2021 US Open Tennis Preview: Who can stop Djokovic?
Four Grand Slams in one year, plus the gold medal at the Olympic Games – Novak Djokovic was allowed to dream of the so-called “Golden Slam” in tennis for a long time before the 2021 US Open in tennis. But the dream was shattered in the semi-finals in Tokyo. There he was defeated by German Alex Zverev, who also had the upper hand over Karen Khachanov in the final and won the gold medal for Germany.
Nevertheless, the Serb has three out of three Grand Slams in 2021 to his credit. This at least answers the question we asked at the beginning of the year as to whether one of the “young guns” will manage to topple Djokovic. In addition, he is reaching for two historic records in front of a completely full crowd for the first time at a Slam since the Australian Open 2020. On the other hand, some of the other favourites had to cancel their start at the 2021 US Open or are still questionable.
US Open 2021 date
The only Grand Slam on American soil will take place this year from 30 August to 13 September. The men’s singles final will take place on that Sunday. The day before, the two best women of the tournament will compete in the women’s singles final.
The US Open has three main arenas: Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium (final stadium with a capacity of 23,771 spectators), Louis Armstrong Stadium (14,000) and Grandstand (8,125). Just like the Australian Open, there will be an afternoon and a night session. The former starts at around 4pm British time in the early stages of the tournament. The night session, on the other hand, starts around midnight and goes into the early hours of the morning.
2021 US Open tennis: participants and favourites
Novak Djokovic will once again be the big favourite in New York, even though he has lifted the winner’s trophy only once in the past 5 years. As a result of his racquet throw last year, Djokovic sensationally failed by disqualification in the fourth round. In 2019, he was also eliminated in the 4th round by Wawrinka.
Djokovic reaches for historic records
Thus, the “Djoker” has every reason to unpack his very best tennis this year. Although the dream of a Golden Slam was shattered by the defeat in the semi-finals at the Olympic Games against Zverev, Djokovic can still become only the third player in history and the first player in over 50 years to win a Grand Slam: all four Grand Slams in one year. Previously, only Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) and Donald Budge (1938) had achieved this in the men’s competition.
In addition to this, Djokovic can also claim his 21st Grand Slam title with a triumph at the US Open. As a result, he would leave Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (both 20) behind in the race for the sport’s GOAT. If it weren’t for the two defeats at the Olympics against Zverev and Bautista Agut, one would wonder who is actually supposed to stop the Serb with Croatian roots. Now, there is a small question mark behind the form of the world number 1. Especially since he already has a long and intense season in his legs. If Djokovic regains his form from the spring, however, it will be difficult to stop him.
“Oldies” and defending champion out of the US Open 2021
Once again, the tennis world will have to do without Roger Federer, who has to undergo another knee surgery and will be out for several months. Whether the Swiss will be able to return to the tour at the age of 40 is questionable.
Dominic Thiem is also struggling with injury problems. Since his first Grand Slam triumph at the US Open 2020, the Austrian has experienced a time to forget. Accordingly, Thiem was initially set back by minor injuries and mental problems before suffering a tear in his tendon sheath and the associated joint capsule in June. As a result, Thiem had announced that the US Open would be his comeback goal, but later announced his withdrawal 2 weeks ahead of the beginning of the 2021 US Open.
Lastly, also Rafael Nadal will not participate neither at the US Open nor at any other tournament in 2021. After travelling to his home country and consulting with his doctor about an ongoing foot injury, the Spaniard was participating at the 2021 Balearic Golf Championship just one week ahead of the US Open and announced the bad news simultaneously. The injury had forced him to cancel the tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati before.
The main challenger: Alexander Zverev
On the contrary, things couldn’t be going better for Thiem’s final opponent at the 2020 US Open. After winning the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Alexander Zverev is on cloud nine, and he will aim to take this self-confidence with him to the US Open.
The surface in New York should benefit his hard serve. If the 24-year-old can build on his mentally mature performance in Tokyo, the chances of improving on last year’s result (final) are definitely there. In order to beat Djokovic again, however, everything has to fit together.
The usual suspects for the semi-finals
Besides Zverev, Daniil Medvedev is likely to be the main challenger for Djokovic. Medvedev recently won the Canadien Open and thus his fourth Masters 1000 title. The US Open is considered his favourite Grand Slam. In 2019, he reached his first ever final of a Grand Slam there, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in 5 sets. A year later, it was all over in the semi-finals against the eventual winner Dominic Thiem.
Stefanos Tsitsipas‘ performances at the US Open have so far been poor enough. His best result was reaching the third round. The first round exit at Wimbledon and the early failure at the Olympic Games in Tokyo also speak against the Greek. However, by reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open this year, he has shown that he can also be one of the best on hard surfaces, which is why the third in the world rankings has to be taken into account.
Another contender for at least the semi-finals is Andrey Rublev, who won gold in the mixed doubles at the Olympics. Rublev wants to finally take the next step after two quarter-finals in New York. The Russian is currently seventh in the world rankings and has attracted attention in 2020 with titles in Doha, Hamburg, Vienna, Adelaide and St. Petersburg. This year he won in Rotterdam. However, the 23-year-old has yet to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.
Other candidates for the semi-finals are 2014 US Open winner and Tokyo men’s doubles silver medallist Marin Cilic, Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and Pablo Carreno Busta, who took bronze at the Olympics and has been in two of the last four US Open semi-finals.
From a British perspective, Andy Murray will be in the main draw. He was added to the tournament after Stan Wawrinka withdrew. It will be the second Grand Slam for Murray in 2021, after he had reached the third round in Wimbledon.
The British number 1 Dan Evans will also start at the 2021 US Open Tennis, after he had to pull out of the Olympics due to a positive Corona test.
US Open women: Will Osaka snatch third win?
In the women’s field, two-time US Open winner Naomi Osaka is the top favourite. Serena Williams is also considered to have a realistic chance. Thanks to her win at the Olympics, Belinda Bencic is also among the favourites, as are Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Sofia Kenin.
US Open winners of the past decade
|Year||Women’s singles||Men’s singles|
|2020||Naomi Osaka||Dominic Thiem|
|2019||Bianca Andreescu||Rafael Nadal|
|2018||Naomi Osaka||Novak Djokovic|
|2017||Sloane Stephens||Rafael Nadal|
|2016||Angelique Kerber||Stan Wawrinka|
|2015||Flavia Pennetta||Novak Djokovic|
|2014||Serena Williams||Marin Cilic|
|2013||Serena Williams||Rafael Nadal|
|2012||Serena Williams||Andy Murray|
|2011||Samantha Stosur||Novak Djokovic|
|2010||Kim Clijsters||Rafael Nadal|
How to watch US Open tennis 2021
Amazon Prime has the exclusive rights to broadcast the US Open 2021. All the action from New York will be available via stream.
Sam Smith, Mark Petchey, Robbie Koenig and Nick Lester are leading the show, with former tennis players of the likes of Tim Henman and Martina Navratilova adding their expertise.