The final slam of the year begins on Monday with the Big Four all set to compete at a slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2017. Andy Murray enters with his protected ranking while the other three are seeded within the top 6. The World No.1 ranking is at stake in this tournament but Roger Federer must win the tournament while hoping that Rafael Nadal is ousted before the semi finals.
Full draw here: US Open Men’s 2018 Draw
Check out the women’s draw analysis here: US Open Women’s Draw Preview
The likelihood of that happening seems low assuming Nadal is fully fit, with the top half of the draw looking very favourable for the top seed. He opens against his fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who has been plummeting down the rankings and now finds himself outside the top 100. 27th seed and potential third round opponent Karen Khachanov lost in straight sets to Nadal in the Canada semi finals while another seed is in even worse form than Ferrer. Jack Sock is in the midst of a 7 match losing streak and is primed for a major drop in the rankings come the end of the season should he not defend his Paris Masters title. Kyle Edmund is yet to play the Nadal but seems the most likely of those in the first four rounds to give him trouble.
There will be no rematch of last year’s final with Kevin Anderson placed in the top quarter as fifth seed. The Wimbledon final suggests his run of form over the past year has been no fluke although the quality gap showed in both that final and the US Open one. Top youngsters Andrey Rublev and one of the Canadian duo of Felix Auger-Aliassime/Denis Shapovalov will possibly get to test their abilities against South African during the first three rounds of the tournament. Anderson will remain the favourite but it would be a statement win for the trio. Rublev is due a fall in the rankings if he fails to defend his quarter final points. Dominic Thiem is the other top seed in this quarter and will be hoping to better his career best of the fourth round here. Thiem is 1-6 against Anderson but did finally get a win on clay this year.
The biggest obstacle for Nadal in making the finals looks to be Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentinian has proven he can beat the World No.1 before and is now going deep more consistently at slams with three quarter finals or better in the past year. One of them was a semi final here where he lost in four sets to Nadal. A third round with a very rusty Andy Murray is on the cards, one that Del Potro would be a heavy favourite to win unless something has changed dramatically with the Scot. The potential round four clash with Del Potro and one of Borna Coric and Stefanos Tsitsipas does a lot to excite too. The latter beat four top 10 players on his way to the final in Canada before finally losing to Rafael Nadal in straight sets. Coric has faded over the last few months but does have wins over Zverev and Federer this year.
Home hope John Isner will have increased expectations coming into the tournament this year after making his first slam semi final at Wimbledon. The final set tiebreak format favours him and should ensure he isn’t dragged into the type of match he lost against Kevin Anderson. A rematch with Milos Raonic is a possibility in round four, especially when it is difficult to rely on Grigor Dimitrov living up to his seed in recent years. Since his breakout semi final at 2014 Wimbledon, he has got there again just once and made the quarter finals just one additional time. Dimitrov will play Stanislas Wawrinka in his opener. The Swiss gave Roger Federer an almighty test in Cincinnati before finally losing in three sets, suggesting he is getting closer to his previous level.
Alexander Zverev‘s troubles at slams have been a recurring theme over the past two seasons, even as he has been winning numerous titles in best of three events. He finally broke his quarter final duck in Paris but not before winning three 5 setters in a row. He should be overwhelming favourite to make the quarter finals again with few opponents looking too difficult on paper. Seeds Filip Krajinovic and Diego Schwartzman should be routine wins for him on a hard court while he has a win over the other in three sets at Washington just last month – Kei Nishikori. Nishikori did not compete last year but made the semi finals in 2016. Zverev is now working with Ivan Lendl, something that may get him over the line when it comes to winning mentality at the grand slams.
Having suggested he would now consistently go deep at grand slams with two more finals in his pocket, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic suffered a major shock in losing early at Wimbledon. He will want to bounce back from that in New York and does have the draw to certainly make at least the quarter finals with little trouble. He plays Marius Copil and then a qualifier while Adrian Mannarino has to be one of the weaker seeds in the draw at No.29. Marco Cecchinato‘s talents are clearly more suited for clay while David Goffin is clearly beatable. Cilic is only 2-3 against the Belgian although he has won the last two matches, albeit on clay and indoor hard.
Despite being No.2 seed, the bookmakers do not have Roger Federer in the top two in the betting for the event – instead placing him as third favourite. Some of that will be up to the draw, which has a number of tough opponents that could trouble him early on. A motivated Nick Kyrgios has given the Swiss difficulty in the past but it remains impossible to predict what you will get from the Australian at any given tournament. Meanwhile, Hyeon Chung at the 23 seed could await in round four. The Korean has played Federer twice already this year, the first of which was interrupted by injury at the Australian Open. The second was a straight sets win for the No.2 at Indian Wells.
Richard Gasquet and Pablo Carreno Busta will be amongst those hoping to have an early crack at Novak Djokovic in the draw. Having won Wimbledon, his woes are perceived to be over and he is now the favourite to win this event and earn his fourteenth grand slam title. A loss to Tsitsipas in Canada was soon overlooked after Djokovic won Cincinnati, beating Roger Federer in the final to complete the set of Masters 1000 titles. The Serbian played at an insane level during his dominant periods on the tour and is a welcome addition back to the top level of tennis. With regards to his draw, it’s one that he should be confident of easing through before the expected quarter final with Federer. That would be their 47th meeting with Djokovic currently edging the head to head 24-22.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic def. Rafael Nadal in the final