Novak Djokovic kicks off his hunt for a 17th grand slam on Monday against Roberto Carballés Baena in New York. He is in a spot where he could potentially be setting up a French Open showdown with Rafael Nadal where both players would be heading into the tournament on 18. His opener against a Spanish opponent more at home on clay should allow him to ease into the event.
Carballés Baena looks to have solidified himself as a top 100 player, entering this tournament at 76 – four off his current career high. The Spaniard has not really picked up any statement wins but looks a solid performer on the dirt, with good runs at both Challenger and ATP level. He isn’t shocking on hard courts and does already have a US Open win, albeit against a lowly Mitchell Krueger last year.
Meanwhile, Djokovic failed to defend his Cincinnati Masters title earlier in the month. It was the only tournament the Serbian has played since Wimbledon, where he picked up one of his most dramatic slam titles to date in a historic fifth set tiebreak with Roger Federer. Had he lost, it might have put paid to his chances of getting the record as it would have left him 6 adrift of Federer. “It does also put a certain level of responsibility to me as well, because I am aiming to do that. It’s definitely one of my ambitions and goals. I am 32, so things are a little bit different than they were 10 years ago, but I still feel young inside and outside. I am still very motivated to keep going.” he said on the leaderboard.
“You can reset, refresh and then get ready for the continuation of the season and your career, I’ve been very fortunate to be in this particular situation many times in my career, so that helps. But obviously the final against Roger in Wimbledon was probably Top 2 most exciting, toughest matches I was ever part of and it took me some time really to reflect on everything.” Djokovic said. He should be well rested for this one, with a few easy matches on paper before a projected quarter final with Daniil Medvedev. He will be eager to gain revenge against the Russian, who picked up the win in Cincinnati in three sets.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in straight sets