Since the beginning of the Open era in 1968, only seven players have managed to defend the title at the US Open and we have seen that achievement just once in the last two decades. John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafer and Roger Federer secured the place on the exclusive list, with the defending champion Novak Djokovic trying to join them in the next two weeks and go all the way as he did in 2011, 2015 and 2018.
World no. 1 feels confident about his chances in New York after the semi-final loss to Daniil Medvedev in Cincinnati, facing Roberto Carballes Baena in the first round and then Sam Querrey or Juan Ignacio Londero en route to the last 16 where Kevin Anderson stands as his biggest threat if he finds his game after an injury.
Daniil Medvedev is Novak's potential opponent in the quarter-final before the dream clash against Roger Federer in the semis, their first in New York since the final in 2015. Djokovic had managed to defend crowns in Melbourne and London multiple times, standing as the top favorite to lift the fourth US Open trophy and continue where he left at Wimbledon and that epic title match against Federer.
Recovering from an elbow injury, Novak has won four of the last five Major titles, moving closer to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the ultimate list and hoping to write more history pages in New York in the next couple of weeks.
We had to wait until 1980 to witness the first title defender at the US Open, with John McEnroe taking three straight crowns between 1979-81 for the longest streak since another great American Bill Tilden in the 20s. The New York native was the semi-finalist in 1978 and there was no one to stop him in the next three years, prevailing against Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg in the semi-final and final in 1980 to become the first title defender in two decades, ousting the Swede once again in 1981 for the third Major crown at home.
The champion in New York in 1974, 1976, and 1978, the crowd favorite Jimmy Connors lost just five sets in 14 matches at the US Open in 1982-83, ousting Ivan Lendl in both finals to secure titles number four and five at his beloved tournament, staying competitive in New York almost for another decade.
From two favorite American sons, the story shifts us towards another US Open legend that never received the deserved credit in New York, with Ivan Lendl who advanced into the eight straight title matches between 1982-1989!
The Czech was the champion in 1985, 1986 and 1987, overcoming three disappointing results against McEnroe and Connors in the previous seasons and establishing the rule in New York in the mentioned years, dropping three sets in total in 21 encounters to forge his place among the ultimate US Open legends.
Stefan Edberg conquered the last Major of the season in grand style in 1991, returning a year later to grab another crown after grueling and challenging encounters against Richard Krajicek, Ivan Lendl, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras that almost all went down to the wire.
After an early exit in 1994, Pete Sampras bounced back at home Major in 1995 and 1996, defeating compatriots Andre Agassi and Michael Chang in the title matches to join McEnroe, Connors, Lendl and Edberg on the exclusive list.
Scoring just three wins in the first four US Open campaigns, Patrick Rafter transformed himself into a player to beat in 1997 and 1998, overcoming two tough obstacles in the latter season to defend the crown and secure the spot among the most notable champions of this event.
The last player who managed to go all the way in New York in back-to-back years is Roger Federer, the ruler in the Big Apple between 2004-08 who lost just two sets against five different rivals in the title encounters to achieve the ultimate feat and stand as the last repeated champion at the US Open.
After 2008, Juan Martin del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka have all failed to follow Roger's steps, with Nadal and Djokovic failing to make the one last push and win the final 12 months after conquering the crown.
The Serb will have the opportunity to pursue the task this year and refresh the list that has not been updated for 11 years.