The U.S. Open tennis tournament gets underway on Monday with many of tennis' biggest names taking to the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, N.Y., to kick off the season's final Grand Slam event.
Serena Williams, who is the No. 1 seed on the women's side as the defending champion, is in action on opening night. The highest seed playing on the men's side Monday is Rafael Nadal, who has two consecutive singles titles in his last two tourneys in Montreal and Cincinnati and won the U.S. Open in 2010.
Five-time U.S. Open winner Roger Federer has slipped to No. 7 in the ATP rankings, so he's no longer as sure of a commodity to advance deep in the biggest tournaments. It will be interesting to see what type of form he shows in the opening match.
Below is an overview of when the action takes place on Day 1 along with predictions and analysis for the biggest stars.
Where: USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
When: Monday, Aug. 26
Watch: NBC, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Predictions for Monday's Top Stars
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Ryan Harrison
With titles in Montreal and Cincinnati most recently, Nadal is widely considered the favorite over top-seeded Novak Djokovic and defending champion Andy Murray.
But the 21-year-old Harrison has the powerful groundstrokes and dominant serve to give Nadal problems on the hard court. There is at least some momentum to build on because Harrison recently nabbed a set off of Nadal's elite compatriot, David Ferrer.
Tennis journalist Chris Skelton notes how Harrison has been rather unlucky at majors in his young career:
As talented as Harrison is—albeit a little bit too temperamental—he should at least make Nadal work. After all, when the two met in the Indian Wells Masters event, which Nadal won, Harrison pushed him to a tiebreaker in the first set before losing the next one, 6-2.
A similar outcome could be in store here.
Harrison will make it interesting against Nadal for the first set, but then become overwhelmed by Nadal's methodical style. He will then press too hard, make a lot of unforced errors and wind up bowing out in three sets.
Prediction: Nadal wins, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3
Over the course of three sets—or perhaps in this case, two—just about anything can happen.
Having said that, Schiavone won the 2010 French Open, but hasn't been quite the same since. She has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the WTA rankings, but is undoubtedly in the twilight of her career at age 33.
The last time these two faced each other, Williams dominated at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, 6-3, 6-2:
After coming up short in her defense of the Wimbledon title, there has to be a certain vengeance factor in Williams' makeup for the U.S. Open, which she has won four times.
With the amount of power that Williams packs and the decreasing physical skills that Schiavone possesses, the likelihood of this match being close is rather slim. A straight sets triumph for Williams is fairly easy to call and it shouldn't come with much resistance.
Prediction: Williams wins, 6-1, 6-4
Roger Federer (7) vs. Grega Zemlja
It wouldn't be too surprising to see Federer struggle given how relatively little he's won this season and his seemingly inexplicable struggles against lackluster opponents.
Sports Illustrated pointed out the extent of the 17-time Grand Slam winner's travails when he lost at Wimbledon to Sergiy Stakhovsky and in Hamburg to Federico Delbonis:
Zemlja is No. 62 in the ATP rankings, and is a higher-quality opponent at this early juncture of a major tournament than Federer is used to, given his unusually low seventh seeding.
With just one singles title this season, Federer seems as vulnerable as ever. Then again, he was being written off in big tournaments in 2012 before winning an unprecedented eighth Wimbledon trophy.
If Federer is going to be shocked, it won't be in his first match. Given the circumstances, how consistent he has been over the years and the fact that he got a set off Nadal in Cincinnati, he should have enough momentum to have a sharp first match against Zemlja.
Since he doesn't move very well, Zemlja will have a tough time keeping up with a savvy veteran and superior technician in Federer, who should cruise to a three-set victory.
Prediction: Federer wins, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5