Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 3 of the 2021 US Open.
Is this year’s US Open singles men’s draw a weak one?
That’s the question on the lips and minds of every tennis (read: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) fan in the world as the season’s final Grand Slam has now started to roll on.
But wait, that’s not quite the exact question most have had since the US Open has started. The question is whether Novak Djokovic’s draw profiles as being too easy. That’s right, as the Serb and current best player in men’s tennis starts his march toward history, the question is whether it might be too easy for him to win Grand Slam No. 21. The issue, here, is that because folks like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, or Dominic Thiem are absent, then the door is wide-open as Djokovic pines to become the sport’s greatest male champion of all time.
Maybe we could focus our energy on something else?
Really? Have we collectively stooped so low? Okay, we’re painting with large brush strokes here, we know. Not everyone is saying this about the single’s draw, but there is a rumbling in some corner of the internet.
Dear reader, we ask that you disregard such discussion as soon as you come across it. Winning a Grand Slam title is as difficult today in 2021 as it was in 2008, just like it was as difficult in 1999 as it was in 1976. You can only play those who step on the courts with you, and you need to win seven matches in a row to lift the big trophy at the end. If anything, Djokovic’s run to the title might be harder because of Federer’s and Nadal’s absences. Really? Yes, really. As we wrote in August, Federer hasn’t beaten Djokovic at a Grand Slam since 2012, and Nadal hasn’t so much as won a set against him on hard courts since 2013.
So is this year’s US Open singles draw too easy for Djokovic? Frankly, who cares. We should never be so disrespectful as to diminish the exploits of anyone left standing with the trophy in their hands.
Day 3 preview
We’ll close today’s check in from Flushing Meadows by identifying three notables matches to keep a close tab on. Remember that these are merely our personal choices and that just because we didn’t pick your favourite it doesn’t mean that we hate him or her. These are difficult choices to make, and making them is how we warrant our great salary here. If you’d like, you can see the full day 3 schedule here.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Sloane Stephens vs Coco Gauff  (First match of the evening)
Somehow, Sloane Stephens is still just 28 years old. The American has amassed well over $16 million in prize money and won six singles titles, including the 2017 US Open crown. Her 2017 title in Flushing Meadows, which she managed by defeating countrywoman Madison Keys in the final, remains one of the most thrilling, exciting and unexpected runs in recent memory in women’s tennis. The least we can do is to wish for something similar in 17-year-old Coco Gauff’s future. If that happens, we’ll be able to say mission accomplished for the young American full of promise.
Louis Armstrong: Frances Tiafoe vs Guido Pella (Third match of the day)
Is it okay to irrationally love and support a player like Frances Tiafoe? The 23-year-old plays a weird and clunky style, but he makes it work for him. Most importantly, it seems like he only ever loses the matches he’s supposed to lose, and very rarely those he should be favored in. It seems like every tournament he competes in he’s good for a win or near-win against someone he has no business beating. Despite his standout career in juniors, Tiafoe will (likely) never be the best player in the world…and that’s totally okay. We’ll settle for him pushing and making life miserable for his opponents.
Louis Armstrong: Kevin Anderson vs Diego Schwartzman  (First match of the evening)
Is there a more stupid and silly monicker than that of serve bot? We’re not really sure where that notion came from, but it’s been everywhere these days and we hate it. As if someone who serves excessively well should be denigrated and diminished.
Anyway, this match between serve bot Kevin Anderson and “anti serve bot” bot Diego Schwartzman is quite the study in contrast.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG