NEW YORK: Novak Djokovic‘s sensational exit from the US Open on Sunday has ended the Grand Slam reign of the ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis while ensuring a first-time major champion at Flushing Meadows.
With Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal skipping the tournament, Djokovic was hot favourite to claim an 18th Grand Slam title, but his disqualification for inadvertently hitting a line judge with a ball has thrown the tournament wide open.
Not since Stan Wawrinka’s 2016 US Open triumph has a Grand Slam been won by someone other than the ‘Big Three’, winners of the last 13 major titles.
Novak Djokovic (-125), the #1 seed in the tournament just got defaulted from the US Open after hitting the line jud… https://t.co/dC3MaAPz3D
— Barstool Bets (@barstoolbets) 1599423598000
To find the last Slam without either Djokovic, Federer or Nadal in the quarter-finals requires a much deeper dive into the record books, landing at the 2004 French Open where Federer was stopped in the third round by Gustavo Kuerten.
On Sunday, Djokovic’s rivals expressed shock and some sympathy for the Serb, who was defaulted when trailing 6-5 in the first set against Pablo Carreno Busta.
Yet those left standing in the men’s draw may be privately thrilled about their chances of claiming the trophy.
“Now I think is the time where it gets really interesting,” said fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who thrashed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in straight sets.
Zverev meets Croatian 27th seed Borna Coric in the quarter-finals and could have faced Djokovic in the semis.
Touted as a future Grand Slam champion since his teen years, German Zverev made the Australian Open semi-finals in January and is well positioned in New York to fulfil that promise.
“It’s going to be one of the young guys (winning), I think, if you count Dominic Thiem as a young guy, as well,” said Zverev of the 27-year-old Austrian.
“He obviously has a chance to win, as well.”
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This whole situation has left me really sad and empty. I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. I‘m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy. As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m so sorry. Cela ova situacija me čini zaista tužnim i praznim. Proverio sam kako se oseća linijski sudija, i prema informacijama koje sam dobio, oseća se dobro, hvala Bogu. Njeno ime ne mogu da otkrijem zbog očuvanja njene privatnosti. Jako mi je žao što sam joj naneo takav stres. Nije bilo namerno. Bilo je pogrešno. Želim da ovo neprijatno iskustvo, diskvalifikaciju sa turnira, pretvorim u važnu životnu lekciju, kako bih nastavio da rastem i razvijam se kao čovek, ali i teniser. Izvinjavam se organizatorima US Opena. Veoma sam zahvalan svom timu i porodici što mi pružaju snažnu podršku, kao i mojim navijačima jer su uvek uz mene. Hvala vam i žao mi je. Bio je ovo težak dan za sve.
A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on Sep 6, 2020 at 3:58pm PDT
Second seed Thiem, who stopped Zverev at Melbourne Park and pushed Djokovic to five sets in the final, is the major threat on the other half of the draw.
The three-times Grand Slam finalist faces Canadian young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round before a potential quarter-final against unseeded Vasek Pospisil or Australian 21st seed Alex de Minaur.
One of the biggest dangers to Thiem’s hopes of a Grand Slam breakthrough may be last year’s finalist Daniil Medvedev, a likely semi-final foe.
The rangy Russian third seed lost a five-set classic to Nadal in last year’s decider and was declared the man most likely to break the Big Three’s Grand Slam stranglehold by John McEnroe and others.
Medvedev will meet unseeded American Frances Tiafoe in the fourth round on Monday, before a potential quarter-final against Italian Matteo Berrettini or fellow Russian Andrey Rublev.