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US Open 2016 Draws out - Serena Williams has tough first round, Djokovic hints at struggle with form

All the news from the US Open men's and women's draws.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic is top seeded at the US Open

The US Open Tennis Championships are due to begin on the 29th of August, 2016, and the draws are now out for the tournament. World No. 1s Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic are both top-seeded here, but both have struggled in recent times. While Djokovic suffered an early loss at Wimbledon, Williams, who matched Steffi Graf’s 22 Grand Slam title record with a title win at the Championships, has been dealing with a shoulder injury since. 

Tough for Serena

The American World No. 1, who last year finished in the semi-finals of the tournament, represented Team USA in the women’s singles and doubles at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the latter with regular partner and older sister Venus. 

Although the 34-year-old and her sister had a first-round exit in the doubles, Serena progressed until Round 3 of the women’s singles before a loss to Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina. Obviously struggling with a shoulder injury, the younger Williams sister chose to sit out the Cincinnati Masters. 

Williams will face Russian Ekaterina Makarova in Round 1. 36th -ranked Makarova will not be an easy opponent for the American, although she has a significant lead over the 28-year-old in the rankings. Of the pair’s 5 matches against each other in the past, Williams has come out on top four times. The last match they played each other was at the US Open in 2014, with Serena beating Makarova in dominant fashion, 6-1, 6-3.

It will be the third US Open outing for the pair, with Williams winning in straight sets each time they have met here. This one should be with Williams, who now needs to, at a bare minimum, make the quarter-finals if she is to retain her No. 1 crown. 

World No. 2 Angelique Kerber is hot on the heels of her American rival, whom she trumped at the Australian Open earlier this year; the German, who recently made the finals of the Western and Southern Open, is up against Polona Hercog of Slovenia in Round 1. Kerber only just edges out Hercog in the pair’s head-to-head, with the pair’s 5-match rivalry currently poised at 3 victories to Kerber, and two to Hercog; the Slovenian has beat the German on both hard and clay courts, but Kerber, with more hard court wins, and excellent form, should not have too much trouble here. 

Who are the top men’s seeds playing?

Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic has a fairly easier opening draw. The Serb, like his female No. 1 counterpart, has been struggling with injury and fatigue after a strong start to the year. Winning his maiden French Open this year with a win over Andy Murray, Djokovic has seen some patchy bits of form, and was ousted in a shock first round upset by a resurgent Juan Martin del Potro.

That came on the heels of an early Wimbledon exit for the 2015 defending champion, and Djokovic was unable to defend his title as Murray excelled. Following a short break after the Olympics – with Djokovic also choosing to sit out at Cincinnati, the Serb, who is also the defending champion at the US Open, will kick off with a match against Polish player Jerzy Janowicz.

Janowicz is at 228th on the singles rankings – however, the US Open juniors winner has pulled off mammoth upsets – including over Andy Murray and one-time top-10 Janko Tipsarevic in the prime of their form. A former top-20 player, Janowicz’s struggles with injury have seen him drop significantly in the rankings. That said, the 25-year-old is a talented player and perhaps cannot be written off entirely. Going by current form, Djokovic should be able to cruise through his first round. This will be the first meeting on the professional circuit for the pair. 

He is in the first quarter. 

Andy Murray, World No. 2, is fresh off his second Olympic gold in a row, a medal that came quickly on the heels of his second Wimbledon title and third Grand Slam overall. The Scot, who has described himself as being in the “...form of my life,” has played with unprecedented strength and incredible consistency in the 2016 season. He will be up against Czech Lukas Rosol in the first round. 

This one, on the back of Murray’s sublime form alone, goes to the Scot. That said, he has yet to beat Rosol in straight sets. The 82nd ranked Czech has taken a set off Murray each time the two have met, complicating matters for him; Murray was also taxed by Fabio Fognini at the Olympics, so holding his cool will be something he will want to focus on here. The  2nd ranked Scot should not have much of an issue progressing through the tournament.

Murray is in the fourth quarter. 

Rafael Nadal, seeded fourth, will be in the second quarter, and plays his first round match against Uzbek player Denis Istomin. The Spanish former World No. 1 has had a good run this year, although it has seen injury-related interruptions on a few occasions. After winning his 9th titles at Barcelona and Monte Carlo, Nadal saw his goal of a 10th French Open title dashed as he withdrew with injury – an injury that would also necessitate him sitting out Wimbledon. 

Following this, however, he had a strong showing at the Rio Olympics, eventually beaten by Juan Martin Del Potro in the semi-finals; he would lose in the bronze medal match to Kei Nishikori, but won gold in the medal’s doubles with Marc Lopez. He has been positive coming into the open and for now does not appear to be suffering from, or struggling with, any injury. 

Nadal leads Istomin 4-0 in the pair’s head-to-head, with the advantage resting firmly with the Spaniard here. 

Roger Federer continues to be conspicuous by his absence; the Swiss will only return to tennis in 2017, after having announced a sabbatical from the sport last month. 

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