For the vast majority of the 21st century, grand slam finals have largely been the domain of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Their dominance, shared somewhat with Andy Murray, has defined the modern era of the men's game. However, it has been most regularly interrupted at the US Open, which starts on Monday.

Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka have each prevailed in the past five years at Flushing Meadows, with Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin del Potro all reaching the final in that time.

The most likely outcome remains that the men's final will be contested by at least one of the big three but, ahead of the final major of 2019, we examine some of the contenders to gatecrash the showpiece.

Daniil Medvedev

The world number five is enjoying a breakthrough year and heads to Flushing Meadows as one of the form players on the ATP Tour. He reached successive finals at the Citi Open and Rogers Cup, easing past the likes of Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov en route to the showpiece of the latter.

His heavy 6-3 6-0 defeat to Nadal in that final may have provided cause for reticence. However, Medvedev continued his outstanding US hard-court swing by coming from a set down to defeat Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Western and Southern Open, before going on to beat David Goffin in the final.

His fightback against the best player in the world should raise confidence he can upset the established order. It will be tougher over five sets but on current form Medvedev appears the most credible threat to the big three.

Karen Khachanov

Khachanov's year has not been quite as impressive as his Russian compatriot Medvedev. However, he too resides in the top 10 and has a victory over Djokovic to his name, having beaten the Serbian in the Paris Masters final last year.

He was impressive in seeing off Stan Wawrinka, rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev at the Rogers Cup and showed signs he could form a grand slam challenge at his run to the quarter-finals of the French Open this year.

Marat Safin, the last Russian man to win a grand slam, was Khachanov's idol growing up. He has the game to potentially emulate his hero, but a 1-8 record against the big three will leave plenty sceptical of his prospects.

Dominic Thiem

Though not in the same vein of form as Medvedev, Thiem deserves his place on the list having been the most consistent challenger to Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in recent times.

He has reached the last two French Open finals, losing to Nadal on each occasion. However, he defeated Djokovic in five sets at Roland Garros this year and played at a level in the final that would have seen him victorious were he facing anyone other than the 'King of Clay'.

The hard court provides more of a level playing field and Nadal needed a tie-break to beat him in five sets in the quarter-final at Flushing Meadows in 2018. Thiem also holds a 4-2 record against Federer, whom he beat at Indian Wells this year. 

Eventually, Thiem's persistence in pushing this legendary trio to the limit will pay off and there is plenty of evidence to suggest the US Open could be the stage on which he reaps his rewards.

Roberto Bautista Agut

While the other four names on this list have their best years ahead of them, Bautista Agut is arguably enjoying an elongated peak.

He was a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, where he showed his endurance with three five-set victories and pushed Djokovic to four sets in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The 31-year-old has since found some consistency on the hard court, reaching the last eight in Montreal and Cincinnati, and came from a set down to beat Djokovic in Miami back in March.

That win, however, marked his only success against a big-three opponent. Bautista Agut has proven he can reach the latter stages of majors but, if the draw does not somehow open up for him, would need to overcome the history books to earn a first slam final berth.

Lucas Pouille

Pouille's thrilling 2016 fourth-round triumph over Nadal at Flushing Meadows had the look of a breakthrough moment for the Frenchman, but since then he has not been able to record a single victory over the Spaniard, Djokovic or Federer.

The 25-year-old does, however, seem to enjoy himself on the hard court, securing the best slam result of his career on the surface as he progressed to the last four at the Australian Open before running into a rampant Djokovic.

He beat Khachanov before being thumped by Djokovic in Cincinnati and, though he has endured an inconsistent year, the high-points Pouille has experienced should leave him with nobody to fear outside of the three favourites. 

Pouille is unquestionably an outsider, but if he can harness the form that saw him stun Nadal then he can at least afford to have hope of pulling off another shock and giving France a grand slam finalist to celebrate.

No matches were completed as severe weather washed out the Winston-Salem Open quarter-finals on Thursday.

Bad weather and power outages at the ATP 250 tournament meant the last-eight clashes were pushed back to Friday in North Carolina.

