Djokovic Sets Sights on No.1 as US Open Commences

2R5K976 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Novak Djokovic is poised to commence his pursuit of a 24th Grand Slam singles championship on Monday, signaling the commencement of the US Open. The Serbian tennis titan requires only a victory in the initial round to reclaim the esteemed world number one ranking.

Marking his highly anticipated return to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center after a one-year absence due to his vaccination stance, the 36-year-old Serbian luminary’s presence is keenly awaited. Having skipped the 2022 tournament owing to his vaccination refusal, Djokovic enters the fray as the second seed.

Gracing the night session at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, a colossal arena with a capacity of 23,000, Djokovic is set to face France’s 84th-ranked player, Alexandre Muller, in a seemingly straightforward opening match. Should he secure a triumph, Djokovic will assuredly ascend to the pinnacle of the global tennis rankings, regardless of his performance over the ensuing fortnight of the US Open.

Having recently defeated the reigning world number one and defending US Open champion, Carlos Alcaraz, at the Cincinnati Open, Djokovic now needs a mere 20 points to reclaim the coveted No. 1 ranking. Notably, Alcaraz himself, who triumphed over Djokovic in a gripping five-set Wimbledon final in July, initiates his campaign in the US Open on the upcoming Tuesday.

While many observers hope for a captivating showdown between Alcaraz and Djokovic in the men’s final on September 10, Djokovic asserts that he is focused solely on his Monday opener. In the eve of the tournament, Djokovic expressed, “You can’t truly be fixated on what transpires in the next few days. Pondering your finals matchup at this stage can be deemed disrespectful to your next adversary… I’ve never truly resonated with that type of mindset.”

However, historical data suggests that Djokovic’s Monday opener should be a mere formality, as he hasn’t suffered a first-round defeat in a Grand Slam event since the 2006 Australian Open.

In parallel, the American tennis realm harbors aspirations for a breakthrough, with the tenth-seeded Frances Tiafoe and the ninth-seeded Taylor Fritz aiming to bring an end to the nation’s two-decade drought in securing a Grand Slam title. Not since Andy Roddick’s victory at the 2003 US Open has an American male clinched a Grand Slam singles championship.

Tiafoe is slated to face compatriot Learner Tien, while Fritz takes on Steve Johnson in an all-American match-up.

As for the women’s competition, the defending champion and world number one, Iga Swiatek, will confront Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in her opening match at Arthur Ashe. Swiatek is resolute in her pursuit of a fifth career Grand Slam title, having reached the semi-finals in lead-up tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati. Despite her prior achievements, Swiatek recognizes the challenges of defending her title and is opting for a gradual, composed approach.

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, the spotlight falls on US teenager Coco Gauff, who faces German qualifier Laura Siegemund in a night match, seeking her inaugural major victory. Gauff arrives in New York in scorching form, having triumphed in Washington and Cincinnati. Her recent Cincinnati victory, which marked her first WTA 1000 title, included a significant psychological triumph – her maiden win over Swiatek, a potential adversary in the quarter-finals.

Radiating newfound confidence in her game, Gauff expressed, “I feel more confident now. Irrespective of the match score, I’m equipped to troubleshoot and navigate my way through. I understand I can emerge victorious even when not at my finest… My confidence in my secondary and tertiary game modes has grown significantly.”

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