What the US Open looks like without Djokovic

A major tennis tournament without former world No.1 Novak Djokovic is not new to many fans. But many are still hoping that the Serbian somehow makes his way to New York when the competition unfolds from August 29 to September 11.

 

Without Djokovic, Rafael Nadal often comes to mind as one of the favorites to win it all and preserve the “Big Three” dominance of the major after the Spaniard won the Australian and French Opens before withdrawing at the Wimbledon semifinals due to an abdominal injury.

 

Who are the other names likely to crop up and claim the trophy at Flushing Meadows? Let’s line up the possibilities.

 

MEDVEDEV, NADAL EXPECT DEEP RUN IN NEW YORK

 

World No.1 Daniil Medvedev is back in the equation after he skipped Wimbledon due to a ban on Russian and Belarussian players. But is Medvedev fully fit for the two-week tournament?

 

Nadal also comes out as a favorite despite his injury woes, as he is expected to recover in time from the abdominal injury that prevented him from facing Djokovic in the Wimbledon finals recently.

 

Djokovic is still listed as a favorite among fans and bookmakers despite a ban on foreigners who refuse to get vaccinated in the US. Until the main tournament starts late next month, anything can still happen for the Serbian tennis ace.

 

ALCARAZ, ZVEREV, TSITSIPAS ALSO IN THE MIX

 

Spain actually has two bets for every tennis major from hereon. Should Nadal fall again either by injury or a bad game, the Spaniards can still hope for Carlos Alcaraz to bring them a major.

 

Alcaraz may only have his best finish on quarterfinal finishes in the French and US Open, but the world No.6 has the youth and experience to break through in New York if Djokovic is out and if Nadal or Medvedev gets the upset axe and fall short.

 

Alexander Zverev is very much deserving to be listed among the favorites due to his world No.2 ranking. The 25-year-old German reached the 2020 US Open final and he knows what it takes to take his game to the next level.

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas, like Zverev, is also not a stranger to playing in a major final after playing for the title in the French Open last year, losing to Djokovic.

 

KYRGIOS FAR OFF DESPITE WIMBY FINALS STINT

 

Playing in his first major final was a learning experience for Nick Kyrgios, who even took the opening set before bowing to Djokovic in four sets at the All England Club.

 

But the mercurial Australian was not listed among the top five favorites despite his Wimbledon breakthrough, likely since no ranking points were given due to the ban on Russian and Belarussian players.

 

Another finals appearance might be a stretch for Kyrgios, but tennis fans and his colleagues on the tour are wise not to count him out on a major despite his world No.14 ranking.

 

DJOKOVIC SIGHTING STILL POSSIBLE?

 

While Djokovic has time and again declared that he would not get vaccinated even after his recent Wimbledon win, the sight of him in Flushing Meadows remains a glimmering hope for fans and foes alike.

 

A recent chat with Kyrgios on social media recently even raised fans’ hopes, with the Serbian saying on Instagram that an earlier promise of him treating the Australian to dinner after the Wimbledon final might happen in New York City.

 

Djokovic may indeed fly to New York only as a fan or he’s just teasing his fans, but a sudden change of heart by either the US Open organizers or the Serbian himself could still make the possibility come true.

 

A US Open without Djokovic denies fans of another high-quality player competing for the championship. Medvedev, Nadal, and company can fill such a void, but it’s not the same that the Serbian future hall of famer will not swing racquets on the hallowed courts of Flushing Meadows this year.

 

How a Wimbledon final sans Nadal means to Kyrgios

Nick Kyrios may be a longshot to even earn a shot against Rafael Nadal in a semifinal at Wimbledon. 

But the 27-year-old Australian suddenly moved up to play in Sunday’s final, meaning the opportunity is there for a player not named Djokovic, Nadal, or Roger Federer to become Wimbledon men’s singles champion this year.

The controversies and the eccentric behavior will continue to hound Kygrios heading into the final. 

But the Canberra native knows this window to snatch a major might not come often, and he has to make the most of it to even try to win it all at the All England Club for the first time.

IS KYRGIOS AN UNDERDOG OR THE VILLAIN?

Fans who often root for the underdog may still back Kyrgios after he became the first Australian to reach a semifinal in a major since Lleyton Hewitt at the 2005 US Open.

But how does Kygrios be portrayed by fans when he’s the last obstacle to world No.3 Novak Djokovic’s bid to claim his 21st major and seventh Wimbledon trophy on Sunday?

The Canberra native was diplomatic and displayed sympathy after he learned that Nadal officially withdrew from their semifinals matchup due to his lingering abdominal injury on Thursday.

“Different players, different personalities” Kygrios said on Instagram. “I hope your (Nadal) recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon. Till next time…”

Kygrios might not sound as a villain after his recent statement on Nadal. But that could change dramatically if he’s to be asked if DJokovic will be his confirmed opponent in the final.

