Some of us probably thought that reaching No. 1 in the world would provide Roger Federer with a way to avoid Andy Murray. The No. 1 player would have an easier path than either Rafael Nadal (a no-show this year) or Novak Djokovic.
When we woke up this week and saw the seeds, we all noted with much surprise that, again this year, Federer would have to beat the two or three top players in yet another Grand Slam in order to win.
Yes, again Federer will meet No. 3 seed Andy Murray and No. 2 seed Djokovic if he is to win another U.S. Open. And, for seemingly the umpteenth time in the past few years, Federer has a very tough bracket.
He has to meet Donald Young, who reached the fourth round in last year's U.S. Open in the first round. He also has Giles Simon (2011 USO fourth round), Fernando Verdasco (USO quarterfinalist in 2009 and 2010), Mardy Fish (2010 and 2011 USO fourth round), Sam Querrey (2010 USO fourth round), Tomas Berdyck (2011 USO third round, when he retired with a bad shoulder) and Nickolai Davidenko (2011 USO third round) in his draw.
With any system designed to create chance and good matches, with the unseeded players subject to unseeded shuffling and each four subject to draws based on chips, we can see a mix-up in the rankings like Murray against Federer.
Some will claim Federer's path is easy, given the way Young has been playing, losing 17 matches in a row this year. Yet, his last U.S. Open shows that, for this event, he can put a run together.
Of course, with Andy Roddick and Juan del Potro, you can argue that Djokovic's quarterfinal bracket is tougher than anyone's. No one has two other former champions in their bracket.
There has been no year in recent memory with none of the top four in the final. Yet, with the seeding, Murray has the best chance of being the only one there. Tsonga may be a bit of trouble, but his play against John Isner spells trouble.
Who will make the final this year?
I have a feeling that Federer will not make it. He will have a very tough first match, despite how Young has played this year. And, his problems will be strewn with people far too tough to dismiss them without some concern.
Djokovic is also questionable. For the most part, assuming that del Potro's left wrist is fine, he is most likely to repeat this year—with Murray and him in the final.
Isner is a dark horse. But, his play is far too erratic from the baseline to ensure he wins.
In the end, we have a lot of other dark horses whose play may allow them to break through.
For my part, if Stan Wawrinka breaks through to the semis, he is a very likely winner of his first major. His recent play deserves this, and if he does not meet Federer, a semifinal with him and del Potro could go either way. Can Wawrinka beat Murray?
Unlikely. This is why I like Murray, assuming he can stay mentally tough and weather any storm Federer brings—his likely semifinal opponent.
Is this a first for us in a very long time? Will none of the top four be in the final?
Only time will tell.