Due to the pandemic, the USTA decided against holding its usual elaborate U.S. Open draw ceremony with moderator and guests. Just a simple press release announced the draw at noon as Novak Djokovic guns for the Grand Slam and his record 21st major title while the women’s draw goes without either of the Williams sisters for the first time since 2002.
“About 20 different women can win this,’’ one tennis insider said.
Here are four takeaways from the draw for the U.S. Open, which starts Monday at Flushing Meadows:
It gets tough for Novak sooner than later
Djokovic, who has won the first three Slam events, could meet the player he conquered in the Wimbledon finals, Italian Matteo Berrettini, in the quarterfinals. That’s a bad draw because Berrettini won the first set in London before the Serbian plowed through. It could be a long match — which sets up well for the big German Alexander Zverev — the tour’s hottest player. Djokovic would then meet Zverev, who beat him in the Olympics, in the semifinals. The good news for Djokovic is Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be home watching, but Djokovic won’t have it easy after no tune-ups following his Olympic disaster.
Osaka’s journey won’t be easy
After withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon and losing to a wild card in the third round in Cincinnati, the form is not where it could be for Naomi Osaka, the defending Open champion. Her first match will be against 86th-ranked Marie Bouzkova. She could face in the fourth round either American hotshot Coco Gauff or former Open champion Angelique Kerber. The good news is she’s on the other side of the draw from the favorite, No. 1 Aussie Ashleigh Barty, who just won in Cincinnati.
Over and Out Andy?
Aside from Djokovic, only two other Open champions are in the field — Andy Murray and Marin Cilic. Murray couldn’t have had a worse break in the draw. He gets the Greek phenom, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, in the first round. The 34-year-old Murray’s trip to New York may indeed be brief as he’s hardly flashed form from his heyday.
An America Feast
It’s old news that the American men have a long way to go and it’s best to catch them early at the Open and not catch them at all. Case in point: Sam Querrey, who usually has one of the best chances to make a run. Querrey, however, is stuck with a stinker in the first round, having to face the red-hot Zverev. It appears the 6-foot-11 Reilly Opelka, the 22nd seed, is the best bet among American men.
In an all-American match of intrigue on the women’s side, Madison Keys will face Sloane Stephens in the first round. It’s a rematch of the 2017 Open final.