Serbian top seed Novak Djokovic will be the centre of attention as he bids to win a historic 21st Grand Slam men’s title at a US Open lacking a slew of his fellow big-name stars.
Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are all missing the New York event through injury – the first major without the three of them in a singles draw since 1997.
Djokovic, 34, will be the main focus as he attempts to complete a rare calendar sweep of the Grand Slams and pull clear of Federer and Nadal in terms of major victories.
After winning this year’s Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, a fourth victory for Djokovic at Flushing Meadows will enable him to enter an exclusive club.
Only five players have previously won all four majors in the same year, with Australian great Rod Laver the only man to have achieved the feat in the Open era.
The Serb starts on Tuesday against Danish teenager Holger Rune, who came through qualifying to reach his first Grand Slam main draw.
“There’s no doubt that Djokovic is the clear favourite to win the tournament, his form in the majors has been incredible – it speaks for itself,” former British number one Tim Henman said.
“To play so well on hard courts, clay courts, grass courts, I think it really emphasises what a complete player he is.
“So when I reflect on the chances of him completing all four, I think it’s Djokovic against the field.”
Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty is widely considered as the player to beat in the women’s singles, although defending champion Naomi Osaka is aiming to lift the title for the third time in four years.
Another star name who will be at Flushing Meadows is Andy Murray. The 34-year-old Briton has overcome the minor thigh injury that forced him pull to out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games singles last month.
After being closed to fans last year, the tournament will be the first Grand Slam since the coronavirus pandemic started to be allowed a 100% capacity throughout. No spectators meant a $180m budget deficit for the United States Tennis Association in 2020.
Fans at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre will be required to show proof of at least one vaccination, however.
Players will be subject to regular coronavirus testing but are not required to stay in a tournament bubble, meaning they are free to wander around Manhattan as they wish.
The message from the players about how the isolation bubbles were affecting their mental health was “loud and clear”, US Open chief executive Stacey Allaster said.
“It was important they could have some flexibility,” she added.
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