Novak Djokovic will hope to clinch his 18th Grand Slam when he heads into the US Open this year as red-hot favourite after both of his longtime rivals opted out of the tournament.
The US Open 2020, which will begin from August 31, will be the first Grand Slam in more than two decades to not feature at least one of Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.
Nadal, the defending champion at the Flushing Meadows, pulled out earlier this month due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic, while Federer will miss the rest of the season after having knee surgery in June.
Apart from them, former champions Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro have also opted against travelling to New York to play the hardcourt Grand Slam amid the pandemic.
“It’s bound to be weird that Federer and Nadal aren’t here,” Djokovic told Reuters at the curtain-raising Western & Southern Open in New York. “They will be missed, no doubt, because they are legends of our sport. But apart from Federer, Nadal, and Wawrinka, all the best players are there.”
“It would be disrespectful to all the other players to say that I have a better chance without Roger and Rafa. [Dominic] Thiem, [Alexander] Zverev, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, [Daniil] Medvedev, these guys are as strong as the three of us.”
“Anyone can win, even more after six months without the tour. We don’t really know how we’re going to feel on the court,” he added.
The 33-year-old was in fine form before the season was thrown into chaos in March by the COVID-19 pandemic, having won the Australian Open in January and Dubai Open in February.
During the break, Djokovic, his wife Jelena, his coach Goran Ivanisevic, and other players like Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, and Viktor Troicki, contracted the virus after participating in the ill-fated Adria Tour in June.
Having recovered after two weeks in self-isolation, Djokovic resumed training and suggested he was fit to face the exertions of the gruelling US Open.
“I’ve done a CT scan of my chest and OK, everything is clear. I’ve done several tests since my negative test for the coronavirus as well before coming to New York,” Djokovic said.
“I’ve done my blood tests, my urine tests, my stool tests, everything that I possibly can.”