Novak Djokovic’s exit from the 2020 US Open will lead to an outcome that men’s tennis has been looking forward to for a while – a first-time Grand Slam champion. The Serb held a 23-0 record for the year heading into Flushing Meadows and cruised through the first three rounds, but by taking himself out of the equation, he has blown open the men’s draw.

This is, in fact, only the second time in the Open Era (after Wimbledon 2003) that there is no former champion in the men’s singles quarter-finals of a Grand Slam

The ‘arrival’ of the next-gen has been long due. With Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal having a stranglehold on the Majors since the 2016 US Open, the younger crop in men’s tennis has had to settle for other ATP titles every now and then.

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Now, with no member of the ‘Big Three’ in the quarter-finals of the US Open, we are sure to have that one player make a breakthrough and possibly mark the beginning of a new chapter in the sport.

While there are several young talents who aren’t in the last eight of the US Open, the ones who have made it certainly have the potential to be at the top for years to come. And that’s what makes Djokovic’s ouster all the more interesting – the fact that there’s no clear favourite remaining, with each player possessing the class to win the title.

Having said that, here’s a look at the men’s singles quarter-finalists for the 2020 US Open and the possibility of them going all the way:

Dominic Thiem

Road to the quarters:
R1: Jaume Munar – 7-6, 6-3 (ret)
R2: Sumit Nagal – 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
R3: Marin Cilic – 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
R4: Felix Auger-Aliassime – 7-6, 6-1, 6-1

He’s the one who has looked most likely to win a Major, with three final appearances – at this year’s Australian Open and at the French Open in 2018 and 2019. Thiem is perhaps the most consistent power-hitter in the game. And at 27, he is close to the peak of his powers. The Austrian, whose best US Open result was a quarter-final appearance in 2018, has the most explosive game among those who’re remaining. And long with his incredible movement, he can fire unreturnables out of nowhere from both flanks. While his victory over 2014 US Open champion Cilic in the third round was mighty impressive, the second seed was at his absolute best against the up-and-coming Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16. It may come down to whether he can sustain his high-octane tennis for long periods and in crunch moments. He is sure to be given a stern test in the quarters by Alex de Minaur, whose ability to chase down balls should make for fascinating viewing.

Daniil Medvedev

Road to the quarters:
R1: Federico Delbonis – 6-1, 6-2, 6-4
R2: Christopher O’Connell – 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
R3: Jeffrey John Wolf – 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
R4: Frances Tiafoe – 6-4, 6-1, 6-0

He is, in many ways, the antidote to Thiem. The Russian has breezed his way through to the quarters without any fuss... almost without anyone noticing. His scorelines so far remind one of the ‘Big Three’ at their best – straight-set wins in the first week with not even a ‘7’ in sight. Medvedev, whose best Grand Slam result was his runners-up finish at the US Open last year, relies on grinding out his opponents. He doesn’t dictate the play himself but he’s never really out of position. And on hard courts, perhaps his best surface, there aren’t many who can match his consistency from the baseline. The 24-year-old’s appetite for long rallies and ability to build points meticulously sets him apart. Which is why his possible semi-final clash with Thiem promises to be a blockbuster. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the winner of that match is most-likely to win the title. But before that, Medevedev will have to deal with his compatriot Andrey Rublev, who is on quite the run himself.

Alexander Zverev

Road to the quarters:
R1: Kevin Anderson – 7-6, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5
R2: Brandon Nakashima – 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1
R3: Adrian Mannarino – 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
R4: Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – 6-2, 6-2, 6-1

Zverev is possibly the one player who has benefited most from the lack of crowds in the stadium. Despite the immense talent he possesses, the 23-year-old German hasn’t really lived up to expectations so far in his young career. And a lot of that can be pinned down to his struggle with drowning out the noise and remaining focused on the job at hand. But that hasn’t been the case at this year’s US Open. He hasn’t seemed distracted and the calmness with which he has gone about his business has been refreshing to see. Another factor that’s working in his favour is his serve. The infamous double-faults have only made rare appearances and he has been making the most of his height to get free points. Zverev, whose biggest title so far came at the ATP World Tour Finals in 2018, earned his best Grand Slam result earlier this year with a run to the semis at the Australian Open. His composed victories in the first three rounds, despite dropping a set in each match, will hold him in good stead going forward. With Thiem and Medvedev on the other side of the draw, it will be a surprise to see Zverev not make it to the final.

