David Goffin, Belgium
16. Kevin Anderson, South Africa
17. Nikoloz Basilashvili, Georgia
18. Felix Auger-Aliassime, Canada
19. Guido Pella, Argentina
20. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina
21. Milos Raonic, Canada
22. Marin Cilic, Croatia
23. Stan Wawrinka, Switzerland
24. Matteo Berrettini, Italy
25. Lucas Pouille, France
26. Taylor Fritz, United States
27. Dusan Lajovic, Serbia
28. Nick Kyrgios, Australia
29. Benoit Paire, France
30. Kyle Edmund, Great Britain
31. Cristian Garin, Chile
32. Fernando Verdasco, Spain
Women’s singles seeds
1. Naomi Osaka, Japan
2. Ashleigh 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, United States
9. Aryna Sabalenka, Belarus
10. Madison Keys, United States
11. Sloane Stephens, United States
12. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia
13. Belinda Bencic, Switzerland
14. Angelique Kerber, Germany
15. Bianca Andreescu, Canada
16. Johanna Konta, Great Britain
17. Marketa Vondrousova, Czech Republic
18. Qiang Wang, China
19. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
20. Sofia Kenin, United States
21. Anett Kontaveit, Estonia
22. Petra Martic, Croatia
23. Donna Vekic, Croatia
24. Garbiñe Muguruza, Spain
25. Elise Mertens, Belgium
26. Julia Goerges, Germany
27. Caroline Garcia, France
28. Carla Suárez Navarro, Spain
29. Su-Wei Hsieh, Chinese Taipei
30. Maria Sakkari, Greece
31. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic
32. Dayana Yastremska, Ukraine