Djokovic Chasing 17th Slam as US Open 2019 Begins

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Novak-Djokovic

World number ones Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka will seek to defend their titles at a US Open that Britain’s Andy Murray has chosen to miss.

The Scot, who had hip surgery in January, had planned to play doubles but is focusing on singles elsewhere.

In his absence, the country’s number ones Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund will carry British hopes in New York starting from today.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams will again be chasing records at the final Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Swiss great Federer, 38, is seeking a record sixth men’s US Open singles title that would also make him the oldest men’s Grand Slam singles champion in the Open era.

Meanwhile, 37-year-old American Williams – whose defeat by Osaka in last year’s final was marred by her angry outbursts at the umpire – is hoping to equal the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

The tournament at Flushing Meadows, where singles winners take home $3,850,000, features day and night sessions for most of the rounds.

However, the question of who can challenge the ‘big three’ remains before every Grand Slam and the one the next generation have so far been unable to answer with any conviction.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas are among the players in their early twenties who are in the top 10 but have lost momentum in their bid to challenge the ‘big three’.

Since beating Djokovic to win the prestigious ATP Finals last November, Zverev has reached just one Grand Slam quarter-final, while Tsitsipas followed up his Australian Open semi-final in January with a first-round exit at Wimbledon.

Russian 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev, who has risen to a career-high number five in the world rankings after his Cincinnati triumph, is the in-form player having reached three successive finals this month and could be one to watch.

Meanwhile, the spotlight will also be on Australian 24-year-old Nick Kyrgios, who oscillates between the talent that won him the Washington title this month and the behaviour that cost him $113,000 (£93,254) in fines less than a fortnight later.

World number one Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite to defend his title and win a 17th Grand Slam crown, which would leave him just one behind Rafael Nadal and three behind leader Federer on the all-time list of men’s champions.

The 32-year-old Serb has won four of the past five Grand Slams and, after reaching the Cincinnati semi-finals, said: “I like my chances (at the US Open). I feel good. I love playing in those conditions there on Centre Court.”

He will hope that conditions are less humid than last year when a series of players were forced to retire in the opening days because of heat-related issues and Djokovic himself said he had “struggled”.

The big three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won the past 11 Grand Slam titles and it is hard to see beyond them once again at Flushing Meadows.

Time is, however, increasingly against Federer. The Swiss great turned 38 earlier this month and the most recent of his five US Open titles was 11 years ago. He was also surprisingly beaten in straight sets by 21-year-old Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in the third round at Cincinnati this month.

But having held two championship points against Djokovic at Wimbledon just six weeks ago, he may feel he has some unfinished Grand Slam business.

“The way I played at Wimbledon is going to give me some extra confidence,” Federer said. “This is probably the best I’ve felt in years coming into the US Open, which is encouraging.”

Nadal, meanwhile, has warmed up by defending his Rogers Cup title – the first time he has retained a non-clay title.

The key for the 33-year-old Spanish world number two will be staying fit, having retired from his semi-final in New York a year ago with a knee problem that has caused him problems throughout his career. He withdrew from Cincinnati two weeks ago because of fatigue.

Last year’s runner-up Juan Martin del Potro is absent, having re-fractured his kneecap during Queen’s in June.