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If you’re a tabloid headline writer, you might be tempted to call this year’s edition of the US Open men’s event “Novak Djokovic and the 127 Dwarves.”

The Serb has won 20 major titles, while the rest of the field has won four; take away Andy Murray and Marin Cilic, and that number drops to zero. Djokovic has already won a trio of them in 2021, and he’ll be a strong favorite to make it a fourth at the Open, and complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf’s in 1988.

But nothing is ever quite for certain when it comes to Novak in New York. Injuries, defaults, inexplicable losses: He’s been derailed, or derailed himself, in surprising fashion here in the past. Let’s see if there’s anyone who might have a shot at sending the world No. 1 off track over the next two weeks.

Djokovic will be playing his first match since the Olympics in New York.

Djokovic will be playing his first match since the Olympics in New York.

First Quarter

Djokovic hasn’t played since his ill-fated Olympic campaign a month ago. But coming in cold has generally been his M.O. at the Australian Open and Wimbledon over the years, and he’s never had any trouble playing himself into those tournaments—he’s won them 15 times combined. Djokovic should have an opportunity to shake off any rust this year as well: His likely path to the semifinals looks like this: Qualifier, Jan-Lennard Struff, David Goffin, Alex De Minaur, Matteo Berrettini. Of those players, only Berrettini, his potential quarterfinal opponent, would seem to pose a legitimate threat. And there’s no guarantee the Italian, who is just 1-1 since Wimbledon, will make it that far.

Player of Interest: Jenson Brooksby. The young Californian was the toast of the Citi Open earlier this month; he’ll start against Michael Ymer next week.

Dark Horse: Hubert Hurkacz. If Berrettini slips early, Djokovic could find himself facing the 10th seed, and Miami champ, in the quarterfinals.

First-round matches to watch:

  • Goffin vs. Mackenzie McDonald
  • De Minaur vs. Taylor Fritz

Semifinalist: Djokovic

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A finalist in 2020, Zverev takes an 11-match winning streak into the US Open.

A finalist in 2020, Zverev takes an 11-match winning streak into the US Open.

Second Quarter

Judging by recent results and form, the player with the best chance of stopping the Djoker Slam is Alexander Zverev. He has won 11 straight matches and two straight tournaments, and his 130-plus-m.p.h. serve has been robbing his opponents of all hope lately. When Zverev broke Andrey Rublev in the opening game of the Cincy final this past Sunday, the Russian bowed his head and basically threw in the towel.

Most important, Zverev has a win this summer over Djokovic, at the Tokyo Games. The Germans’s likely path to a semifinal rematch with the Serb in New York looks manageable: He’s scheduled to play Sam Querrey, Lucas Pouille or Albert Ramos-Viñolas, Alexander Bublik, Jannik Sinner, and Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals. Of those, perhaps Sinner, who beat Zverev at Roland Garros last year, has the best chance of pulling an upset. One other, potentially dangerous opponent, Reilly Opelka, is in the opposite half of this quarter.

Player of Interest: Sebastian Korda. America’s latest male hope starts against Nikoloz Basilashvili, and would likely play Pablo Carreño Busta in the second round.

Semifinalist: Zverev

Tsitsipas pushed Djokovic to five sets earlier this spring in the finals of Roland Garros.

Tsitsipas pushed Djokovic to five sets earlier this spring in the finals of Roland Garros.

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Third Quarter

Two Top 10 Next Genners, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, head up this section. Each have made big strides in the last 12 months, and each would seem to have his best chance yet to reach a US Open semifinal.

Tsitsipas has the more interesting opener, against Andy Murray, the 2012 champ. Despite Murray’s name recognition, Tsitsipas will be the heavy favorite there, and to make the quarterfinals. The other seeds near him are Cam Norrie, Ugo Humbert, and Cristian Garin.

Rublev could have a slightly rockier road to the quarters: He might get a third-rounder against Frances Tiafoe, which would likely be a night match; and his fourth-round opponent could be either Félix Auger-Aliassime or Roberto Bautista Agut.

First-round matches to watch:

  • Tsitsipas vs. Murray
  • Bautista Agut vs. Nick Kyrgios
  • Benoit Paire vs. Dusan Lajovic
  • Norrie vs. Carlos Alcaraz

Semifinalist: Tsitsipas

In three of the last four hard-court majors, Medvedev has reached at least the semifinals.

In three of the last four hard-court majors, Medvedev has reached at least the semifinals.

Fourth Quarter

For someone who nearly won the Open two years ago, and who did win the hard-court lead-up event in Canada two weeks ago, Daniil Medvedev returns to the Big Apple slightly under the radar. Maybe it’s because we saw the way Djokovic thrashed him in the Australian Open final in February. Or maybe it’s because Medvedev didn’t get past the quarters at Roland Garros or Wimbledon.

But the Russian is still New York’s favorite tennis villain, and he seems due for a performance that matches his talent and his No. 2 ranking. He’s certainly the favorite to come out of this quarter. Medvedev has an intriguing opener against Richard Gasquet; could play Cilic in the third round, Grigor Dimitrov or Dan Evans in the fourth, and, if the seeds hold, Casper Ruud in the quarters.

First-round matches to watch:

  • Medvedev vs. Gasquet
  • Ruud vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
  • John Isner vs. Brandon Nakashima

Semifinalist: Medvedev

Semifinals: Djokovic d. Zverev; Tsitsipas d. Medvedev

Final: Djokovic d. Tsitsipas