The US Open Tennis Championships, the final Grand Slam of the year, is due to commence on the 29th of August, with the draws now released. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion here, is top seeded, although he has struggled with form and injury lately, suffering back-to-back exits at Wimbledon and the Olympics, the latter to a resurgent Juan Martin del Potro.
Here’s an in-depth look at the draws:
The top-ranked Novak Djokovic headlines this quarter. Up against Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in the first round, Djokovic should not have much trouble getting past the 228th-ranked player.
Winning his maiden French Open title this year will also have given the Serb a psychological boost this season. Despite this, however, he has seen patchy form and repeated injury troubles. Struggling against the big-serving Sam Querrey of the United States, defending champion Djokovic was knocked out of Wimbledon this year, and although he did not discuss any injury at the time, is alleged to have been struggling with wrist issues and fatigue.
Given his consistency over a number of years, that fatigue would not be unlikely.
Unfortunately for Djokovic, who won the Montreal Masters title ahead of the Olympics, he faltered at Rio 2016. Up against unseeded 2009 US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro, he was ousted in straight sets by the eventual silver medal winner, who has only recently enjoyed a return to form in full swing after a number of years struggling with injury.
On the basis of form and ranking, this one looks to be an easy start for Novak Djokovic, but Janowicz is somewhat of a giant killer, having beaten both an in-form Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic in his days in the top 10.
This will be the pair’s first meeting on the professional circuit.
A number of powerful players in this quarter could make matters interesting, however.
7th seed Marin Cilic is off a recent title win at the Cincinnati Masters after having ousted a likely fatigued Andy Murray in the finals. The Croat has been having a good run of form of late, returning to the top 10 after initially hitting his stride in 2014.
In perhaps his biggest match of the year so far, Cilic was locked in a mammoth five-set battle – and even held match point – before losing to Roger Federer in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
He will play Rogerio Dutra Silva in the first round what appears to be an easier draw, and could potentially set-up a quarter-final clash with Novak Djokovic if he can hold his form. En route to that, however, he could face stern opposition from 9th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and an in-form Jack Sock, who won the mixed doubles gold for the USA at Rio earlier this month.
Interestingly, India’s top singles player Saketh Myneni is in the first quarter and up against Czech ace Jiri Vesely. If he can beat the Czech, who like Myneni is a seasoned Davis Cupper and in good form, the Indian will be up against Novak Djokovic in Round 2.
With three top-10 seeds in this quarter – Djokovic, Cilic and Tsonga – and 26th seed Jack Sock playing out of his skin, this will promise to be a tough battle.
This quarter is headlined by Rafael Nadal, who has also returned to form after struggling with an injured wrist earlier in the year. After a strong clay court season, which saw him win his ninth titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Nadal missed out on a tenth French Open title with injury. That wrist injury would also derail his Wimbledon attempt, with Nadal returning eventually at the Olympic Games.
There, the Spaniard, winner of 13 Grand Slam titles, returned to form. Progressing through to the semi-finals of the men’s singles with a number of powerful wins, Nadal lost to Juan Martin del Potro at that stage, eventually going up for the bronze medal match against Kei Nishikori, with the Japanese ace winning third place.
Nadal had an even better showing in the men’s doubles, and won gold with Marc Lopez. Although he saw an early exit at the Cincinnati Open, that could be attributed to fatigue from the Olympics and may not be reflective of injury, or a lack of form.
The Spaniard appears to have an easy draw till the quarter-finals, with the only real competition in that quarter coming from the 5th seeded Milos Raonic, who had his best ever Grand Slam performance this year, finishing runner-up to Andy Murray at Wimbledon after a solid semi-final win against Roger Federer.
This quarter sees third seed Stan Wawrinka take on Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in Round 1. The Swiss withdrew ahead of the Olympic games with a back injury, and apart from this has not had the best form this year, although he continues to retain his rankings.
He will play Spain's Fernando Verdasco in the first round, and despite the fact that Verdasco is both unseeded and the lower-ranked player here, it is Wawrinka on th who is firmly on the back foot. Verdasco has gained the reputation of somewhat of a giant killer, and this year ousted compatriot Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Australian Open – Nadal’s earliest ever Grand Slam exit.
Verdasco looked set at one point to repeat that feat at Roland Garros, threatening to oust Kei Nishikori in the Round of 16 with the Japanese ace struggling to hold on, and eventually winning in 5 sets.
A former top-10 player himself, Verdasco could no doubt pose a threat to a flagging Wawrinka.
Big serving Americans Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey are both in this quarter as well, and although seeded lower down the order, have both been enjoying good seasons. 26-year-old Johnson is currently at his career-highest ranking and on the verge of breaking the top 20. He also took a set off eventual gold medal winner Andy Murray at the Olympics, on the heels of taxing Roger Federer at his stomping grounds of Wimbledon earlier in the year.
Querrey, meanwhile, pulled off the seemingly impossible at Wimbledon, ousting Novak Djokovic from the tournament over a closely-fought, rainy two-day match that saw Djokovic flagging on energy and unable to defend his title.
Big things have been expected of 8th seed Dominic Thiem, who is in this quarter and playing tall Australian John Millman. Thiem has been lauded by many as a future World No. 1, and currently 10th on the ATP standings, made the semi-finals of the grass-court Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany fresh off his win at the Mercedes Cup with a victory over eventual Halle winner Florian Mayer.
Perhaps the highlight of Thiem’s year so far, however, was his performance at Roland Garros, with the 22-year-old making the semi-finals before being ousted in the semi-finals by eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
19-year-old sensation Alexander Zverev is another wunderkind on the radar of tennis enthusiasts, and like Thiem, is also considered a contender for World No. 1. Zverev pulled off a grass court win over Federer this year in Halle, and although he has not been able to reach the later stages of Grand Slams in 2016, has had a good year on the ATP circuit so far. The two could set up a potential fourth-round clash – proving also how rich the field of young talent is after the current top players choose to retire or are past their prime.
11th seeded Spaniard David Ferrer and young Australian Nick Kyrgios are also both in this draw, and could set up strong clashes or even cause upsets in the quarter.
Andy Murray, who could well be considered a tournament favourite at Flushing Meadows, is in the fourth quarter. Playing his first match against Czech Lukas Rosol, Murray should be able to take victory, and has in fact beaten Rosol every time the two have played each other. Despite this, Rosol has won a set every time the two have played each other professionally.
He looks likely to set up a quarter-final clash againt Kei Nishikori, who has also been playing some good tennis this year. Nishikori, who is fresh off a strong bronze medal finish at the Olympic Games, is the sixth seed here and has been in form, taxing Novak Djokovic seriously in the clay court season.
There have been no injury withdrawals from the tournament so far, but fans will miss the presence of Roger Federer, who is on hiatus from the sport until 2017 following a number of injuries in the wake of his brilliant performance at Wimbledon. Given the strength of players this tournament, however, we could see a few good upsets significantly open up the field at the Open.