Only one match got underway, with top seed Benoit Paire leading 11th seed Pablo Carreno Busta 4-3 in the first before it was suspended.

The pair will return to complete their quarter-final, while second seed Denis Shapovalov is due to face Andrey Rublev – who stunned Roger Federer at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

Frances Tiafoe will take on Hubert Hurkacz and John Millman is set to go head-to-head with last year's runner-up Steve Johnson.

Flushing Meadows was abuzz with excitement at the news Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet in round one of the US Open.

Thursday's draw threw up an absolute humdinger of a tie between two of the greatest and most recognisable tennis stars of all time.

But there are plenty of other eye-catching matches in the first round of the final grand slam of 2019.

Below we have picked out six of the best to watch in New York.


SERENA WILLIAMS V MARIA SHARAPOVA

Undoubtedly the stand-out tie in the entire draw. There is little love lost between the two long-term foes, but the rivalry has been extremely one-sided. Sharapova's last prevailed against Williams way back in 2004 and, while the two have never faced off at the US Open, the Russian will need to roll back the years to end the drought.

ARYNA SABALENKA v VICTORIA AZARENKA

Sabalenka can be forgiven for cursing her luck at landing a daunting first-round tie with Belarus compatriot Azarenka, who she has never met in a competitive match. In a year that has seen her reach a career-high ranking of nine, a position she currently holds, a meeting with the former world number one straight out of the gate is not what she would have wanted as she aims to go beyond round four of a slam for the first time.

ALISON RISKE v GARBINE MUGURUZA

Two-time slam winner Muguruza faces a Riske-y tie in the opening round. The 29-year-old Riske has been consistently in the top 50 over the past six years and won the pair's past meeting in Tokyo in 2018.

RAFAEL NADAL v JOHN MILLMAN

On the face of it, this looks a complete mismatch, particularly as Nadal won their only competitive meeting at Wimbledon in 2017. But Australian Millman caused a mammoth upset at Flushing Meadows 12 months ago when he defeated Roger Federer to make the quarter-finals – his best result at a grand slam. He will be hoping for a repeat against three-time victor Nadal.

DENIS SHAPOVALOV v FELIX AUGER-ALIASSIME

In a nice coincidence, two of Canada's finest young stars meet in a repeat of a 2018 first-round tie. On that occasion, Shapovalov consoled his good friend with a big hug after Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire in the third set with the opening two having been shared. Both men have been tipped for big futures and this one could be a cracker.

STEFANOS TSITSIPAS v ANDREY RUBLEV

Tsitsipas' season has stalled after a brilliant start to 2019 that saw him reach the Australian Open semi-finals, where Nadal proved too big of a hurdle to overcome. A first-round defeat at Wimbledon was the precursor to a difficult hard-court warm-up for the Big Apple, which saw early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati – albeit he did reach the last four in Washington. Rublev was a quarter-finalist in Cincinnati, losing only to in-form Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev, and as a fellow star of the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals he will fancy his chances of an upset.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova face a mouthwatering first-round tie at the US Open, while Novak Djokovic is on the same side of the men's draw as Roger Federer.

Williams will be a heavy favourite given her 19-2 head-to-head record over Sharapova, though it will be the first time the rivals have gone up against each other in New York.

The pair last met on court in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals, where Williams was victorious, with a last-16 tie at the 2018 French Open a non-starter due to the American suffering a pectoral injury.

Sharapova has not defeated her illustrious foe in a match since 2004 and faces a monumental challenge against Williams, who was beaten in the final 12 months ago by Naomi Osaka.

Top seed Osaka's bid to defend her title at Flushing Meadows begins against Anna Blinkova, while Kiki Bertens is a potential quarter-final opponent.

Second seed Ashleigh Barty, who made a major breakthrough at Roland Garros, opens up against Zarina Diyas and faces a potential last-eight meeting with Williams.

Karolina Pliskova (3) and Simona Halep (4) each face qualifiers in round one, the latter on a potential last-eight collision course with Petra Kvitova (6). 

