Reem Abulleil takes a closer look at the US Open men's draw.
NEW YORK — Roger Federer predicts that this year’s US Open will be “epic” and the draw, which was conducted privately on Thursday morning and revealed to the public later in the afternoon, certainly indicates that the Swiss’ prophecy might come true.
Defending champions Rafael Nadal and Sloane Stephens joined ESPN’s Chris Fowler and Tracy Austin, who was a champion in New York in 1979 and 1981, at the draw unveiling and the Spanish top seed says he’s well-rested and ready to go after skipping Cincinnati last week.
“Rafa’s going to win the tournament,” said Stephens when asked who she thought was the US Open favourite.
Here are the things learned from the 2018 US Open men’s draw.
DJOKOVIC LANDS IN FEDERER’S QUARTER
Seeded No. 6 this upcoming fortnight, two-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic fell in Roger Federer’s quarter of the draw. A blockbuster quarter-final between the pair would be a rematch of their Cincinnati final last week, where Djokovic beat Federer in two sets to become the first-ever player to win each of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments at least once.
Federer won the US Open five years in a row between 2004 and 2008 but he hasn’t lifted the trophy here since, while Djokovic hasn’t triumphed in New York since 2015.
They’ve both won Grand Slams this season though – Federer in Melbourne and Djokovic at Wimbledon – and are two of the main contenders for the title.
The Federer and Djokovic rivalry has a long history at the US Open, where they’ve faced off six times. Djokovic defeated the Swiss on his way to both titles won in New York while Federer topped the Serb in 2007 in what was Djokovic’s first Grand Slam final. They are 3-3 head-to-head at the tournament.
NO MERCY FOR ANDY
2012 champion Andy Murray is unseeded and is back at the US Open – using a protected ranking – for the first time in two years, having skipped last year’s event with a hip injury, that later required surgery in January.
Ranked 378 in the world and just seven matches into his comeback, Murray was handed a tough path as he opens against Australia’s James Duckworth before a possible second round against either Feliciano Lopez or Fernando Verdasco, and then No. 3 seed Juan Martin del Potro potentially awaits in the third round. Looks like it’s going to be far from a smooth ride for Murray.
Others in that quarter of the draw include Stefanos Tsitsipas, Borna Coric, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov.
DEJA VU FOR STAN AND GRIGOR
Speaking of Wawrinka and Dimitrov, the duo will square off in the first round for a second consecutive major after the former upset the latter in their Wimbledon opener last month. Wawrinka, up to 101 in the world and playing the US Open courtesy of a wildcard, won the tournament in 2016 and is finally finding his form after double-knee surgery kept him out of the game for six months last year, and three more months this season.
The Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion made the quarters in Cincinnati last week, where he lost a tight three-setter to Federer and has defeated the likes of Kei Nishikori, Diego Schwartzman and Nick Kyrgios in the last three weeks.
Dimitrov on the other hand showed some rise in form in Toronto (lost to Nadal) and Cincinnati (lost to Djokovic) but will be far from pleased with yet another brutal Slam draw.
LAND MINES FOR FEDERER
Before Federer even thinks of reaching the quarter-finals and possibly meeting Djokovic, he might have to take out unorthodox Frenchman Benoit Paire in the second round and Kyrgios in the third. Chung Hyeon or Fabio Fognini potentially await in round four.
Federer is 2-1 against Kyrgios and eight of the nine sets they’ve played against each other have gone to tiebreaks. Definitely a third round to look out for.
FERRER’S FANCY FAREWELL
David Ferrer told Spanish press last month that he will play the US Open like it’s his last Slam, even though he hasn’t made any official announcements regarding his retirement, which is expected to take place next year in either Barcelona or Madrid.
If it is indeed his last major, then his first round against Nadal is probably a great opportunity for Ferrer to bow out from Grand Slam tennis with one last epic battle with a long-time rival, friend and team-mate like Nadal. They’re already preparing Arthur Ashe stadium for this one.
Armed with a new coach in Ivan Lendl, and searching for a first Grand Slam semi-final, the fourth-seeded Zverev was handed a very manageable draw before a possible tricky quarter-final against Marin Cilic. The young German has got Nishikori and Schwartzman in his section but has avoided the likes of Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem and Tsitsipas.
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS (BY SEED)
Rafael Nadal  v Kevin Anderson 
Juan Martin del Potro  v Grigor Dimitrov 
Marin Cilic  v Alexander Zverev 
Novak Djokovic  v Roger Federer