On Friday night a banqueting suite at the Waldorf Astoria played host to what was arguably the greatest array of tennis talent ever assembled in one room. No fewer than 19 world No1s, past and present, turned up, and the older men made a point of congratulating the three youngest - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - on representing their sport so well. Where was Andy Murray in all this hoopla, which was convened to mark the 40th anniversary of the ATP rankings system? Not invited, and not mentioned. His highest position, remember, is only No2.
And that rather epitomises his low-key week so far. Murray may be coming back to New York as the reigning US Open champion. But what with Nadal's latest resurgence, Federer's alarming slump, and even the publication of Djokovic's eccentric recipe book, there has been surprisingly little fuss around him in the build-up. Murray will feel pressure when he walks out to face Michael Llodra in the opening round, of course.
"I would expect to be very nervous," he admitted yesterday, "because it is a new experience for me. I have never come into a slam as defending champion so it's different, and when you haven't experienced something before it makes you a bit uneasy or uncertain." Yet it is not as if he arrives as the runaway favourite. Djokovic remains more than 2,000 points ahead of the field on the rankings ladder. Nadal has reached the final of 11 out of the 12 events he has entered this year.
The chances are that Murray would have to beat them both in successive matches to retain his crown, a feat he has never performed before. Should he manage it, the tennis world will be almost as surprised as it was when he broke his grand slam duck 12 months ago.
On his return to Arthur Ashe Stadium just over a week ago, Murray found his mind flashing back to that stormy night when the wind stirred his frizzy hair up into a white man's afro, but his control of the ball never wavered. "It was good to come here and go back out on to the centre court for the first time because last year I was so relieved at the end that I don't feel like I really enjoyed it as much as I should have done," he said.
"It was frantic and I wasn't really thinking enough to enjoy that. So coming back here was really nice. "It was the same thing at Wimbledon. I went back there six or seven days afterwards and I was just there on the court by myself and actually getting to enjoy that moment. Because when everyone is looking at you and the cameras are on it is very difficult. You enjoy it but it isn't the same. "I felt like I remember more about what was going on when I go back to the court when there is no one there." Over the intervening days Murray has been back on Ashe every day, training with his usual intensity.
On Friday he played a ferocious practice set against Nadal, during which both men were berating themselves angrily for errors and chasing down every ball like overexcited Labradors. You might think that they would want to hold back their full arsenals in the sparring ring, as Muhammad Ali supposedly did when training with Larry Holmes. But then, as Nadal's publicist put it afterwards: "Practise like you play: that has always been Rafa's policy."
At least Murray has a relatively kind route to the last eight, with Juan Monaco, a grinding Argentine clay-courter, and Nicolas Almagro, a Spaniard with a flowing backhand but a shortage of conviction, as the minor seeds in his section of the draw. The peculiarity of his route is that, unless someone scores an upset, he will not meet an opponent younger than himself until Djokovic in the semi-final - and even then the difference in age is only a fortnight. Here we see the positive side of Murray's unique place in tennis history.
In the early part of his career he might have struggled to impose himself on a game ruled by Federer and Nadal. Now, though, he can enjoy life as a proven champion while the men coming up behind him - those such as Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov (see panel, right) - are the ones facing the questions about their temperament and tenacity. Over the past four or five years tennis has not produced a teenager with the class to reel off ATP titles in the way that Murray, Nadal and Djokovic did in their youth. Which raises the suspicion that their generation might represent a freak outcrop of greatness, three men born within 13 months of each other and each equipped with the full kitbag - technique, physicality and the desire to win.
Should Federer's slump continue, you could see these three continuing to dominate for several seasons to come. Mind you, up until February - when Nadal emerged from the wilderness holding his Babolat like a burning brand - we thought it was going to be a two-man show. No, the greatest worry for Murray is not the pressure of defending a title.
As his coach, Ivan Lendl, put it yesterday: "You guys in the media are the ones who worry about that stuff; as a player you just go out there and hit the ball." The threat is likely to come from the other two members of the new tennis triangle. Particularly if he has to play them back to back over the last three days of the tournament.
Still, at least he has one trick up his sleeve. Should a match in Arthur Ashe Stadium be slipping away from him, he can always repair to the same bathroom where he gathered himself last year, with the final about to enter its deciding set and the fate of his whole career seemingly on the line. "No, I haven't been back yet," Murray said with a grin. "But if I am a couple of sets down, you might see me head in there."