The U.S. Open draw is out. Play gets underway Monday, August 27. It is time for all the predictions, polls and contests to begin!
Hopefully, as the day dawns on Monday and play gets underway, rain will not arrive to interrupt play and postpone the men's final until Monday as it has in the recent past.
Both the men's and the women's draw offer real opportunities for the top seeds. The question is—which ones will make it through the draw to the final four?
Let us look at who is brimming over with confidence and who is coming into Flushing Meadows with lingering injuries plus a dash of doubt to cloud their chances.
The top 25 men and women will begin another two-week major sojourn in New York City for a chance to battle for the championship trophy.
Here is how they will end their respective campaigns.
No. 13 Richard Gasquet: Ferrer's Quarter of the Draw
Frenchman Richard Gasquet is playing well, but not great. He has difficulty beating the top players often enough to work his way back into the top-10 rankings.
At this year's U.S. Open, Gasquet's first opponent will be Spaniard Albert Montanes. Gasquet has defeated the Spaniard each time they have met, although all their previous matches were on clay.
Nonetheless, Gasquet will defeat Monanes again.
In the second round, the Frenchman will move past Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
Moving on to the third round, Gasquet will face either Steve Johnson of the USA or No. 21 Tommy Haas of Germany.
Regardless of the opposition, Gasquet will move on to meet the fourth seed David Ferrer in Round 4.
At that point, the Frenchman will be defeated by the feisty Spaniard.
Gasquet’s Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 12 Ana Ivanovic: Williams' Quarter of the Draw
Ana Ivanovic continues to struggle for consistency on tour. While she plays some excellent tennis at times, other times she seems frozen, unable to move forward to attack the ball.
Still, her ranking has steadily improved and, with it, her confidence. Hopefully, she can find the game that will take her back into the top 10.
Her first-round opponent at the 2012 U.S. Open is qualifier Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine. Ivanovic should have no problem advancing to the second round.
In the next round, the No. 12 seed will more than likely meet Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan.
Ivanovic will defeat her second-round opponent to move on the third round to face Francesca Schiavone—a much more difficult opponent.
At that point, getting past the former French Open champion will prove to be too much for Ivanovic.
Ivanovic’s Projected Finish: Round 3
No. 12 Marin Cilic: Murray's Quarter of the Draw
After winning at the Queen's Club, reaching the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, winning in Uag and reaching the semifinals in Hamburg, Marin Cilic has enjoyed a resurgence, climbing back into the men's top 20.
His newfound confidence will allow Cilic to defeat his first-round opponent at the U.S. Open, Australian Marinko Matosevic, as well as Romanian Adrian Unger in the second round.
The Croat's first real problem comes in the third round when he meets No. 17 Kei Nishikori of Japan, who has also climbed into the top 20 in 2012.
Cilic lost their last two matches—one of them at the U.S. Open in 2010.
This year, however, Cilic will be able to dispatch Nishikori, but it will not be easy because the man from Japan is a first-rate hustler.
The Croat, however, will fall in the next round to No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Cilic's Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 11 Marion Bartoli: Maria Sharapova's Quarter of the Draw
The No. 11 seed Marion Bartoli has not advanced beyond the second round of the U.S. Open for the past three years.
The Frenchwoman, however, is hoping to do better in 2012 as action at the U.S. Open gets underway.
Her first-round opponent is Jamie Hampton of the United States. The two have never met—but Bartoli should advance to the second round to play Andrea Petkovic, who is attempting to return to form after being injured for a long period of time.
The German, who once was ranked as high as No. 9, has fallen to No. 43 after injuries kept her sidelined for most of 2012.
Bartoli will manage to advance to the third round where No. 17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia should be waiting.
Recently, the Russian reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati where she lost to Petra Kvitova.
Expect Bartoli’s run through the U.S. Open draw to end here.
Bartoli’s Projected Finish: Round 3
No. 11 Nicolas Almagro: Roger Federer's Quarter of the Draw
Nicolas Almagro plays consistent tennis, remaining close to the top 10. He will hope to add to his ranking total by doing well at Flushing Meadows.
For Almagro, seeded No. 11, his first challenge will be immediate—getting past always dangerous Radek Stepanek in the opening round. This is not easy for any player to do.
In the past, both times Almagro has faced Stepanek, he has lost—the last time at the 2010 Masters 1000 in Paris. But Stepanek is not the player he was two years ago. Expect the Spaniard to advance.
Almagro should also ease past Philipp Petzschner in round two.
