The US Open Tennis Championships are set to start today, August 31, at Flushing Meadows New York. The first Grand Slam of the year following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has been plagued with numerous setbacks including a recent coronavirus infection among the participating players. After recovering from COVID-19 himself, world number one Novak Djokovic is leading the way to help the event and the sport get back on its feet.

Djokovic said that he is playing "some of the best tennis of his life," and he is looking forward to clinching yet another Grand Slam title. He is chasing his 18th Grand Slam and he is in a perfect position to close the gap to both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who hold 19 and 20 major titles respectively. Neither player will be participating at the event. Nadal opted to stay in Europe citing health and safety concerns. He will also be preparing for the French Open instead, which will take place later in September. Federer meanwhile, is recovering from a knee surgery.

Earlier this month, Djokovic stated that he feels a responsibility to play at the US Open to help the sport get back on its feet. He will be seen in action on the first day of the US Open during the evening session at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Serb will be facing Damir Dzumhur from Bosnia.

Meanwhile, BBC reports that 2018 US Open Champion Naomi Osaka will also be featured on Arthur Ashe on opening day. Osaka has some fitness concerns, but she will be looking forward to reclaiming the title. Last year's winner, Bianca Andreescu, opted out of the event due to the ongoing pandemic.

Women's top seed Karolina Pliskova will be facing Anhelina Kalinina from Ukraine in the first round. Women's world number one, Ashleigh Barty, also opted out of the event alongside fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Meanwhile, Johanna Konta from the UK expressed concerns about the fact that an unnamed player tested positive for COVID-19 just a day before the start of the event. She says that while the players are supposedly confined in a biosecure bubble, many of those working at the US Open are still able to interact with others outside.

Novak and Jelena Djokovic
Djokovic and his wife, Jelena, both tested positive for COVID-19 in June Photo: AFP / Andrej ISAKOVIC