TIME TO SNAP OUT OF THE ‘BIG THREE’ FATIGUE

Kygrios might not be the player most fans want to see winning a major other than the “Big Three” of Djokovic, Nadal or Federer. But fans who want a mercurial player as the perfect foil to Djokovic could get to like Kygrios a little bit more.

Wimbledon is the best chance for Kygrios to win a major at a time when Nadal and Federer are injured, world No.1 Daniil Medvedev of Russia is banned from playing at the All-England Club this year, and everyone else in the top 10 all but gone.

Nadal’s bid to claim his third-straight major this year after winning the Australian and French Open ended in frustration the moment the Spaniard barely won his quarterfinal match against Taylor Fritz, 6-3 5-7 6-3 5-7 6-7 (4-10), to reach the last four.

KYGRIOS NO ROLE MODEL BUT A COMPETITOR

Fans may judge Kygrios for his checkered past, but make no mistake that the Australian has the hops to compete against the best with the right mindset.

Kygrios, who is facing an August 2 court date as he was accused of assaulting his former girlfriend, had an impressive game in his 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over Chilean Christian Garin in the quarterfinals to reach the last four.

The assault charges are just the latest for Kygrios’ antics that included court meltdowns, tanking accusations and smashed rackets in the ATP Tour.

 

EVERYTHING’S NOT LOST FOR KYRGIOS

The window for winning a major might not become any better than this year for Kygrios, but youth is on his side to work on his game after Sunday’s final.

The 27-year-old Kygrios has youth on his side since he started playing as a junior at 13 years old.

From being a men’s doubles specialist with partner and friend Thanasi Kokkinakis, whom he won a men’s doubles title at the Australian Open this year, Kygrios is ready to move to the next level on his own.

What the future holds for post-‘Big Three’ tennis era

The changing of the guard in men’s tennis may have already started in terms of who comprises the top 10 in the latest Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Rankings 2022 list.


But anyone from the “Big Three” of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer continues to dominate the majors this year, with Nadal taking the Australian Open and French Open trophies and he is still in the hunt for a third title in Wimbledon.


Let’s check out why the “Big Three” continues to click and if who among the young guns is ripe to take over in the near future.


MEDVEDEV, ZVEREV, AND TSITSIPAS COULD BE NEW ‘BIG THREE’


Based on the current ATP rankings, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev leads the list with 7,955 points followed by German Alexander Zverev (7,030) and Djokovic settling for No.3 with 6,770 points.


Nadal takes the fourth spot with 6,525 points followed by Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece with 5,150 points and Casper Rudd of Norway (5,050).


Surgery for his knee injury forced Federer to drop out of the top 100 after his last match was a straight-set loss to Hubert Kurkacz of Poland in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in mid-August last year.


If the rankings will be used as the basis, world No.1 Medvedev, world No.2 Zverev and No.5 Tsitsipas loom as the top candidates to take over the “Big Three.”


MAJORS STILL THE YARDSTICK FOR SUCCESS


Medvedev and Zverev would have removed Djokovic and Nadal from the top two positions but the old guard continues to impose a big shadow in men’s tennis.


Since 2004, either Djokovic, Nadal or Federer have won all of the four majors – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open – save for 12 occasions.


Sure, Medvedev prevented Djokovic from sweeping all four majors by topping the US Open last year but Nadal restored order for the “Big Three” so far this year by winning Down Under and at Roland Garros.


RETIREMENT TALKS LOOM FOR FEDERER, NADAL


Federer might be close to hang it up as injuries continue to hound the Swiss maestro that forced him to miss time for almost a year.


The announcement of Federer that he intends to play in Wimbledon “one more time” in 2023 brings cheers to his fans. But it does give hints that the end of the road may come sooner or later for the 40-year-old Basel native.


Nadal also admitted that “a couple of weeks ago, I was close to it (retirement)” before the start of the French Open, as he was hounded by chronic foot pain caused by Mueller-Weiss syndrome.


But his twin major victories have doused off retirement talks for now, while the 35-year-old Djokovic, the youngest of the “Big Three,” is hardly showing any signs of slowing down.


YOUNG GUNS BREAKTHROUGH SEEN IN 2023


Any of the younger players can still salvage some major championships through the ongoing Wimbledon 2022 and the US Open in August. Nadal’s exploits so far, however, ensured that the “Big Three” is still around this year.


But 2023 could be the year that Medvedev, Zverev, Tsitsippas, and even guys like Rudd, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, Russian Andrei Rublev, and Canadian Felix Auger-Allasima could claim most of the major trophies.


With injuries taking a toll on Federer and Nadal, only Djokovic is expected to carry the “old guard” consistently in 2023 and beyond. But no one is counting out the Serbian superstar from sweeping all four majors anew after nearly getting it done last year.