The 2021 US Open got underway on Monday as tennis' Grand Slam calendar year inches toward its conclusion. This year's tournament in Queens will give fans a look at the sport without four of its biggest icons. Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each withdrew from the US Open with injuries. The last time there was a US Open without the quartet was a quarter century ago.
Despite the loss in star power, the US Open is still boasting plenty of intriguing storylines (Novak Djokovic's quest for a calendar Slam and career Grand Slam titles leader, Naomi Osaka's return and defense of her 2020 title) and young players entering the tournament with rising stock, including two of coach Patrick Mouratoglou's own players, Cori "Coco" Gauff and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
In an interview with CBS Sports, Mouratoglou shared the outlook for his players as well as how he's helping grow the sport of tennis.
In 2019, Gauff entered the public consciousness when she beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon at just 15-years-old. Now, Gauff's breakthrough has her moving beyond juniors championships to working her way to becoming a top player. Mouratoglou has known Gauff since she first arrived to his Academy in France at the age of 10, and he knew back then, that she was a special player. With Gauff's continual rise, Mouratoglou doesn't think it will be long before she wins her first Grand Slam title.
"It's been a good year [for Coco]," Mouratoglou told CBS Sports. "Coco was further in the rankings, but now she's top 20 and seeded  at the Open. When everything goes very fast, it's a good sign.
"She's going further and further every tournament so you feel she's getting there. She has the game, it's just a marathon to get a Grand Slam and for a young player, it's not easy to be consistent during a marathon but if she's able to be consistent, she can get there, she can win one. I'm very sure that she is going to win her first Grand Slam soon."
Since her rise to prominence, Gauff was been able to make improvements to her game, garnering more control in rallies and working on her second serve, which had been bothersome for the youngster in the past. Gauff saw her best finish this season at the French Open (Gauff is most comfortable on clay having won her juniors title at the 2018 French Open) when she lost to eventual champion Barbora Krejčíková in a tight quarterfinals match. She was the youngest player to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Nicole Vaidišová at the 2006 French Open.
At this year's US Open, Gauff fought her way through a tight three-set (5-7, 6-3, 6-4) win over Magda Linette in the first round but received a brutal second-round draw when she was matched up with 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
Experience triumphed in the pair's first-ever matchup and Stephens overpowered Gauff with her blazing forehand. In 66 minutes, Stephens got the 6-4, 6-2 win. Despite the early exit in singles, Gauff is still competing in the women's doubles tournament with her partner Caty McNally.
Along with Gauff, Mouratoglou is working with another young, exciting player in 23-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas is also entering the US Open with a lot of momentum after a very successful Slam season. Included in the group of the widely touted 'Next Gen' players, Tsitsipas is one of the youngest players in the ATP's top 20 and reached a career-high ranking of No. 3 in the world this year.
Mouratoglou, who coaches alongside Tsitsipas' father, Apostolos Tsitsipas, said that this year, Tsitsipas continued to make progress and it shows because of his rise in the rankings.
"For Stefanos, he's close [to a Grand Slam title] because he's No. 3 in the world," Mouratoglou told CBS Sports. "He played semifinals in the last two tournaments [ATP Masters 1000 in Cincinnati and Canada] in two very close matches."
Despite Djokovic's dominance in the men's game, Mouratoglou believes that this year's US Open men's field is wide open:
"The pressure starts to really be big on [Djokovic] because now he's playing for history, he's playing to have one more Grand Slam than [Federer and Nadal] and he's in a position to become the greatest of all time so that's a huge pressure. I can feel that the pressure is getting bigger and bigger for him. And at the same time, young guys are getting closer to him in terms of level. Stefanos played five sets against him in Roland Garros, [Alexander] Zverev beat him at the Tokyo Olympics. [Djokovic] had tough matches also against [Daniil] Medvedev so those three guys that are supposed to be the future top of the game are getting closer and closer to him."
Tsitsipas, Medvedev and Zverev are three of the best players on the men's tour right now who have yet to win a Grand Slam championship. Medvedev, 25, ranked No. 2 in the world is a two-time Grand Slam finalist (2021 Australian Open vs. Djokovic and 2019 US Open vs. Nadal) while Zverev, 24, is ranked No. 4 and was a finalist at the 2020 US Open (lost to Dominic Thiem). Tsitsipas, as Mouratoglou mentioned, finished runner-up to Djokovic at the 2021 French Open.
Tsitsipas, in particular however, is the youngest player to have defeated all of the Big Three. Tsitsipas completed the achievement before he was 21 years old; he defeated Nadal in the 2021 Australian Open quarterfinals in five sets, defeated Federer at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London and defeated Djokovic at the 2019 ATP Masters 1000 in Shanghai.
The 2021 US Open is scheduled to take place from August 30 to September 12. The women's singles final is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11, with the men's singles final on Sunday, Sept. 12. Stay up to date with the latest info regarding the American Grand Slam here.
Last year, Dominic Thiem defeated Alexander Zverev in five sets to win the men's singles championship while Naomi Osaka defeated Victoria Azarenka in three sets to take home the women's singles championship. Thiem will miss this year's US Open as he deals with a wrist injury, meanwhile Osaka is considered to be one of the favorites in the women's field.