WASHINGTON, August 22, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Six different champions have lifted the United States Open men’s singles trophy over the past decade – arguably the most diverse list of winners of any of the Grand Slams. Remember, in addition to the obvious champions – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have each won the US Open three times during this time period – it also includes Juan Martín del Potro (2009) and Andy Murray (2012), neither whom is entered this year, as well as long shots Marin Cilic (2014) and Stan Wawrinka (2016). Then, of course, there’s Roger Federer, now 38, who won a record five consecutive US Open titles from 2004-08, but hasn’t lifted the trophy since despite reaching two additional finals (2009, 2015).
Overall, there are nine former US Open champions who are seeded at this year’s tournament. Among them are defending champion Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Cilic and Wawrinka on the men’s side and defending champion Naomi Osaka, six-time champion Serena Williams (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-14), Sloane Stephens (2017) and Angelique Kerber (2016) among the women.
Defending champion and World No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Nadal are back in the mix – Djokovic won Wimbledon and Nadal recently won the Rogers Cup – and they are the top two men’s seeds at the 2019 US Open, which begins its 51st edition on Monday. They are followed by No. 3 Federer, No. 4 Dominic Thiem, and newly-anointed No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, 23, who has been the hottest hard-court player during this month’s North American swing – thanks to reaching three straight finals and knocking off Djokovic during the Cincinnati Masters semifinals last weekend en route to winning his first Masters 1000 title – and comes into the last Grand Slam of the year prime and ready to challenge the old guard.
When this year’s US Open draw was revealed Thursday afternoon at the Fan Week Center Stage near Arthur Ashe Stadium, featuring appearances by both defending champions, Djokovic and Osaka, among the biggest reveals centered around which halves of the men’s draw (No. 1 seed Djokovic at the top half and No. 2 seed Nadal in the lower half) would Federer and Thiem be drawn, and who would have easiest or most difficult path to adding another Grand Slam championship to their C.V. Remember, the Big Three has won the past 11 majors and share a total of 54 Grand Slams. So, in a way, it’s the Big Three against the rest of the field.
During a respite from his Wednesday afternoon practice inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, Nadal was asked by ESPN’s Pam Shriver how he assesses the field for this year’s US Open. He said: “It’s hard to say before the tournament. Let’s see how the draw goes, how we are playing at the beginning of the tournament, and then you can have a better idea about what can happen. It’s difficult to say now.” Then, he was asked if he likes to know right away about his draw, if he cares when he finds out who he plays, or has any superstitions. Nadal smiled as Shriver asked him, then said, “No, no superstitions. I like to know the draw, of course. I am not the kind of person who doesn’t want to know the draw. You will know the draw at some point. I don’t care.”
As it happened, the two-time champion (2011, 2015) Djokovic and Federer are both in the top half of the draw and it sets up a potential semifinal showdown. Djokovic will play 76th-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena in the opening round and could oppose either former champion and 23rd seed Wawrinka or 2017 finalist and 16th seed Kevin Anderson in the fourth round. Then, how about a quarterfinal matchup with fifth seed Medvedev, who has beaten Djokovic twice the year.
Federer will play a qualifier in the first round and could face 15th seed David Goffin in the fourth round. He’s seeded to face former finalist and seventh seed Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals. Of the Big Three, he likely has the easiest path in the early going.
After a Thursday morning workout, Federer told ESPN he doesn’t watch the draws. “I don’t like it, I’d rather just get through it and see where I fall. Players getting through to the quarters or the semis, that’s really for you guys to debate. My focus really lies int he first couple of rounds.”
As for the three-time (2010, 2013, 2017) champion Nadal, he begins against 61st-ranked John Millman, who a year ago knocked off Federer in the fourth round. Then, he could face 203rd-ranked wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round, 32nd seed Fernando Verdasco in the third round and either 14th seed John Isner or former champion and 22nd seed Cilic in the fourth round.
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) August 22, 2019
Meanwhile, with No. 1 seed Osaka and No. 2 seed Ashleigh Barty bookending the women’s draw – with Osaka facing 93rd-ranked Anna Blinkova and Barty slotted against 77th-ranked Zarina Diyas – many eyes were focused on where 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams wound land, and asked: Does she realistically have a chance at finally tying Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles? Much to everyone’s surprise, the No. 8 seed Williams was placed in the lower half and drawn against 87th-ranked Maria Sharapova. It’s the only Grand Slam tournament where they’ve never met. Williams leads their head-to-head 19-2 and has won 18 consecutive matches. This is their first matchup anywhere since 2016.
