US Open Scouting Report: Djokovic Chasing History, Can Medvedev & Others Stop Him?

US Open Scouting Report: Djokovic Chasing History, Can Medvedev & Others Stop Him?

The world’s best players are ready for the US Open, the season’s fourth and final major. Novak Djokovic will aim to make more history and break further records, while Toronto titlist Daniil Medvedev and Cincinnati champion Alexander Zverev will be among the leading players trying to stop him.

Before play gets underway, looks at 10 things to watch in New York.

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1) Djokovic Going For No. 21: After capturing his 20th major title at Wimbledon in July to move level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on majors won, Djokovic will try to claim two historic achievements at the US Open over the next fortnight. The World No. 1 will stand alone at the top of the major record books with 21 titles with victory in New York.

The Serbian is also bidding to become just the second male player in the Open Era (since April 1968) to complete a Grand Slam, having lifted the trophy at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year. Djokovic hopes to match the accomplishment of Rod Laver, who completed a Grand Slam in 1969 (and 1962, before the Open Era). The three-time US Open champion will open his campaign against qualifier Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune, a #NextGenATP player from Denmark, and could meet seventh seed Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-finals.

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2) Can Medvedev Capture Maiden Major? Russia’s Medvedev comes alive during the North American hard-court swing. In 2019, the World No. 2 lifted his first ATP Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati just one week after advancing to his maiden championship match at that level in Montreal. This form helped propel the second seed to his first major final at the US Open that year where he fell to Rafael Nadal in five sets.

This year, Medvedev enjoyed a dominant run to his fourth Masters 1000 crown in Toronto, becoming the first Russian winner in Canada since Marat Safin in 2000. He then reached the last four in Cincinnati earlier this month. Will the 25-year-old use that momentum to surge to his first major title in New York, where he also made the semi-finals last year? Medvedev will face Frenchman Richard Gasquet, the former World No. 7, in the first round. 

3) Zverev In Form: Nobody arrives in New York in better form than World No. 4 Alexander Zverev. The German, who reached his first major final at the US Open last year, defeated Djokovic en route to winning the Tokyo Olympics singles gold medal earlier this month. Zverev then dropped just one set in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Open as he claimed his fifth Masters 1000 title.

The 24-year-old is on an 11-match winning streak and will look to extend it against American Sam Querrey, a big-hitting former US Open quarter-finalist (2017) in the first round.

4) Tsitsipas Time: Stefanos Tsitsipas has been impressive this season, recording an ATP Tour-leading 48 victories. Earlier this year, the Greek captured his first Masters 1000 crown in Monte-Carlo and reached his maiden major final at Roland Garros. This has seen the him rise to a career-high No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Tsitsipas enters the US Open with momentum after semi-final runs on hard in Toronto and Cincinnati this month.

However, the eight-time tour-level titlist has never advanced past the third round in three previous main draw appearances at Flushing Meadows, falling to Croatian Borna Coric in five sets last year. If Tsitsipas reaches the second week at Flushing Meadows, he could face Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals.

5) Rublev Enters With Momentum: World No. 7 Rublev has reached two Masters 1000 finals this year, most recently in Cincinnati where he claimed a maiden victory over countryman Medvedev en route to the championship match. And he arrives at a venue, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where he has fond memories. In 2017, a 19-year-old Rublev became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001. The Russian also made the last eight in New York last year.

6) #NextGenATP Stars: There are a host of #NextGenATP stars set to compete in New York over the next fortnight. Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, seeded 12th and Italy’s Jannik Sinner, seeded 13th, are two of the 32 seeds in the singles draw. Sinner captured his second tour-level title of the season in Washington at the start of August and will try to capture his first victory at the US Open in his third attempt when he faces wild card Max Purcell in the first round.

Auger-Aliassime notched his best performance at a major at the time last year when he enjoyed a run to the fourth round in New York. The 21-year-old arrives at Flushing Meadows on the back of reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and in Cincinnati.

Umag champion Carlos Alcaraz and 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti will make their US Open debuts, while American Sebastian Korda will be competing at his home major for a second time, having fallen to Denis Shapovalov last year in the first round. Alcaraz and Musetti enjoyed breakthrough runs to the third round and fourth round, respectively, at Roland Garros in June, with Korda reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon in July.

7) Murray In Action: After winning matches in Cincinnati and Winston-Salem this month, 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray will aim to continue building up his form at the US Open. The 34-year-old, who is competing at the hard-court major for the 15th time, has played singles in six tour-level tournaments this season. Murray has advanced to the second round in his past two appearances in New York (2018, 2020), last reaching the quarter-finals at a major in 2017 at Wimbledon. The Scot will begin his campaign against third seed Tsitsipas in a blockbuster clash. 

8) Opelka & Isner Lead American Charge: Big-servers Reilly Opelka and John Isner will lead the American quest for success in New York, with both arriving in strong form. Opelka, who begins against Soonwoo Kwon, notched his first top five win over Tsitsipas in Toronto en route to his maiden Masters 1000 final, while Isner, who plays #NextGenATP American Brandon Nakashima in the first round, reached the last four in Canada.

Alongside Korda and Nakashima, another #NextGenATP American will compete: World No. 99 Jenson Brooksby. Brooksby reached the final in Newport in July and backed that up by enjoying a run to the semi-finals on hard in Washington. The 20-year-old faces Swede Mikael Ymer in the first round.

9) More Players To Watch: Italy’s Berrettini has fond memories of New York, having reached the semi-finals in 2019. The sixth seed advanced to his first major championship match at Wimbledon in July and plays Jeremy Chardy in the first round. Casper Ruud will also look to transition his clay-court form onto hard, having become the first player since Andy Murray in October 2011 to win three consecutive tour-level titles in July (Gstaad, Bastad, Kitzbühel). The Norwegian recently advanced to the quarter-finals in Toronto and Cincinnati and will open against former World No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Hubert Hurkacz, who became the first Pole to win a Masters 1000 title when he lifted the trophy in Miami in March, has enjoyed a strong season. The 24-year-old, currently in ninth place in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, advanced to the last eight in Toronto and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July. The three-time tour-level champion begins against Egor Gerasimov.

Canadian Shapovalov and Australian Alex de Minaur will also be dangerous. Shapovalov will be aiming to snap a four-match losing streak in his opening match against Federico Delbonis, while De Minaur will look to build on the experience he gained from reaching the quarter-finals at the US Open last September to go further this year. The Eastbourne champion will face tricky American Taylor Fritz in the first round. 

10) Mektic/Pavic Targeting 10th Tour-Level Title Of 2021: Top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic faced off against each other in the US Open final last year, with Pavic lifting the trophy with Brazilian Bruno Soares. Since teaming at the start of this season, the Croatians have enjoyed a dominant year, capturing nine tour-level titles, including three Masters 1000 crowns, Wimbledon and an Olympic gold medal.

They will face stiff competition from teams including Toronto champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Saliabury, Cincinnati winners Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos and Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who have captured all four major titles together.

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