It seems like the Australian Open, the year’s first major was only a month ago or that Wimbledon had finished a few days ago but here we are at the threshold of the year’s last major. The US Open is about the start.
Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka go in as the top seeds and defending champions. It is nothing new for the Serb but for the Japanese star it is something new; she has never before defended a major title. That is a different ball game and no doubt memories of that controversial final against Serena Williams will come flooding back when she walks on court for her first match against Anna Blinkova.
The potential for a repeat of last year’s final is there because Miss Williams is in the bottom half of the draw. One thing is for sure, Carlos Ramos who chaired that crazy final and situation a year ago will not be overseeing any match Miss Williams plays at the Open; a decision that, although not unique, has raised concern. Is the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog?
But what a blockbuster opening match Miss Williams has taking on her arch opposition Maria Sharapova who has beaten the American only twice, the last time so long ago that it’s tough to remember. They should have played at the 2018 French Open but Miss Williams withdrew and the last time they actually played was the 2016 Australian Open final.
In the top half with Miss Osaka are Belinda Bencic who should likely be her first test, Kiki Bertens, Simona Halep, Bianca (Bibi) Andreescu and Petra Kvitova.
The bottom half of the draw is led by the ever delightful, incredibly popular and all-round super person Ash Barty, the Roland Garros champion. She missed getting the No.1 ranking back by one match – had she beaten Svetlana Kuznetsova in Cincinnati she would be top seed. Miss Barty starts against Zarina Diyas, not easy but should advance. She also has Lauren Davis and Maria Sakkari and a potential quarterfinal against Miss Williams.
That half of the draw also has Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys.
With the men’s draw, Mr. Djokovic opens against Roberto Caballes Baena. The form player of men’s tennis Daniil Medvedev, the fifth seed is in line to meet Novak in the quarters with Roger Federer in the semis for either of them. A Djokovic-Medvedev match-up would be a second in as many events for them with the Russian winning the last time.
Floating in the half are David Goffin, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka.
On the other side, Rafa Nadal leads the pack and he will start against John Millman. It’s such a tough call for the likable Aussie who last year stunned Roger Federer in the fourth round on an oppressively humid night. Can he stun another living legend? After winning Canada, Rafa took time off to recharge.
In the bottom half are Stefanos Tsitsipas who starts against Andrey Rublev which could be one of the best matches of the early rounds – Rublev coming off a huge win over Mr Federer in Cincinnati. Another first round with fascination sees the all-Canada match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, they played last year in the first round and Auger-Aliassime retired in the match. Auger-Aliassime is a magnet for compatriots, he played another Canadian in the Wimbledon first round.
Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, who remains out of sorts with his tennis, Karen Khachanov and John Isner are in the bottom half as is Nick Kyrgios who is in the pocket with Tsitsipas.
CRYSTAL BALL UPSETS
Alison Riske to beat 24. Garbine Muguruza
Wang Yafan to beat 19. Caroline Wozniacki
Victoria Azarenka to beat 9. Aryna Sabalenka
Kristina Mladenovic to beat 14. Angie Kerber
Radu Albot to upset 6. Alexander Zverev
Martin Klizan to upset 22. Marin Cilic
Reilly Opelka to upset 11. Fabio Fognini
Nicolas Jarry to upset 21. Milos Raonic