The U.S. Open draw was released Thursday and it’s bad news for both Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Federer, who won the tournament five consecutive years from 2004-2008 and hasn’t won since, got the nightmare draw he knew was a possibility, while Serena’s road to another title is littered with potential landmines. Read on for those stories and some other thoughts on the year’s final Grand Slam:
1. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic could face off in the quarterfinals
Going into the U.S. Open draw, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each had a 25 percent chance of having the resurgent Novak Djokovic into their quarter of the U.S. Open draw, a byproduct of a complicated system that randomly assigns the No. 5 through No. 8 seeds into any section. (Tennis doesn’t follow a locked-in seeding bracket like the NCAA tournament. The No. 1 seed doesn’t automatically play the No. 16 seed.) Federer drew the short end, getting stuck with the Wimbledon champion for a possible blockbuster quarterfinal that’ll add another chapter to one of the great U.S. Open rivalries in history.
2. Seeding at Slams is broken and it needs to be fixed
It’s the U.S. Open’s own fault that it might waste a classic like Federer/Djokovic in the quarterfinals. As is standard, the USTA simply seeded the men’s draw according to the current ATP rankings, refusing to move up No. 6 Djokovic despite the fact he’s clearly been the best player in the world since Wimbledon. Slotting him to No. 4 should have been a no-brainer and would have ensured he couldn’t have played Federer or Nadal until the semifinals. Isn’t the whole point to set it up so the best players face each other as deep into the tournament as possible?
Yes, the rankings should be used as the basis for all seeds, but when injuries or absences or maternity leave affects a player with multiple Grand Slam titles, it shouldn’t require an act of Congress to tinker with the order. Treat them as guidelines, not gospel. Would it have been unfair for Djokovic to take the No. 4 seed from Sascha Zverev? Absolutely. But Sascha didn’t win Wimbledon.
3. The Open didn’t do Serena Williams any favors either
Speaking of the most prolific Grand Slam champion in the sport, Serena Williams can also attest to the absurdity of seeding. Though the U.S. Open took the monumental step of moving her from the No. 26 seed to No. 17, the greatest player in history might have to play sister Venus in the third round and then world No. 1 Simona Halep in the fourth. So much for home-country advantage.
Because of her seed, Serena had a 75 percent chance of getting a tough fourth-round opponent. The seeding blocs guaranteed she’d be drawn into the same half of the quarter as a top-four seed. Halep was probably the player she wanted to avoid most, but Serena could have also run into Sloane Stephens (the reigning champ) or Angie Kerber (who defeated Serena in the Wimbledon final). Getting Caroline Wozniacki (No. 2) would have been the easy draw.
4. Pity Halep more than Serena, TBH
To be fair, Halep almost certainly came out the worst of the two. The difference between Serena and the other 127 players in the draw is that Serena can’t lose with her A-game. The others can, because their A-game can’t beat Serena’s A-game. It’s simple. If she’s on, Serena will defeat Venus, Halep and all comers. If she’s not, she could lose to any number of players in the draw.
5. New York hasn’t been kind to the world No. 1
Last year, she drew an unseeded Maria Sharapova in the first round and lost in a classic three-setter. And now this.
6. Ultimately though, seeds are irrelevant in the women’s draw
There’s so much parity in women’s tennis (in a good way) that looking ahead in the draw is a waste of time. Things change by the hour and no path toward the final is ever what it seems at the beginning of the tournament. At Wimbledon, half of the top-eight seeds were eliminated in the first round. Nine of the top-10 seeds were out before the fourth round. And even though that was a historic bracket bloodbath, expect the same sort of upsets (just maybe not the same frequency) in Queens.
Serena was seeded No. 25 at Wimbledon. But instead of playing the No. 5 seed in the third round and the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals (as she would have if the results played out as expected), Serena didn’t see a seed until the semifinals. Not a No. 2 seed, not a No. 32 seed. With so much upheaval, the ease of a player’s draw can’t be determined until Labor Day weekend, if even then. What looks like a brutal road can become a cakewalk with just one or two upsets. (It’s the same way on the men’s side, of course, but there’s no Big Three in women’s tennis that you can usually write into the quarterfinals at the start of the tournament.)
7. Rafael Nadal must be delighted
Nadal will get to view the carnage of the Federer/Djokovic draw from a distance. He only needs to be concerned with potential seeded opponents Karen Khachanov (3R), Kyle Edmund (4R) and either Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem or Denis Shapovalov (QF). That’s about as scary a lineup as what the nearby Mets send out every night. Instead of Anderson, who Rafa rolled in last year’s final, Nadal could have seen Djokovic or Marin Cilic.
The easiest quarterfinal draw for Nadal or Federer would have been to get paired with the slumping Grigor Dimitrov, who’s seeded No. 8, especially because Dimitrov has more problems than just his rusty game: He has to play unseeded three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the first round. (First round!)
8. The women’s tournament looks tremendous
While you could safely fast-forward to the men’s quarterfinals without missing much (Federer might play Nick Kyrgios in the third round, which would be fascinating, though there’s a good chance of Kyrgios dumping his first-round match in straight sets), the women’s draw looks thrilling, with fun and potential classics at every turn.
Whoever wins that potential Halep/Serena match could get Garbine Muguruza or Karolina Pliskova as a quarterfinal reward. Sloane Stephens might see Victoria Azarenka in the third round and potentially Elise Mertens, who rolled her in Cincinnati, in the fourth. Angie Kerber’s quarter is wide open, with Carolina Garcia, Jelena Ostapenko, Madison Keys, Maria Sharapova and CoCo Vandeweghe. The bottom quarter is the one most likely to produce an out-of-nowhere semifinalist; Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova are all-or-nothing at Slams and there’s young talent in the quarter (Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina) that are poised to break out one day soon.
9. Women’s predictions
Semifinals: Simona Halep (sorry, Serena) d. Elina Svitolina; Naomi Osaka d. Maria Sharapova
Final: Osaka d. Halep
10. Men’s predictions
Semifinals: Rafael Nadal d. Stefanos Tsitsipas; Novak Djokovic d. Sascha Zverev
Final: Djokovic d. Nadal
This news has been published by title Wimbledon 2018 Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal And Novak Djokovic All Star On Men\'s Quarterfinals Day
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