He will have more problems with German Florian Mayer, ranked No. 22, in Round 3.
Typically, the Spaniard advances to the third round of the U.S. Open and no further.
But in 2012, Almagro will advance to the fourth round, where he will lose to Berdych.
Almagro's Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 10 Sara Errani: Radwanska's Quarter of the Draw
After reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the finals of the French Open, Sara Errani has climbed into the women’s top 10.
2012 has been a great year to date, and Errani hopes to add to it by including a second-week finish at the U.S. Open.
The No. 10 seed’s first opponent is Garbine Muguruza of Spain. After setting aside the Spaniard, her next opponent will no doubt be Russian Vera Dushevina.
The two have never met before, but expect Errani to move onto the third round to meet No. 21 American Christina McHale.
Errani has defeated McHale each of the three times they have met.
Expect Errani to move on to the fourth round where she would meet No. 6 Angelique Kerber.
This will be her final match—for Errani will not advance beyond Kerber.
Errani’s Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 10 Juan Monaco: Novak Djokovic's Quarter of the Draw
The Argentine has had a good year so far in 2012. Last year at the U.S. Open, he advanced to the Round of 16, losing to Roger Federer—so his confidence level will be high.
Juan Monaco of Argentina will face Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the opening round.
In his head to head with Garcia-Lopez, Monaco leads 4-1. Expect Monaco to win his opener and also to move past Fabio Fognini in Round 2, since he has defeated the Italian in each of their three previous meetings.
In Round 3, Monaco would meet either Andy Roddick or Bernard Tomic. Against Roddick, Monaco is 1-1, winning his last encounter with Roddick on the hard courts at Miami. He has never faced Tomic.
Regardless, the Argentine will not move past either one.
Monaco's Predicted Finish: Round 3
No. 9 Li Na of China: Victoria Azarenka's Quarter of the Draw:
Li Na, the No. 9 seed, just won the title in Cincinnati, defeating Angelique Kerber in the final.
She also reached the finals in Montreal. Overall, the summer has been a good one for Li Na.
Her draw at the U.S. Open includes Heather Watson of Great Britain in the first round and probably Casey Dellacqua of Australia in Round 2. She will move past both opponents.
In the third round, however, Li Na will no doubt meet Laura Robson, also of Great Britain, who has been improving dramatically throughout 2012.
But the lady from China will find her way through to meet Samantha Stosur in the fourth round.
That will prove to be Li Na’s last step in the draw.
Li Na’s Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 9 John Isner: Ferrer's Quarter of the Draw
Big John Isner has put together a great summer run in 2012. He made it to the semifinals in Toronto, losing to Richard Gasquet, and to the finals at Winston-Salem, where he defeated Thomas Berdych in three tense sets.
Isner will have plenty of match play to strengthen his run at this year's Open.
His first-round opponent is Xavier Malisse, who has defeated Isner a couple of times—but that was in 2010. Expect Isner to move on, where he will defeat his second-round opponent Jarkko Nieminen or Mikhail Kukushkin.
In the third round, Isner will meet and defeat either German Phillipp Kohlschreiber or Frenchman Michael Llodra.
In the fourth round, the American will find himself facing Janko Tipsarevic or perhaps another Serb, Victor Troicki.
Regardless, Isner will move on to face David Ferrer.
Expect Isner to move past Ferrer in the quarterfinals and go all the way to meet Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
Isner's Projected Finish: Final Four
No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki : Williams' Quarter of the Draw
Last year Caroline Wozniacki was the the No. 1 seed. This year she begins the U.S. Open as the No. 8 seed.
Her career has definitely taken a downward turn. Wozniacki will be seeking to turn it around at the Open this year—a place where she normally plays some of her best tennis.
Her first-round opponent is Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu. Expect Wozniacki to advance to the second round, where she will defeat Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain.
In the third round, however, the No. 8 seed will face Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria. Wozniacki has won each of her three previous meetings with Pironkova—the last in 2010.
Assuming she gets by the Bulgarian, Wozniacki is injured. She will find herself out by the next round—losing to Francesca Schiavone or Ana Ivanovic.
Wozniacki’s Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic: Ferrer's Quarter of the Draw
Janko Tipsarevic has been firmly ensconced in the men's top ten for all of 2012. One of the reasons is because he plays a tremendous number of matches.
Hopefully, his strength will continue, allowing him to do well at the 2012 U.S. Open.
The No. 8 seed will win his opener over Guillaume Rufin of France.
