The U.S. Open carried on without fans and Novak Djokovic on Labor Day.
There will be a first-time Grand Slam men’s champion crowned Sunday with the stunning disqualification of Djokovic for accidentally hitting a female line judge with a ball Sunday.
The last 13 Grand Slams have been won by a member of the “Big 3.’’
With the prohibitive favorite out, it’s wide open with defending champion Rafael Nadal grinding on clay practice courts in Mallorca, Spain and Roger Federer rehabbing from a minor knee cleanup.
John McEnroe pointed out that Stan Wawrinka, who also pulled out, would probably be the favorite now if the Swiss star had entered.
Instead, ESPN’s Pam Shriver told The Post her new favorite is Daniil Medvedev, who hasn’t dropped a set yet and steamrolled Frances Tiafoe 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 Monday night in a fourth-round match to eliminate the last of the American men at the Open.
“It’s a very good chance for all of us,’’ said Croatia’s Borna Coric, the 27th seed who upset No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas last week and now faces No. 5 Alexander Zevrev in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
Here are the five top men’s contenders in the Novak-free Open as the men got down to its final eight late Monday night.
Alexander Zverev: Maybe the best men’s player who has not advanced to a Grand Slam final. The rocket-serving 23-year-old, 6-foot-6 German is on a roll, firing off 74 aces in his first four victories. The country that produced Boris Becker and Steffi Graf hadn’t seen a men’s quarterfinalist in 13 years before Zverev zipped through. The last German in this spot was Tommy Haas. As I wrote in an earlier column, when God built a tennis player, he built Zverev, whose shirtlessness around the grounds has become a hot topic in the Open’s first week.
Dominic Thiem: The rock-solid baseliner from Austria is seeded second and is on a roll after coasting through his fourth-round Labor Day match 7-6, 6-1, 4-1 over up-and-comer Felix Auger-Aliassime. Thiem lost in the first round of the Open last year but claimed he had a cold. A better clay-court player, Thiem is the only player on the ATP tour to win at least 20 matches on clay and hard courts. But he’s been part of the “NextGen’’ group for an agonizingly long time. He’s now 27.
Daniil Medvedev: The 24-year-old 6-foot-5 Russian likes these courts as he showed in making the Open finals last September, losing in five sets to Nadal. In 2019, Medvedev won an ATP-tour-leading 59 matches. He doesn’t have one particularly defining shot, but he’s well-rounded and has a change of pace to his game that can be befuddling.
Denis Shapovalov: American men’s tennis wished it could lay claim to this 21-year-old Canadian with the booming left-handed forehand. The Israeli-born Shapovalov has got personality, too. “It’s been getting pretty boring with these three guys winning every tournament,’’ cracked Shapovalov, who faces Djokovic-killer Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarters.
Shapovalov is the first Canadian man to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals in the Open era (since 1968).
Andrey Rublev: The 10th-seeded Russian rallied from a set down to take out Italian No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini and gain revenge. Last year, Berrettini beat Rublev on the way to his breakthrough semifinal. Berrettini had the best mascot of the Open in Italian restaurant owner Giovanni Bartocci, who attended all his matches last year and stood outside the Flushing grounds by the boardwalk Saturday cheering him on from match updates. Now Bartocci can go home as Rublev took care of business. Rublev, 22, has now beaten three top-10 players at the Open since 2017.