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Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Fit-again Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic looks the man to beat

Serbian star tops the list in New York

Novak Djokovic dominated Roger Federer in the Cincinnati Masters final
1 of 1

Starts 4pm Monday, Amazon Prime

Champion's top tip
Novak Djokovic 5-2
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have had a stranglehold over men’s tennis for the last 15 years, capturing 50 Grand Slam titles between them, so it’s no surprise to see the trio dominating the betting for the US Open.

At 37, Federer’s time is running out. The Swiss maestro is aiming to land a 21st Grand Slam title of his fabled career in New York but he arrived in Flushing Meadows as favourite last year and could not deliver. This time, he has a rejuvenated Djokovic to contend with.

The Serb looked a shadow of his former self after completing the career Slam at Roland Garros in 2016. He lost motivation and experimented with coaching changes and different training regimes while injuries took their toll.

Between Wimbledon in 2014 and the French Open in 2016, Djokovic won six of eight Slams, but just over a year later he was forced to retire against Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals at the All England Club. He would not be seen again in 2017 as he opted to skip the US Open in order to rest a troubled elbow.

The 31-year-old resumed his career at the Australian Open but, still looking a long way from his best, lost out in the last 16 against Hyeon Chung in straight sets. Soon after, Djokovic was once again on the easy list with that problematic elbow prompting what he termed “a small medical intervention”.

He returned with consecutive losses at Miami and Indian Wells and a series of moderate showings on clay before coming alive on grass. A final appearance at Queen’s hinted at Djokovic’s return to form and he was brilliant in winning a first Grand Slam title in more than two years at Wimbledon.

While final opponent Kevin Anderson was jaded and easily brushed aside, Djokovic proved his return to prominence as he emerged victorious from a gruelling semi-final battle with Nadal.

A 10-8 win in the fifth set confirmed Djokovic’s return to the top and he has since proved himself again by winning the Cincinnati Masters, doing it the hard way with victories over Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic and Federer in the final.

Djokovic is back and he is surely the man to beat at Flushing Meadows despite a tricky draw.

He is likely to meet Federer in the quarter-finals before a probable clash with Marin Cilic or Alexander Zverev in the semis but the Serb would be favourite to see off either of them. Should he meet Nadal in the final, Djokovic will be able to draw upon the memory of seven consecutive hard-court victories over the king of clay, all of which came in straight sets.

Other selection
S Tsitsipas to win second quarter 9-1
The second quarter looks fascinating with Juan Martin del Potro heading the betting in a section featuring Andy Murray, Borna Coric, John Isner and Milos Raonic while Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov also face off in a repeat of the opening round of Wimbledon. 

Delpo is brilliant when in the mood but his conditioning always comes into question in Slams and he can be taken on with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

This time last year the Greek failed to qualify for the US Open but his rise up the rankings has been so rapid that he arrives in New York seeded 15th.

The 20-year-old reached the semi-finals in Washington, beating David Goffin on the way, and followed up with an incredible week in Cincinnati, where he dismissed Damir Dzumhur, Dominic Thiem, Djokovic, Zverev and Kevin Anderson before finding Nadal too strong in the final.

He looks capable of beating just about anyone and there is surely more improvement to come from a player who is beginning to emerge alongside Zverev as the most exciting prospect in the men’s game.

Others to note
Alexander Zverev
Yet to show his true colours at Grand Slams, the German defended his Washington title in dominant fashion but lost in the Rogers Cup quarter-finals against Tsitsipas before Robin Haase beat him early in Cincinnati. He announced this week that Ivan Lendl would join his coaching staff though it may be too early for positives to emerge.

Marin Cilic
Big-serving Croat looked all set to put up a bold title bid at Wimbledon but let slip a two-set lead against Guido Pella when bowing out disappointingly. His mental fortitude is once again under the microscope.

Andy Murray
Brit is still not back to anywhere near his best since his return from injury and anything he does this year is a bonus. Tough draw in competitive second quarter.

Kevin Anderson
The South African deserves credit for his efforts in the biggest tournaments over the last two seasons. Always vulnerable to classier opposition and likely to bump into Nadal in the quarter-finals.

John Isner
American beanpole is having a great season at 33 years of age but has only once got past the fourth round at Flushing Meadow.

Nick Kyrgios
Brittle Aussie is a threat to all when healthy but faces a potential third-round dust up with Federer. The New York crowd could turn on him quickly.

Recommendations
N Djokovic
4pts 5-2 general
S Tsitsipas to win second quarter
1pt 9-1
general


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Djokovic proved his return to prominence as he emerged victorious from a gruelling semi-final battle with Nadal
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