US Open: Djokovic dominance to be challenged at new-look Flushing Meadows

The 136th edition of the US Open – the final tennis Grand Slam of the year – begins in Flushing Meadows, New York on Monday. In anticipation for the event, Gruffudd Owen assesses the chances of the game’s biggest stars

Such is the relentless nature of modern professional sport that with just a week having passed since the end of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the world’s top tennis stars have already hopped from South America to its northern continental neighbour in preparation for the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York, which begins its 136th edition on Monday.

While the prestige of the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year always makes it a tournament worth watching, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will have a fresh feel to it this year as organisers push on with their USD 550 million renovation project.

A retractable roof will be in use for the first time at the centrepiece Arthur Ashe Stadium, a significant investment designed to ensure that the dreaded rain delays are kept to a minimum, while there is also a brand new Grandstand stadium.

The current Louis Armstrong Stadium will be making its final appearance at the event before it is demolished, with a planned 15,000-seat arena to replace it in time for the 2018 tournament.  

Djokovic's lets go of Olympic let-down

In the men’s draw, four-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner and current world no. 1 Novak Djokovic will be hoping to put the disappointment of an abject first-round loss in the Olympic singles behind him as the Serb seeks to retain his US Open crown.  

Looking to stop the 29-year-old will be Andy Murray, in buoyant mood following his gold medal in Rio and with revenge on his mind after defeat to Djokovic in both the Australian and French Open finals earlier in the year.

With Roger Federer forced to pull out of the tournament through injury, Rafael Nadal will also aim to capitalise on the absence of a major rival at Flushing Meadows and build on his own gold medal-winning performance in the doubles at the Olympics.

The Spaniard has been plagued by injury throughout his career and is working hard to turn his fortunes around after a number of difficult seasons – a circumstance shared by Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, conqueror of Djokovic in Rio and winner of the US Open back in 2009.

The 27-year-old was a silver medallist at the Games and has since been awarded wildcard status in New York. On his day, he poses a threat on the court to anyone, which makes him a player worth looking out for this fortnight.

Will Serena Williams wobble again? 

To the women, and there is guaranteed to be a different pair of hands clutching the trophy this year following the retirement of defending champion Flavia Pennetta.

Although world no. 1 Serena Williams will be most people’s pick for the crown, the 22-time Grand Slam champion endured a wobble in Rio with elimination in the round of 16. Monica Puig was the surprise gold medal winner, and the rising star from Puerto Rico will be a force to be reckoned with in New York.

With an underperforming men’s no. 1, a mercurial wildcard entry and a new Olympian on the block in the women’s game, there will be plenty to talk about when Flushing Meadows opens its gates to the tennis world once more on Monday.