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.