Novak Djokovic heads into the US Open 2021 as the heavy favourite at the top of a depleted field, but Greg Rusedski thinks it’s finally time for the next generation of stars to step up and match the World No.1.
The former British-Canadian tennis star – who is part of Amazon Prime Video’s US Open coverage throughout the tournament – believes exposing the wider public to the chasing pack of stars is what tennis needs right now. He believes “the game of tennis is in great shape.”
Rusedski picked out some of the key names to look out for at the US Open including Russian star Daniil Medvedev, who has made quite an impact in New York previously and will be determined to wow the crowds once again.
Rusedski says upcoming young players are on the cusp of glory. “Daniil Medvedev stepped up this year along with Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Matteo Berrettini got to his first Slam final in the men’s game, so there’s lots to look forward to.
“Alexander Zverev won the Olympic gold medal too and reached the US Open final last year.
“It’s intriguing to see what will happen in the men’s side, which actually has a lot going on, but obviously the big storyline is Novak Djokovic. Can he do what hasn’t been done since 1969 with Rod Laver?”
Djokovic is gunning for the calendar Grand Slam – winning all four majors in the same calendar year – which has not be completed by a men’s player since Rod Laver in 1969.
Rusedski is confident the rising stars of the sport will push Djokovic all the way.
“The next generation is stepping up. If you look at the Slam finalists so far this year: Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Berrettini and Zverev, who won the Olympic gold, they’re four guys who are stepping up and saying: “Okay, I want to be No.1 – I want to beat you guys.”
“The problem is that we can’t always harp on about the past. We’ve had three of the all-time greats recently but tennis always comes through in the end.
“In my generation, after Agassi and Sampras, people asked if there were going to be any good players ever again! They all came out. There’s no panic. We’ve got guys to replace the top guys, but the problem is those three [Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal] have taken the storylines globally for so long.
“The game of tennis is in great shape but the public needs to get to know these new personalities after you’ve had three dominate for so many years.”
Rusedski is pinning his hopes on World No. 2 Medvedev for the upcoming US Open. “Medvedev has stepped up and the tennis fans know him, but you want the person who is not a tennis fan to know him, that’s the key.
“He really broke through in New York. The crowd was booing him and he was taunting the crowd and then he got to the US Open final, he was down two sets and a break to Rafa [Nadal] and he pushed him all the way to a five-set epic. He’s the guy willing to stand toe-to-toe with Djokovic – Djokovic did that to Nadal and broke through to become one of the greatest of all time.
“That’s what Medvedev has done. He plays Djokovic at his own game, he’s not worried to go into 2,000-ball rallies if he needs to and he’s ready for it. He returns further than anybody on a hard court apart from Nadal and Thiem and returns flat, his movement is exceptional and he doesn’t have any weakness apart from his transition game to the net could get a little bit better.”
Crucially, Rusedski also explains that Medvedev has the right attitude to be a champion. “He just believes he should be No.1 and that he should beat everybody. Those are huge assets,” he says. “And he’s got the most funky looking style. You’d never teach anybody to hit a forehand and backhand like him, yet he hits it in the centre of the racket every time so it doesn’t matter how you produce it, it’s the result it creates.”
The US Open 2021 is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Monday 30th August.
To find out what else is on, check out our TV Guide.