Naomi Osaka (268177)
Credit: Contributed

The U.S. Open, which will take place Aug. 30 through Sept. 12, at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the borough of Queens, has assembled another deep field featuring Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on the men’s side, and the top two ranked women’s players in the world in No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and No. 2 Naomi Osaka.

Djokovic, who has 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles, tying him with Nadal and Roger Federer for the most ever, will be pursuing the calendar slam at the Open, after having captured the three other majors this year––the Australian Open in February, the French Open in June, besting Nadal in the finals, and Wimbledon last month. If he wins the U.S. Open, the 34-year-old from Serbia will become the third man in history to accomplish the rare feat, joining Rod Laver (1969) and Don Budge (1938).

Djokovic has three U.S. Open titles on his resume, the last coming in 2018. Nadal will be battling to reclaim the top spot for the most men’s Grand Slam singles titles. The 35-year-old clay court savant, who has an unmatched 13 French Open singles championships, has won in Queens four times, most recently in 2019.

Federer is out of the Open. On Sunday, the 40-year-old from Switzerland announced he will be undergoing a third operation on his right knee that will have him sidelined indefinitely and possibly be career ending. “I will be on crutches for many weeks,” he posted in a video message on Instagram, “and then also out of the game for many months.”  

Conversely, as of today, Barty is in top form and playing as well as any women in the sport. She will enter the Open coming off of her second Grand Slam title, defeating Karolina Pliskova, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 at Wimbledon. The 25-year-old from Australia is also the 2019 French Open champion. Barty was ousted in the fourth round at the U.S. Open in both 2018 and 2019.

Osaka is the defending Open champion, having won last September by rallying from a first set loss in the finals to overcome the former world No. 1 ranked Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. The 23-year-old Osaka, born in Osaka, Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, has four Grand Slam singles titles. In addition to last year’s U.S. Open win, she took the tournament in 2018, beating Serena Williams, and has two Australian Open championships, finishing atop the field in 2019 and this past February.

The 39-year-old Williams is still recovering from an injured ankle suffered at Wimbledon. She hopes to be at the U.S. Open to continue her chase for her 24th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie Williams with Margaret Court for the most in history. 

Osaka withdrew from the French Open in May citing mental health issues. She skipped Wimbledon to focus on her personal healing and returned to her home country to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in late July, losing in the third round to 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova.

On Monday, during her first presser since the French Open, Osaka had an emotional exchange with a reporter during a Zoom press conference ahead of the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, a 30-minute drive from Cincinnati. She broke down in tears shortly after responding to a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer who framed the inquiry, “You’re not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format, yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform. I guess my question is, how do you balance the two and also do you have anything you’d like to share with us about what you did say to Simone Biles?”

Osaka has openly spoke about experiencing anxiety when meeting with the media. Biles, widely considered the greatest gymnast of all-time, briefly stepped away from competition while at the Tokyo Olympics stating the pressure of exceedingly high expectations caused her to have high levels of mental stress. After removing herself from the team final after the vault, and missing the individual finals on the vault, uneven bars, floor exercise and all-around, Biles came back to win a bronze on the balance beam.