In any other year, Novak Djokovic would be the clear cut favorite to win the whole US Open.
He’s 29 and he says he at the top of his game and frankly the rest of the field is just not as good anymore.
However, this is not any ordinary year.
Djokovic went out in the third round of Wimbledon to Sam Querrey and then had a wrist injury that torpedoed his chances to win a gold medal in Rio.
“To be honest, I haven’t lost in first week of Grand Slam since I think 2009. You know, I’ve been very fortunate to play on a very high, consistent level on Grand Slams, which each year I’m aiming for,” he said. “This year, you know, the third round-loss happened in Wimbledon against Sam, and it allowed me to reflect on things and allowed me to take some time and really regroup and think about what was achieved as well with French Open that was very emotional in every sense.”
Djokovic lost to Juan Martin Del Potro in Rio, which was due the wrist ailment, but he doesn’t want to use that as an excuse and the Qurrey loss was blamed on personal problems.
Now, though, he’s back at the Open on his best surface and as the last Slam of the season, the Serbian national can salvage what can be considered a bad summer.
“Of course as one of the top players you get more attention and questions regarding winning Grand Slams and being one of the favorites, so I really value that. That also allows me to get myself in a right state of mind and good approach,” he said. “Hopefully, as I said, physically as well I’ll be enabled to perform my best. At the moment, I know that there is a little room still for me to get better physically. Hopefully that’s going to be the case next couple days.
“Then when tournament starts, all the doors are open.”
That doesn’t sound like a player who has total confidence. And if Djokovic is not at his best, the field can become wide open. Roger Federer is out and Rafael Nadal isn’t at the top of his game anymore.
Andy Murray may be playing the best tennis of the big four, but after winning Wimbledon and the gold medal in Rio, he’s bound for a letdown, right?
So maybe there will be someone new, like when Marin Cilic won in 2014 or Del Potro in 2009.
Maybe this is the year that Stan Wawrinka comes out from the Federer shadow and wins in Queens.
Or maybe, this is just a Djokovic playing possum.
“Confidence level is high, I guess,” he said. “The fact that I’ve for the last couple years played on a very high, consistent level — and, I mean, other than that loss in the Olympic Games and Wimbledon, I’ve had a phenomenal season — definitely rank this season one of the best that I’ve had in career.
“So I don’t feel like it has shaken me too much. I just hope to be healthy and to be enabled to play the way I wish to play in US Open. That’s why I’m here. Let’s see how the tournament goes.”
We will find out in two weeks.