To say it was an absolute shock would be an understatement. Novak Djokovic‘s disqualification from the US Open has sent shockwaves through the tennis world – and it may well have sent shockwaves through the rest of the men’s singles draw.
With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer not playing in New York and with the Serb the undeniable favourite before his moment of madness, there will be a first-time Grand Slam winner come the conclusion of the tournament next Sunday.
But who are the main beneficiaries of Djokovic’s default in terms of the shape-up of the draw? And who are the obvious main contenders now, as well as the outside dark horses?
Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open after hitting a line-judge with a ball
Without looking, the world number one accidentally hit the ball into the woman, in her throat
The second seed is now the tournament favourite, having previously reached three Grand Slam finals and having come so close against Djokovic at the Australian Open in January.
Thiem was one set away from his first major in Melbourne until the Serb rallied for his eighth title Down Under, while it was once again a case of what might have been for the Austrian.
Dominic Thiem, who lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open, is now the men’s singles favourite
Now, with none of the big-three involved in New York – he previously lost twice to Nadal in the French Open final too – a massive opportunity now beckons for the 27-year-old, playing in the prime of his career. One that may not come about again.
Yet it will be far from plain-sailing for Thiem, starting this evening against powerful Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime in the last-16.
Andy Murray’s conqueror is one of the brightest prospects in the men’s game and even if Thiem comes through, a likely semi-final match-up against last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev means Thiem’s route to potential glory is far from a breeze.
Yet the Austrian second seed has a tricky last-16 encounter against Felix Auger Aliassime (pic)
The 2019 runner-up, who lost to Nadal in a mammoth five-set final which lasted nearly five hours, is one of the favourites again this year – but like Thiem, he is placed in the tougher half of the draw on paper.
Medvedev won a lot of fans with his enigmatic charisma during last year’s tournament, in which he was repeatedly booed by the New York crowd for his unusual on-court traits and whipping supporters up into a frenzy on occasions.
Daniil Medvedev is the third seed in New York, but is in the bottom-half of the draw with Thiem
The third seed this week, the 24-year-old big-serving Russian is yet to drop a set and next faces Frances Tiafoe – the last American remaining in the men’s draw – in the fourth round on Monday.
It could all come down to a match-up against Thiem in the final four, for a chance to compete for stateside glory once again.
The charismatic Russian came close last year, losing to Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller
The 23-year-old German has often flattered to deceive in the Grand Slams, despite a wave of top results on the regular ATP Tour.
His best result at the US Open previous to this year was a fourth-round showing in 2019 and his best major result overall was a semi-final spot in Australia, where he lost to Thiem in four tight sets.
But now, finding himself on the right side of the draw, Zverev has been handed a golden chance to capture his first Grand Slam final spot.
Alexander Zverev has often struggled in Slams but now has a huge opportunity to make a final
The fifth seed, who has only won in straight sets once in his four matches at Flushing Meadows so far, plays Borna Coric in the quarters and is the highest seed remaining in the ‘Djokovic-half’ of the draw.
Will this finally be Zverev’s time to step up on the biggest of stages and reach a first major final?
The Canadian, who himself has been disqualified for hitting the ball at an official back in 2017, is now one of the most exciting players left in the draw following his impressive four-set win over seventh seed David Goffin on Sunday night.
With heavy-hitting groundstrokes and in particular an eye-catching single-handed backhand, Shapovalov is a dangerous player for anyone on tour, as on his day, he can blow you off the court.
Denis Shapovalov knocked out David Goffin and could
The 21-year-old was scheduled to face Djokovic in the draw but alas will now play Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarters, who was the beneficiary of Djokovic’s default.
A battle of the young guns between Zverev and Shapovalov in the last-four would certainly be a mouthwatering contrast in styles.
BEST OF THE REST
Elsewhere in the draw, a fourth-round clash on Monday between Italian sixth seed Matteo Berrettini and Russian 10th seed Andrey Rublev will be for the right to face Medvedev or Tiafoe.
Up and coming Russian Andrey Rublev has impressed throughout the first week in New York
Italian player Matteo Berrettini, the sixth seed, will also fancy his chances of going deep now
Both have quietly gone about their business efficiently in New York, with neither having dropped a set thus far.
Young Croat Borna Coric will be a threat to Zverev in the quarters, while the last remaining last-16 match in the bottom-half on Monday is between Vasek Pospisil – the third Canadian in the fourth round – and Alex de Minaur.
With World No 1 Djokovic already on his way home in shocking circumstances, a rare moment of openness in a men’s singles Grand Slam will certainly whet the appetite in the second week at Flushing Meadows.