By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
2018’s final major on the ATP Tour begins Monday. Defending champ Rafael Nadal is the No. 1 seed as he seeks his 18th grand slam. Who will claim tennis’ last major of the year? After a wild summer here’s an attempt to select who will be the last player standing at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal’s quarter has some firepower, but several of the higher seeds in his portion of the draw are players who haven’t matched up well against him. Should he advance to the quarter, Nadal would likely see fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson, who’s played the best tennis of his career over the past 12 months, but hasn’t been competitive in the two slam finals he’s made, including last year in New York. American Jack Sock is the No. 18 seed, but he’s lost in the first round of each major so far this year. No. 9 Dominic Thiem could meet Anderson in the fourth round for the right to face Nadal, but Thiem has yet to show success in grand slams outside of the French Open.
Juan Martin del Potro has the No. 3 seed and the quarter next to Nadal’s. The US Open is his lone major win back in 2009, but he made the semis last year and the quarters in 2016. When his wrist isn’t bothering him his forehand is arguably the most lethal on the tour. His quarter is loaded with talent though. Former US Open champ Stan Wawrinka plays No. 8 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the first round. That portion of the draw also includes 11-seed John Isner, No. 25 Milos Raonic, and rising stars No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 20 Borna Coric. Not to mention Former world No. 1 Andy Murray returns to grand slam play for the first time in over a year after a serious hip injury. He could face Delpo in the third round. Del Potro’s path to the semifinals won’t be an easy one. It doesn’t get any easier if Nadal is waiting for him in the last four.
Alex Zverev is the top seed in the third quarter as he holds the No. 4 seed. His draw is filled with players who could make a deep run, but is still wide open. Marin Cilic is the next highest seeded player at No. 7, but his slam results have been odd. Over the past couple of years the 2014 US Open champ either makes a run to the quarters or bombs out way early. No. 10 David Goffin and No. 13 Diego Schwartzman also sit in that portion of the draw with the latter coming off a quarterfinal showing in New York last year. No. 21 Kei Nishikori could potentially meet Zverev in the round of 16, but the 2014 runner-up’s results this year would suggest Nishikori hasn’t fully recovered from the wrist injury that sidelined him for most of 2017. Keep an eye our for the Frenchman Gael Monfils, who enters this tournament unseeded, but can play exceptional tennis when he’s on his game. He made the semifinals in Flushing Meadows in 2016.
Finally we have the draw everyone will be watching the most. Roger Federer is the No. 2 seed with Novak Djokovic sitting at the opposite side of the quarter as the No. 6 seed. The two seem destined to meet in the quarterfinals. The rest of the draw isn’t too shabby. Federer could see the talented, but controversial Nick Kyrgios in the third round. No. 14 Fabio Fognini or No. 23 Hyeon Chung could see Fed in the fourth round. Djokovic’s path seems a bit easier to the quarters. He could face the 26-seed Richard Gasquet in the third round and possibly No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta in the round of 16, who made the semis in New York a year ago. Former Tennessee All-American Tennys Sandgren could face Nole in the second round, too.
Quarterfinals: Nadal d. Anderson, Tsitsipas d. Dimitrov, Cilic d. Schwartzman, Federer d. Djokovic.
Semifinals: Nadal d. Tsitsipas, Federer d. Cilic.
Winner: Nadal and Federer finally meet in the finals at the US Open (the only major where this hasn’t happened) with Federer winning in Flushing Meadows for the first time in a decade. Federer wins in four.