It is clear from the 2014 U.S. Open that not all draws are created equal.
While some top players in both the men's and women's draws have a relatively easy path to the quarterfinals, others will receive some tough challenges right away. Even the best in the world could end up going down in the first few rounds.
The good news is this will create an exciting tournament from start to finish. Instead of simply waiting until the second week of a Grand Slam to start watching, fans will get a chance to see some thrilling battles in the first few days as a number of seeded players will be on alert.
Here is a look at what to watch for with a breakdown of each singles draw.
What: 2014 U.S. Open
Where: New York, New York
When: August 25 to September 8
Court Surface: Hard
|U.S. Open TV Schedule|
|Aug. 25||11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||1st Round||Tennis Channel|
|1 - 6 p.m.||1st Round||ESPN|
|6 - 11 p.m.||1st Round||ESPN2|
|Aug. 26||11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||1st Round||Tennis Channel|
|1 - 7 p.m.||1st Round||ESPN|
|7 - 11 p.m.||1st Round||ESPN|
|Aug. 27||11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||1st/2nd Round||Tennis Channel|
|1 - 6 p.m.||1st/2nd Round||ESPN|
|6 - 11 p.m.||1st/2nd Round||ESPN2|
|Aug. 28||11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||2nd Round||Tennis Channel|
|1 - 6 p.m.||2nd Round||ESPN|
|6 - 11 p.m.||2nd Round||ESPN2|
|Aug. 29||11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||2nd/3rd Round||Tennis Channel|
|1 - 6 p.m.||2nd/3rd Round||ESPN|
|6 - 11 p.m.||2nd/3rd Round||ESPN2|
|Aug. 30||11 a.m. - 12 p.m.||3rd Round||CBS Sports Network|
|11 a.m. - 6 p.m.||3rd Round||CBS|
|3:30 - 6 p.m.||3rd Round||CBS Sports Network|
|7 - 11 p.m.||3rd Round||Tennis Channel|
|Aug. 31||11 a.m. - 6 p.m.||3rd/4th Round||CBS|
|11 a.m. - 6 p.m.||3rd/4th Round||CBS Sports Network|
|7 - 11 p.m.||3rd/4th Round||Tennis Channel|
|Sept. 1||11 a.m. - 6 p.m.||4th Round||CBS|
|11 a.m. - 6 p.m.||4th Round||CBS Sports Network|
|7 - 11 p.m.||4th Round||ESPN2|
|Sept. 2||11 a.m. - 11 p.m.||4th Round/Quarterfinals||ESPN|
|11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||4th Round/Quarterfinals||Tennis Channel|
|Sept. 3||12 - 6 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN|
|6 - 11 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2|
|Sept. 4||12 - 6 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN|
|8 - 11 p.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN|
|Sept. 5||12:30 - 6 p.m.||Women's Semifinals||CBS|
|Sept. 6||12 - 6 p.m.||Men's Semifinals||CBS|
|Sept. 7||4:30 - 7 p.m.||Women's Final||CBS|
|Sept. 8||5 - 8 p.m.||Men's Final||CBS|
Women's Predictions (Draw Available at USOpen.org)
Like every other major tournament in the past few years, the U.S. Open will run through Serena Williams.
The five-time winner of this event had been struggling throughout the past few months, but she got back on track with a win at the Western & Southern Open. She discussed her turnaround after the latest victory, via Shannon Russell of Cincinnati.com:
(The) first day I was hitting, it just felt good. I don't know. Just on the practice court it felt good. Like in Montreal, never on the practice court did I feel good. Felt like I was hitting late or just didn't have my contact point. Just felt off. Same in Stanford. Just felt a little off. When I got here, (I) just felt better. ...
It was definitely the best performance of the (summer). Hopefully not the last.
While Ana Ivanovic could pose some problems early on after her strong play as of late, Williams is extremely tough to beat when she is at her best.
One player to watch out for in the middle of the bracket is Victoria Azarenka. The former No. 1 player in the world has dealt with injuries all season, but she has gotten better in recent weeks and has the talent to make a deep run.
However, she will not be able to get past Eugenie Bouchard, who is quickly becoming one of the rising stars in the sport. The Canadian earned a spot on the upcoming cover of The New York Times Magazine:
After she earned a spot in the semifinals in each of the first three Grand Slams this year, look for one more trip in New York.
