NEW YORK – Novak Djokovic’s return to the US Open after missing out last year because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 will come against an opponent who has never played in the tournament before, while defending women’s champion Ija Swiatek and Coco Gauff have been pulled. Thursday in a possible quarter-final match.
Top seed Carlos Alcaraz, the 2022 men’s champion at Flushing Meadows, and No. 6 Yannick Sinner could meet in the quarter-finals again. That was the round where Alcaraz’s thrilling five-set win over Sinner last year ended at 2:50am, the final finish in US Open history.
Instead of holding a general lottery, the USTA has held women’s and men’s singles events behind closed doors in recent years, and did so again Thursday, when The Associated Press was invited to see a reporter in a room at Arthur Ashe Stadium. as an observer.
Play in the final Grand Slam event of the season begins on Monday.
The 36-year-old Djokovic of Serbia, who has won three of his record 23 Grand Slam titles in New York, was unable to enter the tournament a year ago because unvaccinated foreign nationals were barred from traveling to the United States. He returned to the country for the first time in two years to play in a hard court setting event in Cincinnati, where he outlasted Alcaraz in a thrilling final last weekend that lasted nearly four hours.
In the first round next week, Djokovic will face 26-year-old Alexandre Mueller, the 85th seed, who will be participating for the first time in the main draw at Flushing Meadows. Mueller lost in the opening round of the qualifiers in 2021 and 2022. He did not have much luck in the recent Grand Slam draw, as he had to face Alcaraz at Wimbledon and Sinner in the French Open.
Gauff, the No. 6 seed, beat Swiatek on his way to the Cincinnati title – a huge victory for the 19-year-old American who was 0-7 losing all 14 sets to the 22-year-old Pole. Including the 2022 French Open final. Gauff, who has won 11-1 since her first-round exit at Wimbledon, will start against a qualifier and then could face young Russian Mira Andreeva in what could be a repeat of the French Open this year.
Alcaraz will play Germany’s Dominik Kupfer in the first round. Kupfer reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows in 2019.
Along with Alcaraz-Sinner, the other potential men’s quarterfinalists are 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 8 Andrey Rublev in the top half of the bracket, No. 2 Djokovic vs. No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas, and No. 4 Holger Rohn vs. 2022 runner-up Casper Road in the bottom half.
Tsitsipas begins his campaign against Milos Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up who finished third but missed the tour for almost two full years due to injuries before returning in June.
In addition to Swiatek-Jove, potential women’s quarterfinalists are No. 4 Elena Rybakina vs. No. 8 Maria Sakkari in the top half, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. 2022 runner-up Anas Jaber, and No. 3 Jessica Pegula vs. No. 2022 Jessica Pegula. 7 Caroline Garcia is at the bottom.
Pegula, who drew 0-6 in the Grand Slam quarter-finals, will play Camila Giorgi of Italy in the first round.
Venus Williams, who won two of her seven Grand Slam titles at the US Open but needed a wild invitation to compete this time at the age of 43, starts against Spain’s Paula Badosa, who was ranked second last year but is now No. 1.46. .
Caroline Wozniacki, another former top-ranked player and grand champion in need of a wild card, has been drawn up to meet a qualifier on her return to Grand Slam tennis after ending a three-year retirement. Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open winner and twice runner-up to Flushing Meadows, can play twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round.