US Open: With No Roger Or Rafa, Novak Will Be Chased By Next Gen

Novak Djokovic (photo: @usopen/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, August 26, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

As Novak Djokovic continues his quest for a calendar year Grand Slam and win his 21st major singles title, the next piece of the tennis puzzle – the US Open draw reveal – took place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Thursday. The US Open fortnight begins next Monday, Aug. 30, and continues through Sept. 12. Djokovic is seven wins from making history.

The World No. 1 from Serbia, who is chasing after his fourth US Open title (which would tie him for second for most in the Open Era), was drawn to play a qualifier in the first round. His path to the championship could also include: R2 – Jan-Lennard Struff; R3 – No. 27 seed David Goffin; R4 – No. 14 seed Alex de Minaur; QF – No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini; SF – No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev. Final – No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev.

“I think this is a great draw for Djokovic through week one,” said ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe, commenting about the draw reveal. “I think it will be very pleasant for him in week number one.”

Can anyone challenge the 34-year-old Djokovic for the US Open title? Maybe, maybe not. After all, he’s won four of the last six majors and he’s nearly unstoppable in a best-of-5 match. However, with each of the world’s top four players leading a quarter, anything’s possible.

Anchoring the bottom of the men’s draw is World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who is looking to win his first major after winning the 2021 year-end ATP Tour Finals. He opens against 35-year-old French veteran Richard Gasquet, a 2013 US Open semifinalist. Both No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany certainly seem ready to step up, too.

Tsitsipas, 23, who was a finalist at Roland-Garros this year and is considered one of the Next Gen’s best hopes to win a major, will open against former World No. 1 and 2012 US Open titlist Andy Murray, 34, of Great Britain in a blockbuster of a first-round match that’s sure to be featured on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Tsitsipas will be looking to avenge his heartbreaking five-set US Open loss to Borna Cornic from last year, in which Stefanos blew six match points.

As for Zverev, 24, who won last week’s ATP Masters 1000 Western & Southern Open, he will start against 2017 US Open quarterfinalist Sam Querrey of the United States, one of nine Americans in Zverev’s quarter of the draw.

Three of the current men’s Top 10 – No. 5 Rafael Nadal of Spain; No. 6 Dominic Thiem of Austria, last year’s champion; and No. 9 Roger Federer of Switzerland – are absent from this year’s US Open due to injuries. So, it certainly opens up possibilities for plenty of would-be challengers.

What’s amazing is that with the absence of Federer, Nadal, Thiem and 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka from this year’s men’s draw, there are only three players in the draw who have won a Grand Slam: Djokovic, Murray and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.

Barty headlines 2021 US Open women’s singles draw

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, this year’s Wimbledon champion, a five-time WTA titlist the season and the current World No. 1, was revealed as the top seed in the women’s draw. She’s been at the top of the tour this year. Her path to winning her second major of the season and third overall includes a first-round matchup against former US Open finalist Vera Zvonareva of Russia, ranked 101st.

In the top half, Barty’s path to the title couple include matchups with No. 29 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, No. 22 seed and two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic and 2020 US Open and 2021 Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady of the United States, seeded 13th. Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open winner and No. 7 seed, is Barty’s projected quarterfinal opponent.

“It’s interesting that Barty has never been past the fourth round at the US Open,” said ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez, “but she coming in with so much more confidence. … I like her section of the draw. The one player who give her a lot of trouble if she’s healthy and finds her confidence is last year’s finalist Jen Brady.”

Meanwhile, World No. 3 Naomi Osaka of Japan, the reigning US Open champion and No. 3 seed, is featured in the lower half of the 128-player draw along with No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who recently overtook Osaka in the WTA world rankings. Osaka’s first-round opponent will be former US Open junior champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, ranked 86th, while Sabalenka opens with No. 93 Nina Stojanovic of Serbia. Last year’s finalist, No. 18 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, along with No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and No. 8 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who won this year’s French Open crown, are also in the bottom half of the draw.

World No. 7 Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, who was unable to defend her title win last year, returns as the No. 6 seed trying to shake off injuries and to improve upon her 8-8 win-loss record this season. She opens against No. 45 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. The person whom Andreescu beat for the 2019 title, six-time US Open winner and current World No. 22 Serena Williams, withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday.

One of the most interesting first-round matchups for the women involves Americans Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens. Four years ago, they played for the US Open title in which Stephens prevailed 6-3, 6-0 for her only major title.

This year, the former Top 10 players – Keys is now ranked No. 41 and Stephens is No. 64 – will meet early on for the seventh time overall and third time in 2021. Stephens leads the career head-to-head 4-2. The winner could face American 17-year-old Coco Gauff, seeded 21st, who opens against No. 51 Magda Linette of Poland.

The women’s wide-open field includes 13 different winners in the last 18 majors.

2021 US Open men’s singles draw

2021 US Open women’s singles draw