Defending men's champion Djokovic, aiming to win a third slam of 2019, faces the unheralded Roberto Carballes Baena first but could be set for a daunting run at Flushing Meadows.

Fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, a man in form having reached the finals in Washington and Montreal while also winning the title in Cincinnati, is Djokovic's projected quarter-final opponent, while Federer may stand in the way in the semis.

Five-time champion Federer faces a qualifier first up, while on the other side of the draw Rafael Nadal has a tricky first-round tie with John Millman – who upset Federer in round four a year ago.

Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev could all prove potential road blocks for Nadal in the latter stages.

Andy Murray will play on the ATP Challenger Tour for the first time in almost 14 years after accepting an invitation to next week's Rafa Nadal Open.

Former world number one Murray will travel to Mallorca and appear on the second-tier circuit for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals at Mons in October 2005.

The three-time grand slam champion underwent surgery to overcome a career-threatening hip injury and made his return after five months out in the doubles at the Queen's Club Championships in June, lifting the title alongside Feliciano Lopez.

Murray made his singles comeback at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last week, losing to Richard Gasquet in straight sets.

The Briton, who has signed up to main-tour events in Zhuhai and Beijing in September and Antwerp in October, has slipped to 329th in the world rankings and rejected a wildcard to the US Open.

Following a first-round loss to Tennys Sandgren at the Winston-Salem Open this week, Murray explained he was considering dropping down to the Challenger Tour in a bid to improve his singles level.

"Some things were a bit better [against Sandgren], I think," he said. "I was hitting the ball a bit cleaner than I did maybe in Cincinnati.

"I feel like I moved fairly well to some drop shots, which maybe last week I wasn't running to. So there's some good things in there but also some stuff I would like to do better.

"I'm physically okay considering, no pain, no discomfort. Just a little bit more tired than usual.

"I'm quite aware of sort of where I'm at just now and what my level is. It's competitive at this level but it needs to be better.

"Maybe I need to play a level down to get some matches and build my game up a little bit before I start playing on the (main) tour again."

The final grand slam tournament of the year is almost here, as the US Open begins at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Novak Djokovic, the dominant force in men's tennis, will hope to defend his title, while Naomi Osaka is looking to rediscover her best major form at the scene of her first triumph.

Meanwhile, veterans Roger Federer and Serena Williams have records in their sights in New York.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the key numbers heading into this year's US Open.

 

Men's singles

4 - Djokovic has won four of the past five grand slams – Rafael Nadal claiming the only other title at this year's French Open.

2 - World number one Djokovic is bidding to become just the second man, after Federer (2004 to 2008), to defend his Flushing Meadows title in the 21st century.

35 - The oldest men's US Open champion in the Open Era was Ken Rosewall in 1970 at 35 years, 10 months and 11 days. Federer will be 38 at Flushing Meadows.

5 - Three men have won the tournament a record five times since the sport went professional: Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Federer.

8 - Djokovic only has three US Open titles but has played the joint-most finals in the Open Era (eight, along with Ivan Lendl and Sampras).

0 - The US Open is the only one of the four men's grand slams that has not seen a player claim the title without dropping a set in the Open Era.

61 - At least one of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal has made the semi-finals of every major since Wimbledon 2004, a streak of 61 tournaments.

 

Women's singles

3 - Having won back-to-back majors in the shape of last year's US Open and then the Australian Open, Osaka has not been past the third round at her past two grand slams, losing her opener at Wimbledon.

1 - But across the previous 16 grand slams, Osaka is the only female to have won consecutive titles.

33 - Williams, like Federer in the men's tournament, is aiming to become the oldest women's US Open champion of the Open Era at 37. The record belongs to 2015 champion Flavia Pennetta at 33 years, six months and 18 days.

2 - Simona Halep could become the first European since Kim Clijsters (2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open) to win consecutive grand slams.

24 - Williams has 23 grand slam crowns, the most of the Open Era, and another would see her draw level with all-time record holder Margaret Court.

