New York, Jul 21 (EFE).- The biggest names in men’s and women’s tennis all will be participating in the US Open, the fourth and final Grand Slam event of the season, organizers said on Wednesday.
The men’s singles tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, located in the New York City borough of Queens, figures to be one of the most intriguing sporting events of 2021.
Serbian world No. 1 and three-time champion Novak Djokovic will be trying to put the finishing touch on an extremely rare calendar-year Grand Slam (titles at all four of tennis’ biggest tournaments – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open – in the same season).
He also will be seeking the overall lead in his Grand Slam battle with his two biggest rivals, Swiss world No. 9 and five-time champion Roger Federer and Spanish world No. 3 and four-time champion Rafael Nadal, a pair of fellow all-greats who also will make the trip to New York.
Federer had the Slam record to himself between July 2009 and October of last year, when Nadal tied him at 20 by winning his 13th French Open title.
But the 34-year-old Djokovic, who is one year younger than Nadal and nearly six years younger than Federer, who turns 40 early next month, made it a three-way tie by winning this month’s Wimbledon and currently looks to have the most staying power going forward.
Djokovic is trying to become just the third men’s singles player in tennis history (American Don Budge in 1938 and Australia’s Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969) to win the calendar-year Grand Slam.
The top-ranked Serbian won all four major titles in succession once before between 2015 and 2016, but he is the first men’s singles player to win the first three Grand Slam events of a calendar year since Laver 52 years ago.
The Serbian, who will be the only one of the Big Three taking part in the Tokyo Olympics, is actually bidding for the so-called Golden Slam (all 4 major titles plus Olympic gold), which would be an unprecedented achievement in men’s singles. Germany’s Steffi Graf pulled off that feat in 1988.
Djokovic will be returning to Flushing Meadows one year after being disqualified in the round of 16 for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball that was not in play.
Austrian world No. 6 Dominic Thiem is the defending champion but has not won a tournament since capturing his maiden Grand Slam title and has a head-scratching 9-9 record this season.
Russian world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, German world No. 5 and 2020 US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev and Greek world No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas also will be in action in New York.
Although all eyes will be on Djokovic’s quest, American Serena Williams once again will be pursuing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam women’s singles title.
A hamstring injury forced Williams to retire from her first-round match at this year’s Wimbledon, but if healthy the six-time US Open champion will be on the short list of favorites at Flushing Meadows along with Japanese defending champion Naomi Osaka and Australian world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who has never advanced past the fourth round in New York.
Serena, who will turn 40 in late September, won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open when she was eight weeks pregnant.
But as a mother she has come up just short on multiple occasions in her bid to tie retired Australian great Margaret Court’s record Grand Slam haul, having lost in the final of the 2018 Wimbledon, 2018 US Open, 2019 Wimbledon and 2019 US Open events.
Osaka will likely be the second focal point of attention in US Open women’s singles after withdrawing from the French Open amid controversy over her refusal to speak to the media. The world No. 2, who said she was avoiding press conferences due to “mental health” concerns, then did not compete at Wimbledon but confirmed she will take part in the Tokyo Games.
The US Open will take place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 12 and will be the first Grand Slam event amid the Covid-19 pandemic to be held with full-capacity crowds. EFE