Photo: Paul ZimmerNovak Djokovic (SRB)
The final Grand Slam tournament of the year, the US Open, gets under way in New York on Monday, and reigning champions Novak Djokovic and Samantha Stosur are both back to defend the titles they won 12 months ago.
Djokovic completely dominated the men’s game in 2011, lifting three major trophies, but since adding to his tally with a third Australian Open triumph in January, he has struggled to keep up the pace with his competitors.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer won the Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles respectively, while Andy Murray claimed the Olympic gold medal, leaving Djokovic empty handed after a long summer toiling on the clay and grass courts of Europe.
Back on the American hard courts, the Serb is starting to rediscover his best form and warmed up for the US Open by winning the Rogers Cup title in Montreal. He starts his campaign at Flushing Meadows against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi.
As the No. 2 seed, Djokovic finds himself in the bottom half of the draw and benefits from the unfortunate absence of Rafael Nadal, who misses out due to a knee injury. With Federer and Murray both in the top half, Djokovic will have a clear run through to the final if results follow the formbook.
The danger man for Djokovic will be the big serving Juan Martin del Potro, who has a tricky clash with fellow Argentine David Nalbandian in the first round. Delpo, who was the US Open champion in 2009 before a serious wrist injury set his career back, is a potential quarterfinal opponent for the world No. 2.
Also in the same half of the draw as Djokovic are David Ferrer of Spain and John Isner of USA. Ferrer faces South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in the first round, while Isner meets experienced Belgian Xavier Malisse.
Federer, chasing a sixth US Open triumph, reached the world No. 1 spot again in July after equalling Pete Sampras’s record of winning seven Wimbledon titles. That means he is the top seed here and he opens his account against American left-hander Donald Young.
Murray, who will be full of confidence after his gold medal exploits at the Olympics, takes on Russia’s Alex Bogomolov Jr in his opening match. The Scot reached his maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open in 2008, losing to Federer, and he will be hopeful of going all the way this time.
Stosur, seeded No. 7, starts her title defence versus Croatia’s Petra Martic. The Aussie is in the same quarter of the draw as the world No. 1 from Belarus, Victoria Azarenka, but a more imminent hurdle is a potential fourth round meeting with the three-time US Open champion from Belgium, Kim Clijsters.
Clijsters, playing in her last tournament before retirement, is eyeing the perfect swansong to her illustrious career. The No. 23 seed plays American teenager Victoria Duval in the first round. Top seeded Azarenka starts against Alexandra Panova of Russia.
Also in the top half are Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova. The Russian, who completed her career Grand Slam in June with victory at Roland Garros, has been drawn against Hungary’s Melinda Czink, while the Czech left-hander, the Wimbledon champion in 2011, faces Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.
The favourite to come through the bottom half of the draw will be No. 4 seed Serena Williams. The American, a three-time US Open winner, has been in blistering form in recent months after doing the grass court double at Wimbledon and the Olympics. Williams begins against American Coco Vandeweghe.
World No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanksa, who took Williams to three sets in this year’s Wimbledon final, will be hoping to upset the American at Flushing Meadows. The Pole starts her campaign against Nina Bratchikova of Russia.
Follow all the action on the official US Open website: USOpen.org