The men’s and women’s singles draws for the 2021 US Open have been released, and tennis fans around the world can expect to be treated to some cracking matches as fans return to Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2019.
Before we get to the analysis, the withdrawals of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the two Williams sisters means that this will be the first Major since the 1997 Australian Open not to feature any of the four most celebrated players in the game.
Between them, they have won 70 Majors (Serena 23, Federer and Nadal 20 each and Venus seven) and spent 849 weeks as world number one in the tennis rankings.
As always, we start on the men’s side of things, where Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, as is convention, are on opposite sides of the draw meaning they cannot face each other until the championship match.
Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have been assigned to those respective sides of the draw, meaning they too cannot face each other until the final.
Djokovic will begin his bid for a record-breaking 21st major men’s singles title with a clash against either a qualifier or a lucky loser in a top quarter that features three of the four Wimbledon semi-finalists.
The first seed he could face is Belgian 27th seed David Goffin, though he could also face former finalist Kei Nishikori, who is unseeded, in the third round.
Australian 14th seed Alex de Minaur, who was forced to sit out the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive to COVID-19 prior to the event, is also in this section of the draw and is drawn to face the Djoker in the fourth round.
De Minaur faces a potentially tough first-round clash of his own against American Taylor Fritz, while he is also projected to face Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev in the third round.
The biggest threat to Djokovic in his quarter of the draw is Italian sixth seed Matteo Berrettini, who faces French veteran Jeremy Chardy in the first round.
The Wimbledon runner-up is projected to face 28th-seeded compatriot Fabio Fognini in the third round, while Hubert Herkacz, whom the Italian defeated to reach the final at the All England Club, could await in the last 16.
German fourth seed and Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev is the leading name in the second quarter of the draw and he will face a potentially tricky first-round clash against local favourite Sam Querrey as he begins his attempt to win a maiden Major title.
He is also lined up to face 31st seed Alexander Bublik in the third round, and either Italian 13th seed Jannik Sanner or French showman Gael Monfils in the last sixteen.
Potentially awaiting Zverev in the quarter-finals is either Canadian seventh seed Denis Shapovalov, another recent semi-finalist at Wimbledon, or Olympic Bronze Medallist Pablo Carreno Busta.
Shapovalov is up against Federico Delbonis in his first-round match, with his first major roadblock being silver medallist Karen Khachanov in the third round.
Carreno Busta is up against either a qualifier or lucky loser in his opening match, after which he could face Sebastian Korda – the son of former Australian Open champion Petr – in the second round.
He shouldn’t be troubled until the last 16 where he could face a showdown against either Khachanov – to whom he lost in the semi-finals in Tokyo – or Shapovalov.
Scrolling further down now, where Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev will also begin against either a qualifier or lucky loser, and should enjoy an armchair ride until the fourth round where 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime is expected to await.
Like Rublev, the Canadian will also face either a qualifier or lucky loser in his first-round match, and could face as many as three on his way to the fourth round though it is more likely he will face Spanish 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.
Nick Kyrgios, who has barely played since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March last year, is up against Bautista Agut in a first-round match that promises to deliver fireworks.
The highest seed in the third quarter of the draw is Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has drawn a blockbuster first-round clash against 2012 champion Andy Murray, who many feared would not be here now if not for career-saving hip surgery two years ago.
British 26th seed Cameron Norrie has drawn Spanish teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz in his first-round match, while Chilean 16th seed Cristian Garin and 2018 quarter-finalist John Millman are also in Tsitsipas’ section of the draw.
In section seven, Norwegian eighth seed Casper Ruud has drawn former top-five player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as his first-round opponent, with the other big names to watch being American towerman John Isner, 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson and Argentine 11th seed Diego Schwartzman.
At the bottom of the draw, second seed and 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev starts against another French veteran in Richard Gasquet, but could then face 30th seed and 2014 champion Marin Cilic in the third round.
Also in his section of the draw is 16th seed and 2019 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, whom the Russian beat on his way to the final before he was edged out in five sets by Rafael Nadal, who is not competing at Flushing Meadows for the second consecutive year.
Barring any major upsets, the men’s quarter-finals onwards are projected to unfold as follows.