Then Tipsarevic will face the newly resurrected Brian Baker of the United States. Expect the Serb to move past Baker and on to meet fellow Serb, No. 29 Victor Troicki in the third round.
The two Serbs have met twice before, splitting the results with one win apiece. Still, Tipsarevic has done better of late.
He will advance into the fourth round to meet big-serving John Isner.
There, Tipsarevic’s U.S. Open run will end.
Tipsarevic’s Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 7 Samantha Stosur: Azarenka's Quarter of the Draw
Last year’s defending champion, Samantha Stosur of Australia, is flying under the radar, again, at this year’s U.S. Open.
No one is talking about her repeating as champion—rather, the woman she defeated in last year’s final, Serena Williams, is the odds-on favorite this year.
Actually, looking at her draw, Stosur should have no real competition until the fourth round, when she meets No. 9 Li Na of China, who has been very hot of late.
This promises to be a very competitive match with little seemingly separating the two opponents—except that in the six times they have met, Stosur has won each time.
Stosur will advance to the quarterfinals, where she will meet the No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka.
This time, however, Stosur will not take the next step into the semifinals.
Stosur’s Projected Finish: Quarterfinal Round
No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro: Djokovic's Quarter of the Draw
The big-serving Argentine, Juan Martin del Potro, is finally playing his best tennis again after working his way back into form after wrist surgery.
The winner of the 2009 U.S. Open is ready to fight for the title again.
Del Potro has a difficult draw in 2012. He starts out playing against countryman David Nalbandian, unseeded in this tournament.
There is no doubt that Del Potro should win this match; but Nalbandian is always a difficult opponent.
In the second round, the big Argentine should face and defeat American Ryan Harrison.
Del Potro's next opponent, No. 6 Andreas Seppi, would put up a tough fight but lose. The Argentine has defeated him in each of their three previous matches.
This means Del Potro would probably be facing Roddick or Tomic in the fourth round—ultimately moving on to face Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
Del Potro's Predicted Finish: Quarterfinal Round
No. 6 Angelique Kerber: Radwanksa's Quarter of the Draw:
The No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber had a breakout year in 2012. She is the new rising star on the women's tour.
Kerber reached the finals in Cincinnati, losing to Li Na of China. She reached the semifinals at Wimbledon before losing to Agnieszka Radwanska. She also reached the finals at Eastbourne and the quarterfinals of the French Open.
Kerber enters the U.S. Open this year eager to make her way through another draw. After winning her opener with Brit Anne Keothavong, Kerber’s next opponent will no doubt be Venus Williams.
That will be one of the most important of the early-round matches on the women’s side of the draw.
You cannot, however, bet against Kerber in this match no matter how much you would love to see Venus make a comeback at the 2012 Open.
In the third round, Kerber’s opponent should be No. 29 Tamira Paszek of Austria, who won Eastbourne and advanced to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. She also advanced to the quarterfinals in Montreal.
But Kerber will move past Paszek to face Errani—then, move past Errani to the quarterfinals where she might meet Dominika Cibulkova or Agnieszka Radwanska.
Regardless of which opponent she faces in the quarterfinals, Kerber will move on to the semifinals:
Kerber’s Projected Finish: Final Four
No. 6 Thomas Berdych: Federer's Quarter of the Draw
The talent has always been there, and periodically, Thomas Berdych has utilized it to its fullest extent.
But often, in the last moments of a match, Berdych loses—just as he did yesterday in his final at Winston-Salem against John Isner.
Hopefully in 2012, Berdych will do better than his previous best finish at the U.S. Open—the fourth round.
David Goffin of Belgium could be a bit of a challenge for the No. 6 seed, Berdych. Goffin started the year ranked No. 174 but has worked his way up to the No. 58 spot. He has shown some potential, but probably not enough to dissuade Berdych from winning in the opening round.
The second-round opponent Istomin could also present some problems since his recent hard-court play is better than on other surfaces.
The real problem will come when Berdych must face Sam Querry in the third round—although just prior to the Open, Berdych defeated Querry in the semifinals of Winston-Salem.
When he makes it past Querry, Berdych will advance to the quarterfinals to face Federer.
Berdych's Projected Finish: Quarterfinal Round
No. 5 Petra Kvitova: Sharapova's Quarter of the Draw:
Petra Kvitova has won the U.S. Open Series leading into the U.S. Open.
She won the title in Montreal and reached the semifinals in Cincinnati. On Saturday she contested the final in New Haven against Maria Kirilenko, which Kvitova won in two tight sets.
