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U.S. Open tennis: Djokovic eyes title sweep; Barty, Osaka among top women

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U.S. Open tennis: Djokovic eyes title sweep; Barty, Osaka among top women
Novak Djokovic of Serbia starts his quest for a calendar year Grand Slam at the 2021 U.S. Open on Tuesday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- No. 1 Novak Djokovic is a heavy favorite to win the 2021 U.S. Open men's tennis tournament, which starts Monday in Flushing, N.Y. No. 1 Ash Barty and No. 3 Naomi Osaka, the 2020 champion, are favorites for the women's title.

The 2021 U.S. Open runs from Monday through Sept. 12 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Tournament action airs on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN+.

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"I can't wait," Djokovic told reporters Saturday. "I'm very motivated to play my best tennis. I have to hit one ball at a time and try to be in the moment."

The 2020 U.S. Open was held without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic, but full capacity crowds are allowed to attend this year's tournament. Those who attend must be vaccinated.

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A record total of $57.5 million in prize money will be awarded, with $2.5 million going to the men's and women's champions of the respective 128-player singles tournaments.

Djokovic can complete a rare calendar year Grand Slam if he wins the final major tournament of the 2021 season. The Serbian won the 2021 Australian Open in February, the French Open in June and Wimbledon 2021 in July.

Germany's Steffi Graf was the last player to complete the calendar year Grand Slam. Graf won the four major titles and a gold medal in 1988. Australia's Rod Laver was the last men's player to win all four majors in one year, doing so in 1962 and 1969.

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"I don't want to say it's now or never for me, because I'm going to have more opportunities to win slams," Djokovic said. "[This U.S. Open] is obviously a very unique opportunity, but at the same time, I don't need to put any additional pressure on top of what I already have."

Djokovic's historic quest starts against No. 145 Holger Rue of Denmark at 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday on ESPN.

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Barty starts her run against No. 101 Vera Zvonareva of Russia at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday on ESPN. The Australian won Wimbledon 2021, but lost in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and in the second round of the French Open.

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"This week is going to be exciting," Barty told reporters Friday. "We've got fans and that's going to bring a lot of energy to this tournament. This is a tournament that thrives with that energy.

"I can't wait to get started."

Osaka's return

Osaka, the defending U.S. Open champion, starts her title defense against Maria Bouzkova of Czech Republic at 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday on ESPN2.

Osaka returns Monday to play in her first Grand Slam since May, when she withdrew from the French Open to address her mental health. The 2021 Australian Open champion cited anxiety and depression, which were amplified at news conferences, as the reasons for her hiatus.

She skipped Wimbledon in July, but returned to the court to represent Japan at the postponed 2020 Summer Games. She did not win a medal in Tokyo.

Last week, U.S. Open officials announced increased mental health resources for players at this year's tournament. Osaka addressed her fans with a lengthy post Sunday on social media.

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She said she plans to "celebrate [herself] and [her] accomplishments more" and that she won't "burden" herself with "other people's standards."

"Recently I've been asking myself why do I feel the way I do and I realize one of the reasons is because internally I think I'm never good enough," Osaka wrote. "I've never told myself that I've done a good job, but I do know I constantly tell myself that I suck or I could be better.

"I known in the past some people have called me humble, but if I really consider it, I think I'm extremely self-deprecating."

Osaka faces No. 246 Alycia Parks of the United States or No. 136 Olga Danilovic of Serbia if she beats Bouzkova. She also shares a section of the draw with Americans Cori "Coco" Gauff (No. 23), Madison Keys (No. 42) and Sloane Stephens (No. 66), Kerber, but wouldn't face any of those players until the fourth round.

She won't run into No. 5 Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine or No. 13 Simona Halep of Romania until at least the quarterfinals.

Osaka could face No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka Sabalenka of Bulgaria, No. 10 Garbine Muguruza of Spain or No. 9 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals.

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She can't meet Barty, No. 14 Jennifer Brady of the United States, No. 12 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, No. 8 Iga Swiatek of Poland, No. 7 Bianca Andreescu of Canada or the Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova (No. 4) or Petra Kvitova (No. 11) until the finals.

Top potential matches

Several top contenders remain among the 256 combined players who will compete for respective men's and women's titles, which sets the stage for prime matchups.

No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, No. 4 Alexander Zverev of Germany, No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and No. 8 Matteo Berrettini join Djokovic as the Top 5 favorites in the men's draw. Sabalenka, Halep, Andreescu and Swiatek join Barty and Osaka as the favorites to claim the women's title.

Defending champion Dominic Thiem (No. 6) of Austria, No. 5 Rafael Nadal of Spain and No. 9 Roger Federer of Switzerland are among the top men's players who withdrew from the tournament.

Women's No. 22 Serena Williams and No. 147 Venus Williams of the United States also withdrew due to injuries. Fellow American Sofia Kenin (No. 6) withdrew due to a positive COVID-19 test result.

Barty faces No. 92 Clara Burel of France or No. 78 Clara Tauson of Denmark if she beats Zvonareva in the first round. She could meet Brady in the fourth round.

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She could face Bencic or Swiatek in the quarterfinals. Andreescu, Kviotva and Pliskova also share Barty's half of the bracket and could meet the Australian in the semifinals.

Djokovic shares half of the men's singles bracket with Zverev, Berrettini, No. 13 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, No. 10 Denis Shapovalov of Canada and No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

He could face Hurkacz in the quarterfinals, but can't face the other top men's players until at least the semifinals.

No. 18 Grigor Dmitrov is the highest-ranked player Medvedev could face in the fourth round. Medvedev could meet No. 14 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina or No. 11 Casper Ruud or Norway in the quarterfinals.

Tsitsipas battles No. 112 Andy Murray of Great Britain in his first match and could matchup with No. 7 Andrey Rublev of Russia or No. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in the quarterfinals.

Zverev takes on No. 78 Sam Querrey of the United States in his first match. He could meet Carreno Busta, No. 16 Jannik Sinner of Italy or Shapovalov in the quarterfinals.

U.S. Open schedule

(Times in EDT)

Monday

First round from noon to 6 p.m. on ESPN, from 6 to 7 p.m. on ESPN2

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Tuesday

First round from noon to 7 p.m. on ESPN, from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN

Wednesday

Second round from noon to 6 p.m. on ESPN, from 6 to 7 p.m. on ESPN2, from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN2

Thursday

Second round from noon to 6 p.m. on ESPN, from 6 to 7 p.m. on ESPN2, from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN2

Friday

Third round from noon to 6 p.m. on ESPN, from 6 to 7 p.m. on ESPN2, from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN2

Saturday

Third round from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on ESPN2, from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN2

Sunday

Round of 16 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on ESPN, from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN2

Sept. 6

Round of 16 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on ESPN2, from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN2

Sept. 7

Men's quarterfinals from noon to 6 p.m. on ESPN, quarterfinals from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN

Sept. 8

Men's and women's quarterfinals from noon to 11 p.m. on ESPN

Sept. 9

Women's semifinals from 7 to 11 p.m. on ESPN

Sept. 10

Men's semifinals from 3 to 11 p.m. on ESPN

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Sept. 11

Women's final from 4 to 7 p.m. on ESPN

Sept. 12

Men's final from 4 to 7 p.m. on ESPN

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