Dominic Thiem’s 2020 US Open victory was a big moment in the men’s professional game. Indeed, finally, someone else had managed to win a Grand Slam who wasn’t among the Big Three. A new dawn in the men’s game that had been anticipated for years seemed to be eventually breaking.
Conversely, there were those at the time that argued for an asterisk to be put next to Thiem’s US Open triumph after Rafa Nadal decided against traveling to New York, whilst Novak Djokovic, who did arrive in Flushing Meadows to play, was dramatically disqualified after firing a ball into a line judge.
You can see the argument and perhaps it did have its merits, but, even still, disrupting the momentum at the top of the men’s game after an extraordinarily long period of dominance sent a reminder to those on tour that winning Grand Slams was still possible.
Fast forward a year and it did indeed seem to be yet another false dawn, given that it has been the Djokovic show since the start of January. The sensational Serb will arrive in New York looking to complete the elusive calendar slam as he aims to claim his fourth US Open.
The Austrian's hopes of stopping the 34-year-old seem to be fading fast given that he has only returned to action in early August after suffering a wrist injury during the Mallorca Championships in June.
Swapping the splint for my racket again pic.twitter.com/G7jI3qtyq1
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) August 10, 2021
It is without a doubt the worst preparation that Thiem could have hoped for when you take into account how complex wrist injuries are to come back from. It normally takes a few months to begin trusting the previously injured wrist again with players down on power and confidence during their initial return.
Perhaps a look at the latest tennis odds for the US Open will drive home how unlikely it will be for Thiem to defend his title having suffered this type of injury with the Austrian priced at 20/1 to do so.
Meanwhile, Djokovic, who will be at his imperious best, has seen his odds slashed to 8/11 to make it 21 Grand Slams and four in one year. It will be an astonishing feat if he is able to do so, as well as a reminder that we are certainly living through the most phenomenal charge to be the greatest of all time.
Indeed, Djokovic is going through the gears whilst his greatest rivals begin to stall.
Rod Laver turns 83 today, nearly 52 years after he won the calendar-year Grand Slam.
Novak Djokovic will come to New York looking to complete the historic feat. pic.twitter.com/LEKGfR5D6B
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 9, 2021
There's no getting away from the fact that the power of the Big Three may be waning but that probably applies more to Roger Federer and, to a certain degree, Nadal too.
As for Djokovic, however, he is steamrolling the opposition and, if the predictions are correct, the Serb will end up winning in the region of 26 Grand Slams before bringing the curtain down on his career. That is a number that will surely prove too much for Nadal and Federer to match. In reality, it’s hard to see anyone eclipsing that total ever again.
Indeed, it should be a procession to the US Open title in the Big Apple with neither Dominic Thiem nor anyone else capable of stopping the sizzling Serb, Novak Djokovic.