In fact, Kvitova has renewed most of the tennis world's faith her ability to reach the very top of the women's game—especially on hard courts.
The Czech should encounter no major problems until the third round when she meets No. 25 Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium.
Kvitova, however, should move past Wickmayer and onto the fourth round where she could face No. 17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.
Once again, expect the No. 5 seed to move on—this time to face Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals. It is too bad that these two powerhouses meet so early.
Kvitova will surpass Sharapova and move in the semifinals to face Victoria Azarenka.
Kvitova’s Projected Finish: Final Four
No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Murray's Quarter of the Draw
With Rafael Nadal out of the U.S. Open this year, Jo-Wifried Tsonga has a real opportunity to take his game to that next step.
The Frenchman has been so close to doing that at this year's French Open and again at Wimbledon.
We will assume that Tsonga gets by his opening-round qualifier Karol Beck and that he also will set aside Colombian Alejandro Falla in Round 2.
Tsonga’s third-round opponent is fellow Frenchman, No. 32 Jeremy Chardy. Chardy defeated Tsonga earlier this summer in Toronto; therefore, he cannot be taken lightly.
But we will take Tsonga and move him past Chardy in Round 3.
In Round 4, Tsonga will end Marin Cilic’s run.
This will move Tsonga into the quarterfinals where he will meet either Andy Murray or Milos Raonic. It is here that Tsonga's U.S. Open run will end.
Tsonga's Projected Finish: Quarterfinal Round
No. 4 Serena Williams: Radwanska's Bottom Half of the Draw
It is true that Williams lost early—going out in the quarterfinals of Cincinnati to Angelique Kerber, but that should not affect her play at this year’s U.S. Open.
Definitely, Williams feels she has something to prove after the way she ended her last two tournaments on Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2009 and again last year in 2011.
The No. 4 seed should face no real opposition until the fourth round, when she will no doubt face Russian No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, who has been playing some great tennis of late.
But Kirilenko has no weapons to hurt Williams, assuming Serena’s serve is firing on all cylinders.
In the quarterfinals, Williams will continue to move on, defeating either Wozniacki or Schiavone.
This will take the No. 4 seed Williams into the final four.
There Williams will meet Angelique Kerber in the semifinals and Victoria Azarenka in the finals.
Williams’ Projected Finish: Winner
No. 4 David Ferrer: Djokovic's Bottom Half of the Draw:
With world No. 3 Rafael Nadal out of the 2012 U.S. Open, countryman David Ferrer was awarded one of the top four seeds.
Ferrer advanced as far as the semifinals in 2007, where he lost to new rising star Novak Djokovic. Since then, however, Ferrer has advanced only as far as the fourth round the past two seasons.
But the energetic Spaniard will be hoping to do better that that in 2012.
He drew some tough company in his quarter, starting out his U.S. Open campaign against big-serving Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
Moving on past Anderson, Ferrer’s second-round opponent will be fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who will not prevent Ferrer from moving onto the third round.
There the No. 4 seed may face Lleyton Hewitt of Australia. But even the famed Aussie cannot out-hustle Ferrer—who will move on to the fourth round.
His opponent there will no doubt be Frenchman Richard Gasquet. In an interesting matchup, the Spaniard will win, advancing to meet John Isner in the quarterfinals.
This is where the Spaniard will end his run, over-powered by the big American.
Ferrer’s Projected Finish: Quarterfinal Round
No. 3 Maria Sharapova: Azarenka's Top Half of the Draw:
Maria Sharapova has not played on tour since the 2012 Summer Olympics.
She cited a stomach ailment in withdrawing from Montreal, but she ultimately feels that the rest has done her more good than playing two or three hard court tournaments.
Sharapova won the U.S. Open title in 2006 but, since that win, has not made it back to a final.
Her furthest advancement since 2006 was a 2010 fourth-round finish. Nothing coming into the U.S. Open leads us to believe that Sharapova will do much better than that in 2012.
She will win her opener against Melinda Czink of Hungary and advance to the second round.
In fact, Sharapova will not meet any real opposition until the fourth round, when she meets countrywoman No. 19 Nadia Petrova. In their head-to-head, however, Sharapova leads 8-1, and she will, more than likely, move past Petrova.
But Sharapova’s run will end in the quarterfinals when she faces Petra Kvitova.
