The US Open begins on Monday in New York, marking the first grand slam since the coronavirus pandemic.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points ahead of the tournament.
Guess who’s back
Feels good to be back 💪 ATP Tour Castore Sportswear#AMC
When three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray announced he was having a metal plate inserted into his hip, back in January 2019, most people – including Murray himself – thought that was the end of the road for him. Yet, 19 months later, he is back and ready to take on a grand slam again and it will be the first time since 2017 where he is not “worried” about his fitness. The former world number one is not expected to contend for the title, but he will be a player that everyone else in the draw will want to avoid. He took out world number seven Alexander Zverev in last week’s warm-up tournament, proving he still has the fire and skills, but how his body can stand up to the best-of-five-set matches will be key to how far the Scot can go.
Djokovic to reign supreme?
Few will look past Novak Djokovic as the probable men’s champion. The world number one is undefeated in 2020 – a run of 23 games – and won the Western & Southern Open at Flushing Meadows last week. He is the best player in the world and the absence of defending champion Rafael Nadal and five-time US Open champion Roger Federer only strengthens his chances. By winning a fourth title in New York he would move to 18 grand slam titles, one behind Nadal and two behind Federer, with time and form very much on his side. The Serbian is streets ahead of the rest of the field in terms of consistency, but Dominic Thiem is likely to be his biggest challenger, while Stefanos Tsitsipas and Zverev will hope for breakthrough grand slams.
Serena still Courting Margaret’s record
Not many people would have thought that Serena Williams would still be waiting to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles when she won her 23rd all the way back in January 2017. The American had 18 months off following the birth of her child, but has had several chances to equal Court’s record since her return to the tour in the summer of 2018. She has got to four finals since then, two at Wimbledon and two at the US Open – but lost all four. She has won at Flushing Meadows six times, though not since 2014, and it would be the perfect destination to claim her slice of history.
Big guns missing
Surely Williams will not have a better chance of claiming her 24th title given some of the names that are missing from the women’s draw. Six of the world’s top 10 have decided against travelling to New York for the tournament, with respective world numbers one and two Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep, defending champion Bianca Andreescu, world number five Elina Svitolina as well as Belinda Bencic and Kiki Bertens all not travelling. The women’s game is incredibly unpredictable as it is, but the raft of withdrawals leaves it even more open. British number one Johanna Konta is likely to have her eyes on the prize, while Karolina Pliskova must also have serious designs on a maiden grand slam title.
Dealing with no fans
One of the by-products of being able to stage the US Open is that no fans are allowed and it will probably be felt at Flushing Meadows more than any other tournament in the world. The crowd is notoriously raucous, especially during evening sessions on the main show courts, where the beers are flowing and the noise is buzzing. What affect their absence has on the tournament remains to be seen, but it will be something to contend with. Many players have already spoken about having to find other ways of motivating themselves during a match and it could be a leveller for the lesser-ranked players.