Should Serena win, she could face either 88th-ranked Timea Bacsinszky or American junior standout and 121st-ranked wild card Catherine McNally in the second round, 29th seed Hsieh Su-Wei in the third round, 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth round, Barty in the quarterfinals and either No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova, No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina, No. 10 seed Madison Keys or No. 20 seed Sofia Kenin in the semifinals. A rematch of last year’s controversial final matching Williams against Osaka could happen.
Osaka’s possible route to the final could include American teen sensation and 141st-ranked wild card Coco Gauff in the third round, No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic in the fourth round, No. 7 seed Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals and any one of four seeds in the semifinals: No. 4 Simona Halep, No. 15 Bianca Andreescu, No. 6 Petra Kvitova or No. 11 Stephens.
During the draw ceremony, Osaka was asked about the knee injury she sustained last week at the Western & Southern Open that forced her to retire from her quarterfinal match against Kenin. She said, “It’s getting better. I would say I’m a fast healer, so I’m banking on that.
“I’m here and I feel as healthy as I can be.”
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) August 22, 2019
As befitting any Grand Slam, in which both the men’s and women’s draws have 128 players and share equal prize money, there are many interesting and intriguing first round matches that will be played on Monday and Tuesday around the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. In addition to the Williams-Sharapova showdown, they include:
• No. 18 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Denis Shapovalov
• No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Andrey Rublev
• No. 11 seed Fabio Fognini vs. Reilly Opelka
• No. 16 Johanna Konta vs. Daria Kasatkina
• No. 14 Angelique Kerber vs. Kristina Mladenovic
• No. 9 seed Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka
2019 U.S. Open men’s singles seeds
1. Novak Djokovic, Serbia
2. Rafael Nadal, Spain
3. Roger Federer, Switzerland
4. Dominic Thiem, Austria
5. Daniil Medvedev, Russia
6. Alexander Zverev, Germany
7. Kei Nishikori, Japan
8. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greece
9. Karen Khachanov, Russia
10. Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain
11. Fabio Fognini, Italy
12. Borna Coric, Croatia
13. Gaël Monfils, France
14. John Isner, United States
15. David Goffin, Belgium
16. Kevin Anderson, South Africa
17. Nikoloz Basilashvili, Georgia
18. Felix Auger-Aliassime, Canada
19. Guido Pella, Argentina
20. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina
21. Milos Raonic, Canada
22. Marin Cilic, Croatia
23. Stan Wawrinka, Switzerland
24. Matteo Berrettini, Italy
25. Lucas Pouille, France
26. Taylor Fritz, United States
27. Dusan Lajovic, Serbia
28. Nick Kyrgios, Australia
29. Benoit Paire, France
30. Kyle Edmund, Great Britain
31. Cristian Garin, Chile
32. Fernando Verdasco, Spain
2019 U.S. Open women’s singles seeds
1. Naomi Osaka, Japan
2. Ashleigh Barty, Australia
3. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic
4. Simona Halep, Romania
5. Elina Svitolina, Ukraine
6. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
7. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands
8. Serena Williams, United States
9. Aryna Sabalenka, Belarus
10. Madison Keys, United States
11. Sloane Stephens, United States
12. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia
13. Belinda Bencic, Switzerland
14. Angelique Kerber, Germany
15. Bianca Andreescu, Canada
16. Johanna Konta, Great Britain
17. Marketa Vondrousova, Czech Republic
18. Wang Qiang, China
19. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
20. Sofia Kenin, United States
21. Anett Kontaveit, Estonia
22. Petra Martic, Croatia
23. Donna Vekic, Croatia
24. Garbiñe Muguruza, Spain
25. Elise Mertens, Belgium
26. Julia Goerges, Germany
27. Caroline Garcia, France
28. Carla Suárez Navarro, Spain
29. Hsieh Su-Wei, Taiwan
30. Maria Sakkari, Greece
31. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic
32. Dayana Yastremska, Ukraine