'I didn’t think Novak Djokovic would be number one or...', says former Top 10

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'I didn’t think Novak Djokovic would be number one or...', says former Top 10

The most particular edition of the US Open, which became the second Grand Slam of the year, will start on Monday. And he will do it without several big names: Roger Federer has decided to stop for the whole year due to a double operation, Rafael Nadal has instead preferred to focus on the season on clay instead of defending the title (which, however, will not bring him points lost in based on the reshaping of the ranking).

Novak Djokovic arrives in New York with the chevrons also of first favorite, and moreover it could not be otherwise, since he has shown himself ready to resume operations on a pure tennis level. There are three occasions in which Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has triumphed on the courts: 2011, 2015 and 2018.

The absence of several particularly dangerous players undoubtedly puts him at ease in the race to his Slam number 18, which would bring him close to Nadal and Federer in the ranks of those who aim to end their career with the most titles in the four major tournaments.

Nikola Pilic has coached many stars during his illustrious career with Novak Djokovic being his ace pupil. Djokovic had moved to Germany for a couple of years to train at Pilic's academy as an 11-year old.

Pilic on Novak Djokovic

"When he came, Novak Djokovic knew neither service nor volley, but he had an immense desire to learn.

I didn’t think he would be number one or number three, but I was sure he would become a true professional," Pilic said about Djokovic, who briefly trained at the Nikola Pilic Tennis Academy as an 11-year old. Pilic recalled the halcyon days when he coached a raw Novak Djokovic as he said, "Once when he was younger, he said that his goal was to be the best in the world.

Everyone laughed at him, but I didn't. I can't say if I believed in that, but I let him dream because he had a reason for that." Djokovic, 33, is the favorite to win his 18th Grand Slam title and fourth U.S. Open crown (2011, ‘15, ‘18).

He opens against Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur while No. 2 seed Thiem plays Spaniard Jaume Munar. Thiem begins his campaign against Jaume Munar and holds a flawless (3-0) record in their ATP Head2Head rivalry. Cilic, the No. 31 seed, looms as a potential third-round opponent and No.

15 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime or 2012 champion Murray could await in the fourth round. Thiem has an opportunity to consolidate his spot in the Top 3 with only 10 points to defend after last year's opening-round defeat in New York, but will need to recalibrate after a shocking opening-round loss at the Western & Southern Open.

The Austrian could meet Bautista Agut in the last eight and has historically struggled against the tenacious baseliner. Bautista Agut leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1, but Thiem won their most recent clash at 2018 St. Petersburg.