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Djokovic’s true Slam bid at US Open starts against qualifier

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NEW YORK: Novak Djokovic will launch his bid to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam at the US Open against a qualifier, but his path gets much tougher with potential clashes against Matteo Berrettini and Alexander Zverev.

French Open runner-up and third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will take on former champion Andy Murray in the pick of the first round matches. Murray is now ranked 114th in the world as he has struggled to regain full fitness after undergoing hip re-surfacing surgery in 2019.

In the women’s draw held on Thursday in New York, top seed Ash Barty opens her campaign against Russian Vera Zvonareva while defending US Open champion Naomi Osaka’s first Grand Slam action since she withdrew from the French Open following a first-round victory to take a mental health break will come against Marie Bouzkova.

Looking past that, Osaka could face 17-year-old American Coco Gauff or three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.

Men’s second seed Daniil Medvedev will launch his bid to win his first major title against veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

Zverev, who could be Djokovic’s semi-final opponent, has been the form player coming into Flushing Meadows, having upset the Serb on way to the singles gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and then rolling to victory at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati.

Last year Zverev was denied a maiden major at the US Open after being beaten in the final by Dominic Thiem, who is unable to defend his title due to a wrist injury.

Main draw action at the US Open starts on Monday, with the tournament being held with fans this year after taking place in a secure bubble last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s tournament has already witnessed several high-profile withdrawals, with Thiem being joined on the sidelines by Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2021

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