By Steve Keating
NEW YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Carlos Alcaraz has already surrendered the number one world ranking and will be in no mood to give up his U.S. Open title as well when the Spaniard begins the defence of his Flushing Meadows crown on Tuesday.
The season's final Grand Slam began on Monday with a change at the top after Novak Djokovic demolished Frenchman Alexandre Muller to ease into the second round - a result that meant the Serb will replace Alcaraz as world number one when the rankings are updated on Sept. 11.
But Alcaraz will have the number one attached to his name for the duration of the Flushing Meadows fortnight and he will open his account with an evening contest against Germany's Dominik Koepfer under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights.
Alcaraz, bidding to become the first man to successfully defend his U.S. Open crown since Roger Federer won five straight from 2004 to 2008, has appeared unsteady at times on the North American hardcourts during the run-up to the season's final Grand Slam but should have little trouble dealing with the 75th ranked Koepfer.
If Alcaraz can repeat as U.S. Open champion, he will end the longest drought of a successful men’s title defence at any Grand Slam tournament since tennis turned professional in 1968.
With Alcaraz and Djokovic hogging the spotlight, Daniil Medvedev has been the forgotten man but the third seeded Russian remains a threat to claim his second U.S. Open title in three years.
Medvedev starts against 34-year-old Hungarian Attila Balazs, who retired from competitive tennis in 2014 and began coaching before resuming his career in 2016.
Andy Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, will attempt to turn back the clock when he takes on young Frenchman Corentin Moutet in contest that could give the 36-year-old Scotsman a landmark 200th Grand Slam victory.
American Jessica Pegula will hope to join the U.S. charge into the second round when the third seed takes on a familiar opponent in Italy's Camila Giorgi.
Pegula, whose build-up to the U.S. Open included a win at the Canadian Open, and Giorgi have met 10 times with the American winning eight, including both meetings this season.
Serena Williams may have retired but sister Venus Williams is back at Flushing Meadows waving the family flag as she takes on Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen in what will be her 100th U.S. Open match.
At 43-years-old, the seven-time Grand Slam winner is the oldest player in the women's draw. She will try to go past the opening round for the first time since 2019, having failed to win a match in her last two appearances.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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