US Open Draw: No Djokovic, But Serena Is Back

US Open (photo: Michael Dickens)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, August 25, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The biggest news concerning the fate of the 2022 US Open draw came about 90 minutes before it was revealed at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Thursday afternoon. That’s when three-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic officially pulled out of the year’s final Grand Slam event, which begins on Monday. The 35-year-old Serbian declared via social media he would not be able to travel to New York to play in the US Open due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19.

On the eve of the US Open draw, there was no change of policy from the Center for Disease Control which, since October 2021, has banned foreign visitors unvaccinated for COVID-19 from entering the United States. Djokovic, who has had COVID-19 at least two times, has steadfastly refused to get vaccinated, arguing in favor of it being a personal decision rather than a requirement.

“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open,” Djokovic wrote on Twitter Thursday. Thank you#NoleFam for your messages of love and support. Good luck to my fellow players! I’ll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again. See you soon tennis world!”

Thus, Djokovic will miss his second major of the season after having already missed the Australian Open as well as four Masters 1000 events in the U.S. and Canada. He was able to play in the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships after both France and England relaxed their requirements that foreign visitors be vaccinated.

Djokovic has compiled a 23-5 win-loss record this season, including two titles won at Rome and Wimbledon. He’s 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race to Turin.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Tennis Association said it would not seek an exemption so Djokovic, a finalist in last year’s tournament, could play.

The US Open, in a statement Thursday morning, confirmed that Djokovic “withdrew prior to the draw taking place this morning. The official seeding list is not determined until the draw is made. As the Qualifying Tournament has commenced, his withdrawal resulted in a Lucky Loser being included in the draw.”

In the statement, US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster said: “Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government’s vaccination policy for non-U.S. citizens. We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open.”

With the World No. 6 Djokovic removed from the draw – and with World No. 2 Alexander Zverev already withdrawn due to recovering from an ankle injury suffered during the French Open – it means that only eight of the current Top 10 men’s players will be competing for the final major title of the season.

Defending champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia enters the US Open as the No. 1 seed followed by four-time US Open champion and current World No. 3 Rafael Nadal of Spain, who did not compete last year in New York. Rounding out the top eight seeds are: No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 5 Casper Ruud of Norway, No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, No. 7 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

Medvedev will begin defense of his 2021 US Open title against No. 110 Stefan Kozlov of the United States, while Nadal, whose last US Open crown came in 2019, opens against 198th-ranked Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata.

The men’s ninth through 16th seeds are: No. 9 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 10 Taylor Fritz of the United States, No. 11 Jannik Sinner of Italy, No. 12 Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, No. 13 Matteo Berrettini of Italy, No. 14. Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 15 Marin Cilic of Croatia and No. 16 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.

Among the most intriguing men’s first-round matches are: No. 12 seed and recent Montreal champion Carreño Busta against 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem of Austria and No. 23 seed Nick Kyrgios against his Australian Open title-winning doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis, in an all-Aussie showdown.

Williams to begin last US Open against Kovinic

Meanwhile, the biggest suspense in the women’s draw centered around where 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, making her 21st US Open and likely last appearance, would be placed – and whom her first-round opponent would be. Earlier this month, the 40-year-old Williams, who turns 41 on Sept. 26, announced her forthcoming retirement and it’s anticipated that the US Open will be her final tournament. As it happened, the unseeded six-time US Open champion Wiliams wound up in No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit‘s bottom quarter of the draw.

In the first round, the 608th-ranked Williams will face No. 80 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro. Kovinic, who was ranked as high as No. 46 last year, has reached the third round at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros this season. Williams (1-3 since returning to the WTA Tour in June) and Kovinic, 27, have never faced each other before. If Williams wins, she could face the World No. 2 Kontaveit in the second round. The last time Williams won the US Open was in 2014.

Defending US Open champion Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, who shocked the tennis world 12 months ago by going from qualifier to champion after winning 10 straight matches, returns to defend her title and is seeded 11th. She will oppose France’s 37th-ranked Alizé Cornet, who is set to play her 64th consecutive Grand Slam event – a new record for WTA players – in the opening round.

The top seed is current World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, who has already won one major this year at the French Open. She opens against No. 57 Jasmine Paolini of Italy. Her quarter of the draw includes five other Grand Slam champions. The other top eight seeds include: No. 2 Kontaveit of Estonia, No. 3 Maria Sakkari of Greece, No. 4 Paula Badosa, No. 5 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 7 Simona Halep of Romania and No. 8 Jessica Pegula of the United States.

The women’s ninth through 16th seeds are: No. 9 Garbiñe Mugurza of Spain, No. 10 Daria Kasatkina of Russia, No. 11 Raducanu, No. 12 Coco Gauff of the United States, No. 13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, No. 14 Leylah Fernandez, No. 15 Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil and No. 16 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

Among the blockbuster first-round women’s matches include No. 19 seed Danielle Collins of the United States facing four-time Grand Slam winner and former World No. 1 Naomi Osaka of Japan, who is unseeded and ranked 44th.

Changing of the guard?

For the first time in 19 years, someone other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray will be seeded No. 1 at a Grand Slam event. That’s because the No. 1 seed at the 2022 US Open is current World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev.

If the top seeds advance