If we have learned one thing when it comes to Grand Slam's this season, it is to expect the unexpected. Though the waters tend to smooth out towards the end, the journey has often been tumultuous.
Now, on the eve of the final Major of the year, what should we expect from New York? Here are a few highlights that jump out at me.
Federer a 7 Seed?
What? This just looks like a typo, but it is an actuality. When Federer starts to see his seeding drop, his odds of winning another Grand Slam drop as well. Although, I still believe he has some solid tennis in front of him, his path will be much more difficult.
Federer could actually see rival and 2 seed, Rafa Nadal as early as the quarterfinals this year. There are a couple dangerous players in his path to Nadal, however. Sam Querrey and Kei Nishikori or Tommy Robredo could have something to say in whether Fed has an opportunity to face Nadal.
Good Draw for Number 1
You have to like Novak Djokovic's path to the quarterfinals. He does get an up and comer in Ricardas Berankis in the first round. But, a couple of players who could cause some problems might be 24th seed Benoit Paire and unseeded Jarkko Nieminen. Both have played well, of late. But with 16th seeded Fabio Fognini, a clay court specialist in his portion of the bracket, it looks to be smooth sailing for the top player in the world.
Can Berdych crash the Party?
Tomas Berdych had a great run in last year's U.S. Open bumping out Roger Federer in the quarterfinals and pushing Andy Murray in the semifinals. This year he enters the tournament as a 5 seed. He did withdraw from the Winston-Salem Open due to shoulder pain, but expects to be ready for New York. On paper, 9th seeded Stan Wawrinka would be his toughest test in route to the quarters. If you are looking for an upset special in this portion of the bracket, I would suggest James Blake. Despite his age, Blake is dangerous and has played well this summer. The New York crowd loves him and he has fed off of them in past years. It would not be that far fetched for Blake to give Wawrinka all he can handle if the two match up in the second round. But, if everything goes chalk, we could see a Berdych-Murray rematch in the quarterfinals.
Gasquet section up for Grabs
Richard Gasquet is the 8 seed. But the Frenchman has not exactly overly impressed in the two hard court tourneys he played before the Open, most recently losing to John Isner in the round of 32 in Cincinnati. Both Milos Raonic and Dmitry Tursunov could cause problems in Gasquet's portion of the draw. Both have had solid summers. Gasquet gets scrappy, American veteran Michael Russell first up in New York.
Can Ferrer Hold Up?
David Ferrer is one of a number of players nursing injuries coming into the U.S. Open. His section of the draw is primed for an upset. Jerzy Janowicz has to be licking his chops looking at this portion. He would likely see a slumping Janko Tipsarevic before possibly facing Ferrer. Another player liking his chances in this portion is a hot Ernests Gulbis. If Ferrer is not healthy, there is a good bet that either Janowicz or Gulbis makes the quarters.
Nadal, the favorite?
The popular favorite to win the Open this year is Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard has had an extraordinary summer. He draws fiery American Ryan Harrison first but could see John Isner in the round of 32. Isner withdrew from the Winston-Salem Open due to an injury but has had an outstanding summer on the hard courts. If Isner and Nadal meet, it would be a rematch of the Cincinnati Masters Final just a little over a week ago. Another player to keep your eye on would be Fernando Verdasco. He certainly knows Nadal well and has played well recently. If you are looking for an upset in this portion of the draw, I like his chances or possibly Philipp Kohlschreiber, who had some success in New York last year defeating Isner on his way to the round of 16.
Out of the top 4 seeds, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are in the same half of the bracket, while Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer are in the same half.
Pencil in Williams and Azarenka?
Now that Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the U.S. Open, is the Women's Draw a two horse race? Most likely. It is a safe bet that one of those two will be the Women's Champion in two weeks. Who, if anyone can cause waves the next two weeks? Here are a few who could upset the big apple cart:
The Serena protege' did not play particularly well in New Haven last week, but it has been in the majors where she has excelled. She could face her friend and mentor as early as the round of 32. Stephens did make it to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon where she fell to eventual Champion, Maria Bartoli.
Possibly more importantly, she has defeated Serena Williams this year, as recent as the Australian Open, albeit Serena was not 100 percent.
Stephens is a fan favorite in New York and will have her share of support moving through the bracket.
The 31 year old from China has played Serena Williams twice and Azarenka once. She has not defeated either but has been competitive. She is in Williams side of the bracket and would only meet her in the semifinals. She most recently met Williams in the semifinals of Cincinnati and fell 7-5, 7-5. If she is fortunate enough to see Azarenka, it would be in the Finals and would be a rematch of the Australian Open where she lost in three sets after winning the first. She is tough minded and has the mental wherewithal to line up toe to toe with either and take their best shot while giving hers.
You can never count Stosur out against any opponent, she is a fighter. The Australian is in Azarenka's side of the bracket and defeated her the last time the two met, the final at Carlsbad. The two met earlier in the year when Azarenka won a three setter in Rome on Clay. Stosur has not met Williams this year but much like Na Li, she is mentally sound and is not typically intimidated. You have to give her a fighter's chance against anyone.
If things go the way the seeds indicate and Williams meets Azarenka, the native of Belarus just recently defeated Williams in Cincinnati and comes into the tournament with a lot of confidence. She was victorious against Williams in Doha this year as well. However, Serena came out the winner against Azarenka in Brisbane and Rome. If it plays out with these two facing off for the title, it should be another classic battle between the two rivals.