Who will go down as the GOAT in men"s Grvà Slams? (0:42)Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal và Novak Djokovic are the top 3 when it comes to men"s Grand Slam wins, but who will go down as the greademo of all time? (0:42)

NEW YORK -- The rubber soles of his shoes squealed like the brakes of a subway car grinding lớn a halternative text as Novak Djokovic sprinted, hit, slid and violently changed direction on the hard court in Louis Armsvào Stadium. His grunts were magnified by the emang lại in the cavernous, nearly empty arena. Hearing his roar of triumph, children -- had any been present ahy vọng the roughly 200, socially distanced onlookers at this fan-không tính tiền spectacle -- might have cried.

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Tennis is alive sầu & well in Thành Phố New York. The quality soundtrachồng khổng lồ a typical Djokovic match was a comforting score again Saturday as he defeated Milos Raonic in three sets to win the Western & Southern mở cửa -- the first official ATP. sự kiện after the long hiatus triggered in mid-March by the coronavirut pandemic. The tournament was relocated from its traditional home in Cincinnati, partly to lớn serve sầu as a safe tuneup for the US mở cửa, which begins Monday in the same controlled environment.

Djokovic, who for a long time had expressed reservations about even taking part in this "double in the bubble," appears to lớn be tuned. As well he should be, given that he"s coming khổng lồ New York with unfinished business khổng lồ resolve, much but not all of it having to bởi with his legacy in tennis.

That adventure got underway in a fan-miễn phí Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday evening, with Djokovic outdueling Damir Dzumhur in a match that was more competitive sầu than the 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 scores indicate. At times, he shouted và fumed, looking up to his box, his voice harsh & booming in the vast arena.

"It"s the intensity," Djokovic said. "I care, and I play with intensity và try to lớn bring a lot of energy khổng lồ the court. Sometimes it"s not super positive but I try khổng lồ recover from that."

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Djokovic, 33, came khổng lồ Gotsay đắm the winner of 17 Grand Slam singles titles -- third behind Roger Federer (20) và Rafael Nadal (19). Were it not for the pandemic, Djokovic might be competing in the coming days with a chance lớn draw even with Nadal. Wimbledon, where Djokovic is defending champion, was canceled altogether. The French mở cửa was postponed và rescheduled for late September.

The pandemic has led many people, including tennis professionals, to lớn step baông chồng and soberly reassess their single-mindedness, along with their priorities & goals. Not Djokovic.

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"Obviously, things have changed from the standpoint of the way we are competing, the way we are restarting the season, no crowd in the stands, wearing masks all over the place," Djokovic said a few days ago. "But from the perspective of Roger, Rafa, myself & our race, it hasn"t changed much. I mean, it"s only six months that have passed ."

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Djokovic"s desire khổng lồ put the controversies of the shutdown period behind hlặng got off lớn a rocky start when, before the start of the Western và Southern mở cửa, he gave an interview at his rented trang chủ to The New York Times. Acknowledging that renting the home was an expensive sầu luxury, Djokovic said: "With the trees and serenity, being in this kind of environment is a blessing. I"m grateful, because I"ve seen the hotel where the majority of players are staying. I don"t want to sound arrogant ... but it"s tough for most of the players, not being able to lớn open their window and being in a khách sạn in a small room."

To many, he sounded arrogant.

Andy Murray, Djokovic"s longtime friover & rival, seemed khổng lồ manage fine in his "small room" at the bio-secure player hotel. Having rejected rental housing because of the "astronomical" cost, Murray said: "I went for the bubble. It"s nice. They"ve sầu done a really good job at the hotel. They"ve got games & arcades and things lượt thích that, which I enjoy. I"m still a bit of a child in that respect."

Andy Murray, right, does not support longtime friover Djokovic"s desire lớn create a rebel ATP. players" union.Michael Dodge/Getty ImagesDjokovic quickly began to sing a different tune about the US mở cửa once he experienced the site.

"I worked closely in the council with the ATP, & obviously ATP management has worked closely with USTA to lớn make this happen," Djokovic said of the double in the bubble in his first news conference. "I think the bottom line is that it"s positive that we are here. I congratulate the USTA, ATPhường, everyone who has been involved to lớn make this happen. It"s not easy. We are one of the few global sports that have sầu not found a way khổng lồ keep going. ... This is not only about us top-100 players, you know, participating here in the US xuất hiện và Cincinnati, as well. This is about the tennis ecosystem in general."

Djokovic clearly hopes to have sầu a greater influence in that tennis "ecosystem," judging from his leading role in an attempt to create a kind of players" union (formally, the Professional Tennis Players" Association) -- an entity that would unavoidably challenge the status quo in the ATPhường. Tour.

It seems an odd time for someone who is legendary for the harsh disciplines he embraced in the name of his profession to pour energy inlớn such a dry & demanding enterprise -- especially when the three other members of the Big Four have rejected his plan.

But perhaps that"s a good outcome for Djokovic. His bid khổng lồ assume the leadership role in tennis might provide hyên ổn a way to eclipse and distinguish himself from Federer and Nadal, those icons whose popularity he looks to lớn equal. Who can forget Djokovic"s majestic win over Federer in the 2019 Wimbledon final, a match in which Djokovic responded to resounding chants of "Ro-ger, Ro-ger, Ro-ger" by imagining that they were shouting "No-vak, No-vak, No-vak"?

"There"s been a lot of off-court things that I kind of had lớn be involved in, directly or indirectly," Djokovic said Saturday afternoon, referring to the attention paid to lớn his political ambitions. "It was not easy, definitely, especially in the last three, four days. It has been challenging mentally & emotionally for me khổng lồ stay sane & be able to compete on the highest màn chơi and win this title."

Djokovic"s activities are puzzling to lớn many in tennis.

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"It"s surprising that would attempt khổng lồ go about this political stiff whilst he"s chasing the all-time Grvà Slam tally in the crucial, last years of his career," Goodall said. "It has to be a bit of a distraction."

The other contenders at the US Open are not drawing any false hopes from Djokovic"s extracurricular activities. As Tennys Sandgren said of the challenge of playing in the chất lượng atmosphere of the National Tennis Center: "Someone like Novak is extremely gifted at playing mental games with himself, once he"s committed to lớn play. When you"re able to lớn hear someone else"s name & change it to your own in the middle of a match, you"re pretty gifted."

The players also rejected the suggestion that the tournament result will be slapped with an asterisk because of the absences of, among mỏi others, Federer, Nadal & Wawrinka.

Taylor Fritz gave sầu the best reason for forgetting about asterisks when he told thethaodulich.com, "Who was in the final at the Australian Open? Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem. They are both here. I mean, come on. Sure some people are missing, but in the over, there"s only one winner, and a lot of the times that winner is Djokovic -- who is here."

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