10 - However, the American has not won any of the past 10 majors - her longest run without victory since 2002.

17 - The women's championship has been won without dropping a set on 17 occasions in the Open Era, most recently by Williams in 2014.

Denis Shapovalov and Benoit Paire moved into the Winston-Salem Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Shapovalov, the second seed at the ATP 250 tournament, was untroubled by Miomir Kecmanovic in a 6-2 6-3 victory in a rain-hit North Carolina.

The 20-year-old Canadian broke serve five times in a dominant display, moving into the last eight.

He will face another talented youngster in Andrey Rublev, who edged past 2009 runner-up Sam Querrey 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (12-10).

Russian 21-year-old Rublev, who stunned Roger Federer in Cincinnati last week, needed one hour, 51 minutes to get past the American sixth seed.

Paire, the top seed, overcame French compatriot Ugo Humbert 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3.

Next up for Paire is Pablo Carreno Busta after the Spanish 11th seed beat Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 (9-7) 6-0.

Hubert Hurkacz and Frances Tiafoe will also meet in the quarter-finals after they benefitted from retirements.

Hurkacz led Feliciano Lopez 6-3 3-1 when the Spaniard retired, while Tiafoe is yet to complete a match this week, having taken the first set against Filip Krajinovic 6-2 when the Serbian eighth seed retired.

Last year's runner-up Steve Johnson is embarking on another run after a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) win over Casper Ruud, with the American to meet John Millman following the Australian 14th seed's 6-3 6-4 victory over Robin Haase.

Denis Shapovalov eased into the last 16 at the Winston-Salem Open, while Andrey Rublev claimed two wins on Tuesday.

Shapovalov was too good for Tennys Sandgren – who eliminated Andy Murray at the ATP 250 event – in a 6-2 6-4 second-round victory in North Carolina.

The Canadian second seed made it two straight-sets wins in as many meetings with Sandgren, advancing in one hour, 16 minutes.

Shapovalov will meet Miomir Kecmanovic, who got past Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.

Russian Rublev, who beat Roger Federer last week in Cincinnati, posted a 6-4 6-2 first-round win over Italian Thomas Fabbiano and then beat Spanish ninth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-1.

The 21-year-old's wins came as the tournament played catch up after a rain-hit Monday.

Rublev will face Sam Querrey after the American sixth seed and 2009 runner-up served 15 aces in a 6-3 7-5 victory over Roberto Carballes Baena.

John Millman, the Australian who last year pulled off a huge US Open shock by beating Federer in the fourth round, was given a workout by Italian Marco Cecchinato before pulling through a 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3 winner.

Millman will face Robin Haase next after the 32-year-old Dutchman, who has nosedived from 50th to 154th in the rankings during a rough season, caused a shock by beating fourth seed Joao Sousa 4-6 6-3 6-4.

French top seed Benoit Paire fended off Indian Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3 7-5 to also reach the third round, while Norwegian Casper Ruud joined him when South African opponent Lloyd Harris retired after dropping the first set 6-1 in their contest.

Last year's runner-up Steve Johnson is also into the last 16, while Hubert Hurkacz ended the run of Lee Duck-hee, who made history on Monday by becoming the first deaf player to win a main-draw ATP Tour match.

Also moving through were Ugo Humbert, Pablo Carreno Busta, Lorenzo Sonego, Filip Krajinovic, Frances Tiafoe and Feliciano Lopez.

Lee Duck-hee was determined to show those who "made fun of" his hearing disability as he became the first deaf player to win on the ATP Tour at the Winston-Salem Open.

The South Korean defeated Henri Laaksonen 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 to make history with a breakthrough main-draw victory.

For Lee, it was proof that he could succeed despite the challenges he faces and he hopes it will provide inspiration to others.

"People made fun of me for my disability. They told me I shouldn't be playing," he said after the win.

"It was definitely difficult, but my friends and family helped me get through. I wanted to show everyone that I could do this.

"My message for people who are hearing impaired is to not be discouraged. If you try hard, you can do anything."

