It's been a year unlike any other and US Open 2020 is certainly going to a grand slam unlike any other. For starters, a look at the men's draw table and you see Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's name missing, for the first time since the 1999 edition of the tournament. That's 39 grand slams and 11 US Open titles off the table. Then Andy Murray's name flashes in regular font, instead of the bold used to identify the seeded players. Last but not the least, there will be no 16 qualifiers or a designated qualifying rounds.
Yet the big sigh of relief for tennis fans across the globe is that the sports are finally having another grand slam this year, second for 2020 after French Open was rescheduled to late September and Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since 1945. And there is also Novak Djokovic, the only member of the Big Three who will be competing this year, along with two other US Open winners - Murray and Marin Cilic.
But does lack of challenges make Djokovic the outright favourite at the Flushing Meadows or will the factor truly result in promoting a brand new major winner?
With Federer recovering from his damaged knee and Nadal opting to sit out of the tournament in a bid to return for the French Open later next month, Djokovic has the perfect opportunity to extend his grand slam tally to 18 - one behind the Spaniard and two behind the Swiss.
The three-time US Open winner has looked confident in his game, despite a stiff neck at the start of last week, en route to his semifinal berth in the Cincinnati Masters and title win will only serve as a morale booster for the Serb.
He will begin his campaign against Damir Dzumhur, is likely to face Jan-Lenard Struff in the third round and big-serving American John Isner in the fourth round.
The big names for the second half of the quarter are 12-seeded Denis Shapovalov, 19th-seeded Taylor Fritz and Belgium's David Goffin.
Possible quarterfinal match: Djokovic vs Goffin with the Serb heading into the semis.
Three of the top-10 seeds and two Next Gen stars are part of this quarter with Stefanos Tsitsipas being the favourite in this part of the draw. He has already reached the semifinal round of the beating to big names - Kevin Anderson in the round of 32 and John Isner in next - both in straight sets. Moreover, he has been handed a rather easy draw. He will start his campaign against Albert Ramos-Viñolas and could possibly face Borna Coric in the third round. The youngster will in otherwise have a cakewalk into the quarters where he might potentially face Alexandre Zverev.
The lanky German will face Anderson in the first round and might end up facing Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round. Zverev, however, did not make a very comfortable return to action as he lost to Murray in the round of 32 of the Cincinnati Masters.
Possible quarterfinal match: Tsitsipas vs Zverev/Schwartzman with the fourth-seeded heading into the semis.
It was a stupendous and a gruesome battle put forth by Daniil Medvedev last summer in New York, especially when his cards were down and Nadal stood on the verge of victory. Although Nadal being Nadal fought back eventually, Medvedev will be looking to draw inspiration from his astounding run in America last year. He did make a confident return this week in Cincinnati but fell to Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters.
The third-seeded Russian has however been handed a clear runway into the fourth round where he might face Grigor Dimitrov, who although is yet to recover fully having suffered from COVID-19.
The other half of this quarter has No. 6 Matteo Berrettini, who had reached the semis last year. Not to forget, the potential dark horse - Andrey Rublev.
Possible quarterfinal match: Medvedev vs Berrettini, with the Russian heading into the semis.
You can't any longer slot him into the Next Gen category. And he now has the experience of three major finals. Yet the Big Three has denied him on all three occasions - twice by Nadal in French Open and earlier this year in Australian Open by Djokovic. Could it finally be the slam for Thiem? But with no Nadal and Roger as well, and Djokovic in the complete another end of the draw, it should have been a straight runway into the final. However, much to his dismay, he has been handed the toughest draw in the 2020 edition. He will start against Jaume Munar, could face former US Open winner Cilic in the third round and one between No. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime and Murray in the fourth round.
And his trouble doesn't end there. The other half of that quarter comprises Bautista Agut, Milos Raonic, Sam Querry and Karen Khachanov.
Possible quarterfinal match: Thiem vs Agut and we leave the prediction to you.
POSSIBLE SEMIFINAL MATCH: Djokovic vs Tsitsipas and Medvedev vs Thiem/Bautista Agut.
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Djokovic.