Sharapova’s Projected Finish: Quarterfinal Round
No. 3 Andy Murray: Federer's Top Half of the Draw
Is this the year Andy Murray finally breaks through to win his first major?
Is this year's U.S. Open the tournament where he does it?
One thing for sure, if he does manage to do it, it will be the hard way.
Murray will not be upset by Russian Alex Bogomolov, Jr. in Round 1 or Croat Ivan Dodig in Round 2 or Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in Round 3.
The real problem for Murray comes in Round 4 during a potential meeting with No. 15 Milos Raonic, the young Canadian whose career and ranking appear to be on a fast track to the top.
Either Raonic finally takes that next step or Murray takes one of his own this year at the U.S. Open. At the 2012 U.S. Open we give the nod to Raonic.
Murray’s Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska: The Bottom Half of the Draw
The first half of the tennis season Agnieszka Radwanska shot up the rankings ladder, finishing high and winning titles. She was adding power and precision to her game, making a real impact on the women's tour.
Since Wimbledon in 2012, however, when she reached the finals, Radwanska has not fared too well.
A right shoulder injury has severely hampered the No. 2 seed, almost stopping her dead in her tracks as she tries to continue to play without her right wing.
In her draw, Radwanska should be all right until the third round when she faces Jelena Jankovic. The Serb could present some problems for a wounded Radwanska.
But the Pole should advance one round further to meet No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova. Because of her inability to dictate on court, Radwanska will lose in that round.
Radwanska’s Projected Finish: Round 4
No. 2 Novak Djokovic: The Bottom Half of the Draw
Since winning the 2012 Australian Open, but subsequently losing his No. 1 ranking to Federer at Wimbedon—Djokovic has been running a close second.
The Serb will hope to redeem himself by defending his U.S. Open title won last year against Rafael Nadal.
The No. 2 seed should have no problems until the third round, when he would face No. 31 Julien Benneteau of France.
Benneteau made a name for himself this summer by extending Roger Federer to five sets in the third round of Wimbledon. He has definite talent but not consistency. Djokovic will not be troubled.
In the fourth round, Djokovic will be facing either No. 15 Alexandr Dolgopolov or No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka. With his recent play, it should be Wawrinka facing him across the net. In their head to head, Djokovic leads 10-2.
The Serb will move on to face Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals—defeating the Argentine in another tough match.
Djokovic will defeat John Insner in the semifinals but will lose to Roger Federer in the finals.
Djokovic's Projected Finish: Finalist
No. 1 Victoria Azarenka: Top Half of the Draw
Victoria Azarenka took over the No. 1 ranking after winning the Australian Open. She has held it most of the year except for a brief interruption by Sharapova after the Russian won the French Open.
After reaching both the semifinals of Wimbledon and the semifinals at the 2012 Summer Games, losing both to Serena Williams—Azarenka must be pleased that she is on the opposite side of the draw from Williams and can only meet her in the U.S. Open final.
But first, of course, Azarenka must reach that final deciding match.
Azarekna's first difficult opponent will be Julia Goerges of Germany in the fourth round.
A win will take the No. 1 seed to the quarterfinals where she must get past Stosur to reach the semifinals.
Azarenka will defeat Stosur and meet Petra Kvitova in the semifinals. In a very tough match, Azarenka will prevail moving on to face Serena Williams in the final.
Serena Williams, however, will win another U.S. Open title in 2012.
Azarenka’s Projected Finish: Finalist
No. 1 Roger Federer: Top Half of the Draw
Roger Federer has won the U.S. Open five times. He hopes his campaign in 2012 will bring him his sixth U.S. Open title.
The Swiss has had an amazing year to date, winning his seventh Wimbledon title and taking back the No. 1 ranking. But one more win at Flushing Meadows would be very special.
But first there is the draw to consider and each of Federer's potential competitors.
To add to Donald Young’s woes this season, he was drawn to meet Roger Federer, the No. 1 seed, in the first round of the U.S. Open. Federer will win this match.
Potential pitfalls for Federer come in the fourth round with a possible meeting with No. 23 Mardy Fish or No. 16 Gilles Simon—both of whom have defeated Federer on hard courts. But expect the Swiss to move past the fourth round.
In the quarterfinals, Federer has a potential match-up with No. 27 Sam Querry or No. 6 Thomas Berdych. Regardless, Federer will move on.
In the semifinals expect Federer to face Milos Raonic, surprise semifinalist. Federer will win that encounter and move on to do battle with Novak Djokovic in the final.
Federer's Projected Finish: Winner.