US Open Men’s Preview: Can Anyone Stop Novak Djokovic From History?
Novak Djokovic has a huge and historic two weeks ahead of him at the US Open. While he’ll have plenty more chances to pass the injured Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal atop the all-time Grand Slam leaders list, this is his first and likely last shot at completing an ultra rare Calendar Slam, an achievement not seen since Rod Laver in 1969.
Djokovic will be the heavy favorite to win a fourth US Open title. And after last year’s ignominious exit, what a turnaround it would be to hoist the trophy 12 months later.
Djokovic’s top threats come in the form of five guys who have done well this summer. Matteo Berrettini made the Wimbledon final. Daniil Medvedev is rolling again , and also faced Djokovic in the Australian final. Stefanos Tsitsipas had Djokovic on the ropes in Paris and Andrey Rublev can pose a threat with his power game.
But as long as Djokovic avoids any issues between points or off court, while he’s playing points he should be good. But good enough?
To the draw.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC QUARTER
This should be a comfortable run the semifinals for Djokovic. The Serb will start with a qualifier, then another date with Jan-Lennard Struff, followed by Mackenzie McDonald in the third. I’ll go with either the rising American talent Jenson Brooksby or Taylor Friz in the fourth. Hubert Hurkacz, who won Miami and made the Wimbledon semifinals, figures to be a quarterfinal threat. But he’ll have to beat the Italians Lorenzo Sonego and Berrettini. If Berrettini is healthy, he’ll get through to face Djokovic. If not, then I’ll give Hurkacz the slight edge over Sonego. But Djokovic comes through.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
Alexander Zverev was points from winning his first Slam a year ago in New York, but up two sets on Dominic Thiem it didn’t go his way. Nor has the news cycle of late. The German has just been hit with further allegations of abuse from a former girlfriend, Olga Sharypova. If he can continue to avoid punishment and the press regarding his actions, he’s going to be a problem on the court. Zverev has won his last 11 matches taking the Olympic gold followed by a fifth Masters title in Cincinnati last Sunday. So he’s playing well, but can he stay focused because his draw is very good. Sam Querrey to start, with his only real hurdle in the form of Jannik Sinner in the fourth round (would a rematch of the Italian’s win at the French last October). I think in the quarters he’ll take on Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard just won the bronze and is a 2-time US Open semifinalist. I like him to get through Reilly Opelka, then Denis Shapovalov to face Zverev. And in the end it’s the same outcome as last year with the Alex coming through.
The Pick: Alexander Zverev
STEFANOS TSITSIPAS QUARTER
That blown lead in French Open final seems to still be rattling around in the back of Stef’s head right now. The Greek just hasn’t been the same. So while I think he’ll knock out Andy Murray in a first round blockbuster, he’ll get tripped up somewhere. Maybe Carlos Alcaraz gets him in the third, or Ugo Humbert reprises Olympics upset win with another in the fourth. Regardless, I like Andrey Rublev here. The Russian finally got over on Medvedev in Cincinnati and that should lift his game to a higher high in New York where he already has made two quarterfinals. So I think he beats Auger-Aliassime then maybe Humbert in the quarters to reach his first Sam semifinal.
The Pick: Andrey Rublev
DANIIL MEDVEDEV QUARTER
Of the Top 4 or 5 favorites, Medvedev has the best draw. I just don’t see anyone who can trouble the world No. 2. Richard Gasquet, Marin Cilic Grigor Dimitrov, Kevin Anderson, and even John Isner are all past their prime. And Casper Ruud isn’t proven off of clay. And it’s not forecasted to be that hot once the tournament begins. So I think Medvedev gives John Isner another lesson to make the US Open final four.
The Pick: Daniil Medvedev
Djokovic d Zverev: Djokovic gets revenge for Tokyo.
Medvedev d Rublev: Medvedev will make sure the cameras are out of the way for this one. He avenges his summer loss.
Djokovic d Medvedev: Rematch of Australia, though with all the pressure, this one goes five sets, but the outcome is the same.
Historically, New York has not been Djokovic’s happy place. He’s had his struggles. But I think he’ll learn from his default and from his awful Olympic exit, and use that as fuel for the fortnight.
I do think he’s vulnerable. Zverev will have won 16 straight at the time of a possible semifinal showdown and Medvedev would also be in form in the final. I think those are the only two guys who can beat him on the court based on the draw.
And in best-of-5, it gets that much tougher.
A historic US Open begins on Monday.
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