US Open Men's Draw Analysis
US Open Men's Draw Analysis

It would be a shock if the US Open title went to anyone other than defending champion Novak Djokovic, three-time champion Rafael Nadal or five-time champion Roger Federer. Nadal, who last won the title in 2017, will be pleased with his half of the draw, as he will avoid facing Djokovic or Federer until the final. Djokovic and Federer will have to go through each other to reach the final, and No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem should struggle defending his his top-4 billing. 

Here's a breakdown of each quarter of the draw with interesting Round 1 matches and dark horses to keep an eye on. 

Djokovic's Quarter

Though Djokovic is the heavy favorite to go back-to-back this year in New York, his draw looks tricky. His first test could come in Round 2 when he faces American Sam Querrey, who has beaten him twice previously. One of the Serbian's previous losses to Querrey came at a major, Wimbledon in 2016, but he does hold a 9-2 record against Querrey, including a recent win in Cincinnati. Djokovic could face the likes of No. 16 seed and former US Open finalist Kevin Anderson (knee) in Round 4, but that seems unlikely given the South African's recent injury woes. He could also take on Stan Wawrinka in Round 4, who he is 19-5 against in his career, but he lost their most recent matchup, which came in the 2016 US Open final. In the quarterfinals, a matchup with No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev looms large. Medvedev has defeated Djokovic twice already this year, including once recently in Cincinnati.

Interesting Round 1 Matchups

No. 11 seed Fabio Fognini vs. Reilly Opelka

This matchup has upset potential written all over it. Fognini went just 3-2 in the summer hard-court swing, and the big-serving young American, a winner of his first title earlier this year, will be fired up and enjoying the home crowds in New York.

No. 26 seed Taylor Fritz vs. Feliciano Lopez

Fritz reached back-to-back finals to start his summer hard-court swing, and though he lost each, and comes into the year's final major on a three-match losing skid, he'll still be hoping to reach his first ever Round 3 at the US Open. To do so, he'll have to start by defeating veteran Feliciano Lopez, who has struggled this year other than a shocking title run at Queen's. Lopez won their only previous matchup back in 2015, and has a good history in New York, which includes a 2015 quarterfinal run.

Federer's Quarter

Federer, coming off a disappointing loss to Andrey Rublev in Cincinnati, will be looking to rebound in Flushing Meadows this year after he got surprisingly bounced out in the fourth round last year by John Millman. He's the definitive favorite in his quarter of the draw, with the main threats being No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori (8-3 record against), No. 12 seed Borna Coric (4-2 record against) and No. 15 seed David Goffin (8-1 record against). Of those players, Nishikori is the biggest threat, considering he's a former finalist. But both Nishikori, who has lost three straight matches, and Coric, 1-4 across his last five matches, have not been in great form lately.

Interesting Round 1 Matchup

No. 19 seed Guido Pella vs. Pablo Carreno Busta

This matchup has the potential to be a grinding five-setter, with Pella in the midst of the best season of his career, and Carreno Busta being a former US Open semifinalist in 2017. The two have met once previously, with Carreno Busta winning in Vienna in 2017. Since Pella's best-ever result, a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon, he went 5-3 during the summer hard-court swing.

Dark Horse: Alex de Minaur

De Minaur started the summer hard-court swing in perfect fashion in Atlanta when he captured the second title of his career. The 20-year-old Australian could play spoiler in his section if he gets hot. A quarterfinal run isn't completely out of the question as highly-seeded players in his section of the draw, such as Nishikori and Coric, haven't played well recently.

Thiem's Quarter

This is the most open quarter of the draw, as it is the one that contains no member of the Big 3. No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem is the favorite to reach the semifinals, even though he has never reached the semis of a major outside of the French Open. Last year he lost a five-set quarterfinal epic against Rafael Nadal at the US Open, so he should come into the event with confidence. Tsitsipas, who reached the semifinals of the other hard-court major this year in Australia, could certainly make a deep run, but he comes into the tournament on a three-match losing streak, and he has a tricky draw, as he would have to defeat Andrey Rublev, Gilles Simon, Nick Kyrgios and Roberto Bautista Agut just to reach the quarterfinals.

Interesting Round 1 Matchups

No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Andrey Rublev

The battle of 21-year-olds should be interesting, as they have yet to face each other at tour-level. Tsitsipas comes into the encounter as the much more accomplished of the two, but Rublev has been hot lately, and just defeated Federer in Cincinnati. The No. 8 seed from Greece is the solid favorite in this matchup, but he certainly could have drawn an easier Round 1 foe.

No. 18 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Denis Shapovalov

It's a repeat of last year's US Open Round 1, as the two Canadians will square off for their third-career meeting. Last year, Shapovalov won their US Open encounter after Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire. But this year, Auger-Aliassime has been the much more consistent player, and defeated Shapovalov in their only 2019 encounter. The 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime will be favored against his 20-year-old counterpart, but it should be interesting to watch these two talented youngsters square off.

No. 24 seed Matteo Berrettini vs. Richard Gasquet

Berrettini, who just had his best-ever major result when he reached the fourth round of Wimbledon, already has two titles on the year, but he drew a tough Round 1 matchup against the veteran Frenchman. Gasquet previously reached the semifinals at Flushing Meadows in 2013, and is coming off a semifinal showing in Cincinnati. The two have never played but Berrettini only played one summer hard-court tournament after Wimbledon, in which he lost in the first round of Cincinnati.

Nadal's Quarter

Nadal is the massive favorite in this bottom quarter of the draw. He's coming off a title in Montreal, and other players in his draw, such as No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev, No. 14 seed John Isner and No. 22 seed Marin Cilic, have been struggling of late. In the quarters, the Spaniard could get a rematch of his Round 3 affair with Karen Khachanov at the 2018 US Open, which was a tough four-set win.

Interesting Round 1 Matchup

Ivo Karlovic vs. Frances Tiafoe

It's never pleasing to see the big-serving Karlovic in your draw, as his matches often revolve around tiebreaks, but the young American should be able to get past the 40-year-old, who is nearly twice his age. Assuming Tiafoe is able to get through his first-ever meeting with the Croatian, he could make a decent run in his section, as a potential matchup with Zverev in Round 2 doesn't look incredibly challenging given the way the German has played lately.

Dark Horse: Jan-Lennard Struff

Struff has been quite solid in 2019 with a record of 28-20 and numerous top-10 wins, which includes a recent win in Cincinnati over Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 29-year-old reached a career-best third round at the US Open in 2018, and he could realistically at least match that effort this year. He's 0-3 against potential Round 2 opponent John Isner, but the American went an uncharacteristically average 3-4 during the summer hard-court swing, so he's not at his best right now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zak Patterson
Zak joined RotoWire in 2016 covering NBA games. Now, he focuses on recapping and analyzing daily ATP and WTA tennis matches, and providing perspective on the state of the men's and women's game.
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