Agnieszka Radwanska will be looking for her first career quarterfinal appearance at the U.S. Open. The good news is she has performed well on hard courts this season, including a recent tournament win at Montreal. If she plays to her ability, she should reach the semifinals.
The bottom section of the draw is wide open with Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki all capable of a deep run.
Sara Errani, Venus Williams and Sabine Lisicki could also cause problems.
Despite a tough draw, Sharapova should be able to escape the section. She has been playing inspired tennis lately and is not happy with her most recent loss. As SI Tennis noted, it got intense:
Any of the big names in this section have the talent to go all the way to the finals, but this former champion should be the one to do it. Still, it does not appear anyone is going to beat Williams as she brings home a third title in a row.
Quarterfinals: No. 1 Serena Williams def. No. 8 Ana Ivanovic; No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard def. No. 16 Victoria Azarenka; No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska def. No. 21 Sloane Stephens; No. 5 Maria Sharapova def. No. 2 Simona Halep
Semifinals: Williams def. Bouchard; Sharapova def. Radwanska
Finals: Williams def. Sharapova
Men's Predictions (Draw Available at USOpen.org)
The first thing people noticed when the draw came out was how difficult it will be for Novak Djokovic to get back to the finals. The No. 1 seed has been to the championship round in each of the last four years, winning it all in 2011, but he has rarely faced competition this good this early.
Before the quarterfinals, Djokovic could have matches against Philipp Kohlschreiber, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or local favorite Sam Querrey.
Still, the toughest matchup could be against No. 13 John Isner, who will also have plenty of fan support as the top-ranked American.
Also looming in his section of the bracket are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray, two players who have had some success against Djokovic in the past.
Add this to the fact that the No. 1 player in the world has struggled in the last two tournaments since winning Wimbledon, and there is a lot of pressure on him to turn things around. He recently discussed his need to bounce back, via Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour.com:
I don’t underestimate any tournament. I, of course, wanted to do well, but I couldn’t. I was aware of the fact that I need to recharge, regroup and get myself on the right path for the US Open. It’s the last Grand Slam of the season. I’ve been spending a lot of hours on the court and trying to get my game to where I want it to be.
Djokovic still has the talent to get to the quarterfinals, but he will go through a lot of sets to get there. By the time he gets to this stage, he will not be able to keep going and Andy Murray will be there for the upset.
The rest of the draw is unlikely to feature as much drama, although there will certainly be upsets.
Stan Wawrinka has a relatively easy path to the quarterfinals, with only Tommy Robredo possibly coming in the way, although he will not be much of a challenge. However, he does need to look out for Milos Raonic, who reached his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon.
The 23-year-old competitor has been playing extremely well lately and already has a title on American soil this year. Look for the No. 5 seed to keep his momentum going all the way into the semifinals.
One big upset to watch out for early on involves the No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, as explained by Christopher Clarey of The New York Times:
Lleyton Hewitt will not go down without a fight, and it could cause some chaos in that quarter of the bracket. Ernests Gulbis' lack of success at Grand Slams also makes this section wide open.
This would be the best chance for an unseeded player to make a run to the quarterfinals. Steve Johnson—who defeated Gulbis in Cincinnati—can take advantage with a surprise run.
Still, none of these players will prevent David Ferrer from keeping his strong form to make a run in the semifinals.
On the bottom of the bracket, it is all about Roger Federer. Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv breaks down the good news for the veteran:
There will be some quality battles, but No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov is the highest seed he will face before the semifinals. The Bulgarian has never won a match at the U.S. Open. Look for Richard Gasquet to get back on track with a run to the quarterfinals.
In the end, though, Federer has been playing as well as anyone in the tournament and should be able to leave with his 18th Grand Slam title.
Quarterfinals: No. 8 Andy Murray def. No. 1 Novak Djokovic; No. 5 Milos Raonic def. No. 3 Stan Wawrinka; No. 4 David Ferrer def. Steve Johnson; No. 2 Roger Federer def. No. 12 Richard Gasquet
Semifinals: Murray def. Raonic; Federer def. Ferrer
Finals: Federer def. Murray
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.