efe-epaNew York

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic will be the man to defeat when the US Open, the final Grand Slam event of the year, gets underway on Monday at the Flushing Meadows.

At the other half of the draw will be Rafael Nadal, the toughest rival a player can face, while last year’s runner-up Juan Martin del Potro won’t take part in the tournament due to an injury.

Djokovic, world No. 1, is the favorite to earn a fourth US Open following his success in 2011, 2015 and 2018.

Should he win, he will be the first player to clinch two titles back to back since Swiss great Roger Federer in 2008 when he earned his fifth consecutive title.

The Serb will aim at getting past his defeat in the Cincinnati Masters semifinal to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who proved to be the most consistent during August as he won one of three finals he reached.

Djokovic, winner of the 2019 Australian Open and Wimbledon, will seek his 17th major title closing the gap with Nadal, the second most successful player in Grand Slams who won his 18th title at the 2019 French Open.

Federer is the most successful player in Grand Slams with 20 crowns.

The 32-year-old will start his title defense run against Spaniard Roberto Carballes, 26, who will have a chance to face off against the best in the world for the first time in his career.

In a potential quarterfinal, he would take on Medvedev, the fifth seed, having learnt his lesson after the Cincinnati defeat.

Nadal, meanwhile, arrives at Flashing Meadows seeded No. 2, at his best as he won the Rogers Cup title and then decided to skip Cincinnati and take some rest.

The Spaniard will kick off his US Open run with John Millman of Australia, who stunned Federer in the 2018 edition of the fourth Grand Slam event of the season.

The 33-year-old, however, leads the head-to-head record versus the Australian with the Spaniard prevailing in straight sets during the first round at 2017 Wimbledon.

Pundits and former champions tipped Nadal as the only player capable of standing between Djokovic and the trophy.

Six-time champion Federer, the only player to win five consecutive US Open titles in the Open Era, is another candidate to win the title.

He will start his campaign at the US Open against Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal, 22, who will look for a big upset against a player who knows he is not the favorite to win the title.

The eyebrow-raising defeat to Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev at Cincinnati was a warning alarm to the 38-year-old, who was the first to arrive at Flushing Meadows and to start his preparation for the tournament.

Young players are not to be overlooked, though, as they are keen to prove they are ready to replace the old guard.

The list includes Austria’s Dominic Thiem, the fourth seed, Medvedev, Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the sixth seed and Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up to Marin Cilic of Croatia.

A right knee injury that required surgery in June will keep Del Potro out of action at the Flushing Meadows, where he was made champion in 2009 and fought for the title in 2018.

South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, the 2017 runner-up, will miss the tournament with a right knee injury.

The tournament, which will come to an end on 8 September, has allocated a total prize money of $28.7 million for the men and women. EFE-EPA