Andrey Rublev

Road to the quarters:
R1: Jeremy Chardy – 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
R2: Gregoire Barrere – 6-2, 6-4, 7-6
R3: Salvatore Caruso – 6-0, 6-4, 6-0
R4: Matteo Berrettini – 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3

Just like his compatriot Medvedev, 22-year-old Rublev has had a dominating run to the last eight. Although his straight-set victories in the first three rounds came against much lower-ranked opponents, his performance against Berrettini in the round of 16 showed the quality he possesses. Berrettini, who had reached the semi-finals of the US Open last year and hadn’t dropped his serve even once heading into the match with Rublev, seemed on course for a comfortable fourth-round victory after winning the first set. But the manner in which Rublev turned things around was remarkable. Armed with a devastating forehand, he changed his strategy seamlessly and ran the Italian from corner to corner. Rublev likes to dictate play and his shot-making will be tested in the quarters against Medvedev. He perhaps has the most difficult past to the title, with Medvedev, Thiem and Zverev possibly being his next three opponents.

Denis Shapovalov

Road to the quarters:
R1: Sebastian Korda – 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
R2: Kwon Soon-woo – 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2
R3: Taylor Fritz – 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2
R4: David Goffin – 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

When in form, he is an absolute treat to watch. Shapovalov, with his left-handed single-handed backhand, plays an attractive brand of tennis each time he steps on the court. But this time around, there has also been plenty of substance to go with the style. This is already his best ever result at a Major. Ever since he defeated Nadal at the Rogers Cup in 2017, the 21-year-old has been marked as one to watch out for. And now, it seems his game has reached the next level. In the third round against 19th seed Fritz, he was down two sets to one but dug deep to clinch a tie-breaker before blasting through the final set. And in the round of 16 against seventh seed Goffin, Shapovalov upped the ante to bounce back from a set down to blaze through the next three. It was an incredible performance by the youngster who showed he is ready to fight it out. The 12th seed will now face 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in a match that could well go down to the wire.

Borna Coric

Road to the quarters:
R1: Pablo Andujar – 7-5, 6-3, 6-1
R2: Juan Ignacio Londero – 7-5, 4-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3
R3: Stefanos Tsitsipas – 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6
R4: Jordan Thompson – 7-5, 6-1, 6-3

The past few months have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride for Coric. He seemed down and out after participating in the ill-fated Adria Tour and testing positive for Covid-19, but the 23-year-old Croatian has turned things around dramatically to achieve his best result at a Grand Slam. After being a set away from defeat in the second round, he caused the biggest upset in the men’s draw (discounting Djokovic’s own goal) when he saved six match points to beat fourth seed Tsitsipas in a third round epic. Coric backed that up with a commanding win in his next match and will back himself to rattle Zverev in the quarters.

Alex de Minaur

Road to the quarters:
R1: Andrej Martin – 6-4, 6-3, 7-5
R2: Richard Gasquet – 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 7-5
R3: Karen Khachanov – 6-0, 0-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
R4: Vasek Pospisil – 7-6, 6-3, 6-2

The third person on this list who is in the middle of his best Grand Slam run, De Minaur’s game has improved consistently over the years. The 21-year-old Australian, coached by former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt, is one of the quickest movers on the court and has earned the nickname ‘Demon’. His ability to make his opponent hit an extra ball is undoubtedly his biggest strength and it helped him immensely during his grueling five-set victory against 11th seed Khachanov in the third round. He then brushed aside Pospisil to set up a quarter-final clash with Thiem. De Minaur is likely to be pushed to the limits but if he can upset the second seed’s rhythm, we could well have another huge upset.

Pablo Carreno Busta

Road to the quarters:
R1: Yasutaka Uchiyama – 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3
R2: Mitchell Krueger – 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
R3: Ricardas Berankis – 6-4, 6-3, 6-2
R4: Novak Djokovic – 6-5 (default)

The oldest player remaining in the draw, 29-year-old Carreno Busta looked solid through the entirety of his brief battle with Djokovic. His best result at a Major came at the US Open in 2017, when he made his way to the semi-final without dropping a set. The Spaniard will fancy his chances of making the last four again as he faces Shapovalov, a player he has defeated in three of their four meetings, in the quarters. Having missed 10 weeks of the 2019 season due to a shoulder injury, Carreno Busta will bank on his experience to further his run at the US Open.