Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Novak Djokovic enters the 2020 U.S. Open in the best form of any player.
The top seed in the men’s singles draw is undefeated in 2020, and thanks to that form, he is an overwhelming favorite to win his 18th Grand Slam title. Djokovic is more than deserving of his status, but he could be susceptible to an upset later in the tournament against one of the rising stars in the men’s game.
The women’s singles draw has a more level playing field, with seven major champions among the 32 seeded players.
With the field so tough, the top contenders to make the final in New York could be the ones with the easiest paths to the second week at the USTA National Tennis Center.
Whichever players finish the tournament as champions will walk away from the court with $3 million prizes from a $39 million pool, per the event’s official site.
U.S. Open Odds
Novak Djokovic: -120 (bet $120 to win $100)
Daniil Medvedev: +600 (bet $100 to win $600)
Dominic Thiem: +600
Stefanos Tsitsipas: +700
Alexander Zverev: +1600
Milos Raonic: +2000
Serena Williams: +450
Naomi Osaka: +600
Karolina Pliskova: +1000
Petra Kvitova: +1500
Aryna Sabalenka: +1600
Garbine Muguruza: +1700
Sofia Kenin: +1800
Victoria Azarenka: +2000
Odds via Caesars Palace.
Dominic Thiem over Novak Djokovic
The men’s bracket is typically the easier one of the two to predict because of the gap between the top players and their competition.
Since 2015, just one double-digit seed, Kevin Anderson in 2017, has reached the championship match in New York. A player ranked beneath the top 20 has made it to the semifinals in each of the past two years, but Kei Nishikori in 2018 and Matteo Berrettini in 2019 did not repeat Anderson’s success.
Djokovic is the clear favorite in the men’s field, and Dominic Thiem is expected to be his top competitor from the bottom half of the bracket.
A handful of double-digit seeds could make runs into the second week of the U.S. Open, but Djokovic and Thiem are in the best form.
Djokovic has not lost a singles match in 2020. He comes into the tournament off a victory at the Western & Southern Open, during which he won a pair of three-set matches to finish off his title.
Fending off challenges from Roberto Bautista Agut and Milos Raonic may benefit Djokovic when it comes to fitness and competition going into a tournament in which matches are best-of-five.
Thiem was the biggest threat to Djokovic at the Australian Open. The Austrian pushed the 17-time major winner to five sets before losing the final. On his path to the final, Thiem knocked out a trio of top-10 seeds, including Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev.
A majority of Thiem’s Grand Slam success has come on clay. He has two final and a pair of semifinal appearances at Roland Garros.
Thiem has the most Grand Slam final appearances in the past five years than any player in the field outside of Djokovic. In two of his past three major championship matches, Thiem has taken three combined sets off Nadal and Djokovic.
Bautista Agut and Raonic proved Djokovic is not in perfect form, and if Thiem plays at a high level in New York, he could avenge his Australian Open loss while winning his first major.
Petra Kvitova over Sofia Kenin
Sofia Kenin and Petra Kvitova are two of the four players in the women’s draw who have appeared in a Grand Slam final since the start of 2019.
Kenin outlasted Garbine Muguruza in three sets at the 2020 Australian Open, while Kvitova fell in three sets to Naomi Osaka in Melbourne in 2019.
Kvitova has a more manageable draw compared to Osaka and Karolina Pliskova in the top half of the bracket.
The two-time major winner’s toughest test in the first three rounds could come from No. 32 seed Rebecca Peterson and no other Grand Slam champions are in her portion of the draw.
That could leave the No. 6 seed fresher than Osaka, who may face challenges from Coco Gauff and Anett Kontaveit, and Pliskova, who may see Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.
Kenin has more challenges at the bottom part of the draw, but she does not have to face a top-10 seed to reach the quarterfinals, like Madison Keys, Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka and Johanna Konta.
If Serena Williams finds her form in New York, Kenin may have to deal with her in the second week, but the No. 2 seed should be fresh enough to cope with that challenge if it occurs.
Kvitova could have the advantage over Kenin in a potential final meeting. The Czech has a 2-0 record against Kenin and lost five games in their most recent matchup in Madrid last year.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. Statistics obtained from ATPTour.com and WTATennis.com.