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The final Grand Slam of 2017, a year where two legends of the sport in Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have turned the clock back after returning from injury-riddled years in 2016.
Nadal returning to the top of the ATP World Rankings this week for the first time since the 23rd of June, 2014 after winning Roland Garros for the 10th time back in June. He has won three other titles this year, including Monte Carlo and Barcelona for the 10th time, as well as making the final at the Australian Open.
Federer, like Nadal, started 2017 off with a bang, winning the Australian Open in his first official tournament back from a knee injury. He has won almost every tournament that he has competed in this year, including winning his eighth Wimbledon crown, and winning a further three titles to add to his two Grand Slam titles, as well as making the final in Montreal, where he was beaten by Alexander Zverev.
However, with a number of big names withdrawing from the final Grand Slam of the year, and from the rest of 2017, most notably Novak Djokovic (elbow), who will miss a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in his career after playing in 51 consecutive Grand Slam main draws, as well as Stan Wawrinka (knee), who will miss a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in his career after playing in 50 consecutive Grand Slam main draws.
In addition to these big names, both Kei Nishikori (wrist), and Milos Raonic (wrist) will miss the final Grand Slam of the year. Nishikori will miss a Grand Slam main draw for the first time since Roland Garros back in 2012, while Raonic will miss a Grand Slam main draw for the first time since Roland Garros in 2015.
So, with the absence of those four big names, who will step up to challenge Nadal and Federer for the trophy?
Will it be Andy Murray, who has battled his own injury and health issues in 2017, that grabs the final Grand Slam of the year?
Will it be Zverev, the fourth seed here, who will become the first man born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam singles title, after winning in Montreal a couple of weeks ago? Interesting to note that Nadal, and Federer won their first Grand Slam singles titles when they were the fourth seeds at a Grand Slam for the very first time.
Can Marin Čilić back up his runner-up finish at Wimbledon and claim his second US Open crown?
Can Dominic Thiem show that he can make a Grand Slam quarter-final, outside of Roland Garros, and challenge for his first Grand Slam title?
What about Grigor Dimitrov? Can he breakthrough to win his first Grand Slam title after winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati?
Will there be a surprise? Can Nick Kyrgios challenge at the final Grand Slam of the year after making his first Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati?
Or, will someone else outside of the names claim the 2017 US Open?
Let’s have a look at the draw, and analyse it in an attempt to predict who will win the men’s singles title at Flushing Meadows.
Looking at Section One of the men’s singles draw, I don’t think Rafael Nadal is going to have a problem making it through to the second week, and is one of the favourites to take out the title.
Nadal will likely face Tomáš Berdych after facing Richard Gasquet in the third round, but should have little trouble making the quarter-finals in his quest to win the US Open for the third time.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Rafael Nadal versus (15) Tomáš Berdych
Grigor Dimitrov has been in great form, claiming his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and should have few issues in making the fourth round.
He will likely face either David Goffin or Gaël Monfils in what would shape as a likely danger match in his quest to win a first Grand Slam singles title.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (18) Gaël Monfils versus (7) Grigor Dimitrov
Looking at this section of the draw, and Roger Federer has a difficult third round match against either Fernando Verdasco, Vasek Pospisil, Andrey Kuznetsov, or Feliciano López.
However, while you would expect him to get past either of those four, it is a likely fourth round match against Nick Kyrgios that holds the most potential for an upset, and given Federer’s recent back ailments, you wouldn’t bet against an upset.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Roger Federer versus (14) Nick Kyrgios
This section appears to be a wide open section of the draw with a number of players capable of making the third and fourth rounds, and perhaps beyond. However, I think Juan Martín del Potro, after fending off a huge challenge from Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round, will face Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.
Thiem will have to defeat either Adrian Mannarino or Ivo Karlović in the third round, before he faces the Argentine in the round of 16.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (24) Juan Martín del Potro versus (6) Dominic Thiem
Although he has a tough first round match against Gilles Simon, and an even tougher third round against Karen Khachanov, Marin Čilić should make the fourth round, despite his injury troubles, and will likely face John Isner in the fourth round.
Isner has an uncomfortable draw, including a third round meeting with either Mischa Zverev, Philipp Kohlschreiber, or Benoît Paire, before he can entertain an early second week showdown with the 2014 US Open champion.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Marin Čilić versus (10) John Isner
Alexander Zverev looks by far the strongest player in this section of the draw, and although he has an uncomfortable second round match against either Jiří Veselý or Borna Ćorić, and a difficult third round match against Kevin Anderson, Zverev should make the second week of the championship, where he should be considered one of the favourites.
He will likely face Jack Sock in the round of 16 after he has defeated Gilles Müller or Bernard Tomic in the third round, should the Australian get his game and act together.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (13) Jack Sock versus (4) Alexander Zverev
This particular section of the draw is a difficult one to read, and although Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has some potentially difficult match-ups in the first three rounds, I believe he has enough quality to make the fourth round, if he is at his best.
He will likely face either Albert Ramos Viñolas or Pablo Carreño Busta in what would be an interesting match.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (8) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga versus (12) Pablo Carreño Busta
Despite battling injury and health concerns all year long, I believe Andy Murray should easily make the second week here, and will likely face David Ferrer, who made the semi-finals in Cincinnati, in the fourth round.
Ferrer will have a difficult third round match against Lucas Pouille before a fourth round showdown with Murray.
My predicted fourth round match-up: (21) David Ferrer versus (2) Andy Murray
My predicted quarter-final match-ups
(1) Rafael Nadal versus (7) Grigor Dimitrov
(14) Nick Kyrgios versus (24) Juan Martín del Potro
(5) Marin Čilić versus (4) Alexander Zverev
(8) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga versus (2) Andy Murray
My predicted semi-final match-ups
(1) Rafael Nadal versus (14) Nick Kyrgios
(4) Alexander Zverev versus (2) Andy Murray
My predicted final match-up
(1) Rafael Nadal versus (4) Alexander Zverev
My predicted 2017 US Open champion
(4) Alexander Zverev