Ugly Federer and Nadal subplot comes to head at US Open

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will get their first taste of life back on the ATP Players Council when the US Open kicks off next week.

Novak Djokovic, who has won four out of the last five grand slams, is favourite to lift another trophy at Flushing Meadows, snaring the top seed in the men’s draw.

But if there is one possible distraction, it comes off the court.

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The 32-year-old faces opposition from rivals for political dominancy of the Players Council, the body set up to give tour members a voice.

Djokovic has led the Council since October last year but his two main rivals Federer and Nadal returned to the body earlier this month, a move that was seen by many as a united front to counter Djokovic’s influence.

The Council will meet in New York ahead of the US Open in what is sure to be a spicy affair.

The subplot will add to an already fierce rivalry among the three men who have dominated the men’s game for more than a decade.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have rejoined the Player Council. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Can Djokovic be beaten?

The World No.1 was all set to cruise into the US Open as hot favourite, but a semi-final defeat at the Cincinnati Masters has at least given hope to his challengers that he is not invincible.

Djokovic was on a roll until Cincinnati, having won three titles, including two grand slams, on three different surfaces this year.

He won the Australian Open in January, took the ATP Masters event in Madrid in May, before saving two match points to overcome Federer in the longest men's singles final at Wimbledon in July.

But last weekend’s defeat by Russian Daniil Medvedev did not shake the confidence of a man who has spent nine months as the game's top ranked player.

"I see mostly positives really in my game," he said after the loss, only his seventh in 45 matches this year.

"I lost to a player that was playing amazing, so I'll take that and I'll move forward to New York and have a good practice week.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

"Then, of course, get myself ready for the Open. I love playing in those conditions there on centre court.

“I'm going to fight for a title as everyone else does, and I like my chances. I feel good and I look forward to it."

A triumph at Flushing Meadows would also take him to within one of Nadal’s total of 18 grand slam titles and within three of Federer's record 20.

Although a men's champion has not defended the US Open crown since Federer in 2008, Djokovic can take encouragement from a fine run of form there in recent years.

Apart from 2017 when he missed the tournament through injury, the Serb has reached at least the semi-finals in Flushing Meadows every year since 2007.