Lee's achievement had others on the Tour marvelling, including Andy Murray, who acknowledged the difficulty of playing without hearing.

"If I was to play with headphones on, it's unbelievably difficult to pick up the speed of the ball, the spin that's coming off the racquet," Murray said.

"We use our ears a lot to pick things up. It's obviously a huge disadvantage, so to be able to do what he's doing is a huge effort."

Tennys Sandgren, who beat Murray on Monday, added: "You learn so much about how your opponent hits the ball based on the sound of the shot.

"If you can't hear it, you have to have insane skill and insane talent."

Andy Murray bowed out in the Winston-Salem Open first round, while Lee Duck-hee made history on a rain-hit Monday.

Murray, playing his second singles match since undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in January, was edged by Tennys Sandgren 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 at the ATP 250 tournament.

The three-time grand slam champion, who accepted a wildcard into the event, had his chances before losing in two hours, 10 minutes.

Lee became the first deaf player to win a main-draw ATP Tour match, beating Henri Laaksonen 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.

The South Korean, 21, converted three of 11 break points in a historic victory.

Jeremy Chardy managed to get through to the second round courtesy of a 6-1 7-6 (7-5) victory over American qualifier Raymond Sarmiento.

Rain in North Carolina saw numerous matches postponed, with eight singles encounters completed.

Bjorn Fratangelo needed just 40 minutes to thrash Amir Weintraub 6-0 6-0 and Alexei Popyrin battled past Thiago Monteiro 5-7 6-4 7-6 (9-7).

Marco Cecchinato led Alexander Bublik 7-6 (7-3) 1-0 when the Kazakh retired, Pablo Andujar brushed past Nicolas Jarry 6-4 6-2 and Roberto Carballes Baena beat Marcos Giron 6-2 2-6 6-3.

Andy Murray suffered a first-round loss to Tennys Sandgren as his singles comeback continued at the Winston-Salem Open.

Playing his second singles match since a major hip operation in January, Murray went down to Sandgren 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 in North Carolina.

Murray, who accepted a wildcard into the ATP 250 event, showed glimpses of some fine form but was inconsistent before losing to the world number 73.

Rain led to the clash being pushed back before it eventually started after 22:00 local time (02:00 GMT), Sandgren holding following a 14-minute opening game.

Sandgren needed four set points – and Murray squandered one of his own – in the tie-break to take the opening set in 74 minutes following a poor drop shot by the Brit.

The loss of the first set seemed to affect Murray as he was broken in the opening game of the second before falling 3-0 behind.

Murray managed to get a break back and then struck again when Sandgren was serving for the match to level the second set at 5-5.

However, Sandgren broke again when Murray netted a forehand in the 11th game and this time made no mistake in closing out his win.

Andy Murray is looking to have a "decent run" in the singles at the Winston-Salem Open, where Tomas Berdych opened with a victory.

Former world number one Murray is in North Carolina after accepting a wildcard into the ATP 250 tournament, having opted to skip the upcoming US Open.

Murray lost to Richard Gasquet at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati – the three-time grand slam champion's first singles appearance since January's Australian Open due to hip surgery.

The 32-year-old, who has been playing doubles, will face American Tennys Sandgren in the Winston-Salem Open first round on Monday and he told BBC Sport: "All matches are difficult at this level, and when you've been out for a long time, and with the severity of the operation I had, it is going to take time.

"I'm not setting my expectations too high, but I do want to try and get matches in just now. So I'd like to get through a few matches here, and hopefully have a decent run."

On Sunday, Czech veteran and 2012 runner-up Berdych advanced to the second round thanks to a 6-1 3-6 6-3 win over Andreas Seppi in his first match since Wimbledon.

In the final tune-up event before the US Open gets underway at Flushing Meadows on August 26, Robin Haase defeated Denis Kudla 6-4 7-6 (7-3) and Jaume Munar lost 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-1 to Lloyd Harris.

Marius Copil outlasted Martin Klizan 6-4 3-6 6-3, while Prajnesh Gunneswaran eased past Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-3 6-4.

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