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Matteo Berrettini (ITA)
 Alexander Zverev (GER) vs  Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
 Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs  Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
 Casper Ruud (NOR) vs  Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Alexander Zverev (GER)
 Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs  Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
Predicted championship outcome
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeats  Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
We now switch over to the women’s draw, which for the first time since 2003 will be missing both of the Williams sisters, after both withdrew due to injuries; it is also the first time since the 2011 French Open in which neither sister is present at any Major.
As is convention, the top two seeds, Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, are on opposite sides of the draw meaning the two cannot face each other until the championship match; neither can Karolina Pliskova or Naomi Osaka who are on those respective sides.
Barty, who has yet to progress past the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, has copped a potentially tricky first-round clash against 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva, but that’s only the beginning of what shapes as a challenging but exciting road to the title.
The Queenslander is seeded to face another Russian, Veronika Kudermetova, in the third round, while either Karolina Muchova or Jennifer Brady could await in the last 16.
The latter two are drawn to face each other in the third round; both face Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo and either a qualifier or lucky loser in their respective first-round matches.
Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek is the next highest-ranked player in this quarter of the draw, with her section also including Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic and 2011 champion Samantha Stosur, who has a protected ranking.
Swiatek faces either a qualifier or lucky loser in her first-round match, and should she get to the third round it is projected she will face either Stosur or 28th seed Anett Kontaveit.
Bencic, on the other hand, is up against Arantxa Rus in the first round, but could then face American wildcard Coco Vandeweghe, a semi-finalist in 2017, in her second match.
The second quarter of the draw is anchored by fourth seed and Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova, who begins against Caty McNally, after which she could face either Zarina Diyas or former French Open semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova, who are both unseeded.
The first seed she could face is 30th seed Petra Martic in the third round, while 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could await in the fourth, provided she gets past Alison Riske in the first round and 24th-seeded Spaniard Paula Badosa in the third.
Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last month, is also in this section of the draw and if she reaches the second round, she could face Martic, followed by Pliskova in the third.
Sixth seed and 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu, who returns to Flushing Meadows for the first time since winning the title two years ago, begins against Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic.
The Canadian faces a potentially tough road to the quarter-finals, drawing former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the third round and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the last 16.
Kvitova, who is seeded tenth, starts off against Polona Hercog in the first round, and the first seed she could face in her path to a first US Open title is Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari.
Turning over the page now, and fifth seed Elina Svitolina will begin against either a qualifier or lucky loser, with either 25th seed Daria Kasatkina or Olympic silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova looming as a possible third-round opponent.
The seed she is projected to face in the fourth round is Simona Halep, who has recently dropped out of the top ten for the first time since January 2014 due to injuries which forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon.
Halep has drawn a tough first-round opponent in recent Rogers Cup champion Camila Giorgi, and the first seed she could face in her path to a maiden US Open title is Elena Rybakina in the third round.
Defending champion Naomi Osaka headlines a packed quarter of the draw; she begins her title defence against Marie Bouzkova, and could line up against either Angelique Kerber or Coco Gauff, opponents she has faced and beaten in New York previously, in the last 16.
Kerber, the 2016 champion who lost to a then-little-known Osaka in the first round in 2017, begins against Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, while Gauff, seeded 21st, is up against Magda Linette in her opening match. All going well, the two could face each other in the third round.
Also in this section, we will see a rematch of the 2017 final in the first round when Sloane Stephens comes up against Madison Keys, who are both unseeded, possibly for the right to face Gauff in the second round.
In the seventh section, eighth seed and reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova comes up against either a qualifier or lucky loser in her first-round match, and could face either Johanna Konta or former French Open finalist Sara Errani in the third round.
Former Grand Slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza, seeded 18th and ninth respectively, could also line up an intriguing third-round clash against each other.
At the bottom of the draw, second seed Aryna Sabalenka, who will remain where she is in the rankings regardless of how she fares in the Big Apple, opens against Nina Stojanovic and could face either 26th seed Danielle Collins or retiring Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.
Belgian Elise Mertens, who is seeded 16th, could then await in the fourth round.
Barring any major upsets, the women’s quarter-finals onwards are projected to unfold as follows.
 Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs  Iga Swiatek (POL)
 Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs  Bianca Andreescu (CAN)
 Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs  Naomi Osaka (JPN)
 Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) vs  Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
 Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
 Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs  Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
Predicted championship outcome
 Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeats  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Play gets underway on the morning of Tuesday, August 31 (AEST).