Coming off the 2016 Olympics in which Andy Murray's red-hot summer continued with a gold medal, tennis' final Grand Slam of the year begins Monday.
Before the tournament can start, officials have to determine where players would be seeded and who they would potentially match up against on their way to a championship.
Here are the top 32 seeds on the men's and women's side heading into the 136th U.S. Open:
|2016 U.S. Open Seeds|
|Novak Djokovic||1||Serena Williams|
|Andy Murray||2||Angelique Kerber|
|Stan Wawrinka||3||Garbine Muguruza|
|Rafael Nadal||4||Agnieszka Radwanska|
|Milos Raonic||5||Simona Halep|
|Kei Nishikori||6||Venus Williams|
|Marin Cilic||7||Roberta Vinci|
|Dominic Thiem||8||Madison Keys|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||9||Svetlana Kuznetsova|
|Gael Monfils||10||Karolina Pliskova|
|David Ferrer||11||Carla Suarez Navarro|
|David Goffin||12||Dominika Cibulkova|
|Richard Gasquet||13||Johanna Konta|
|Nick Kyrgios||14||Petra Kvitova|
|Roberto Bautista Agut||15||Timea Bacsinszky|
|Feliciano Lopez||16||Samantha Stosur|
|Bernard Tomic||17||Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova|
|Pablo Cuevas||18||Barbora Strycova|
|Steve Johnson||19||Elena Vesnina|
|John Isner||20||Kiki Bertens|
|Ivo Karlovic||21||Irina-Camelia Begu|
|Grigor Dimitrov||22||Elina Svitolina|
|Kevin Anderson||23||Daria Kasatkina|
|Lucas Pouille||24||Belinda Bencic|
|Philipp Kohlschreiber||25||Caroline Garcia|
|Jack Sock||26||Laura Siegemund|
|Alexander Zverev||27||Sara Errani|
|Martin Klizan||28||CoCo Vandeweghe|
|Sam Querrey||29||Ana Ivanovic|
|Gilles Simon||30||Misaki Doi|
|Albert Ramos-Vinolas||31||Timea Babos|
|Benoit Paire||32||Monica Puig|
Murray and Novak Djokovic are the two marquee names to watch on the men's side of things. Djokovic is the tournament's defending champion, defeating Roger Federer in four sets last year.
Djokovic did suffer back-to-back disappointments when he lost in the third round at Wimbledon and Juan Martin del Potro upset him in the first round at the Olympics.
Per journalist Carole Bouchard, Djokovic took the loss at Wimbledon to heart:
Murray, while he has been the hottest male tennis player on the planet since Wimbledon, hasn't had to go against Djokovic. The Scotland native did lose in the Western & Southern Open final against Marin Cilic, so he's not infallible.
But if Murray has to face Djokovic in the final, history favors the Serb in that matchup. In 34 career head-to-head matchups, Djoker has won 24 times, including at the Australian Open and French Open finals this year.
The men's field is open behind Djokovic and Murray. Roger Federer is out for the rest of this season due to lingering knee issues following surgery in February.
Rafael Nadal looked like he was slowly returning to form at the Olympics, but he acknowledged the wrist injury that forced him to miss more than two months is still not 100 percent, per Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press.
This opens the door for an underdog to make his presence felt. Let's look at the man who beat Nadal at the Olympics.
Del Potro is ranked 142nd by the ATP, though that is a misleading number. He battled his own wrist problems that kept him out for virtually all of 2015 and didn't return until February. His run to the final in Rio de Janeiro has dramatically raised his stock heading into New York.
Jose Morgado of the Portugal Record noted the draw sets up favorably for Del Potro to make a deep run:
This tournament is still about Djokovic and Murray until someone defeats them, but everything behind them is a jumbled mess that will feature plenty of high seeds going home early.
One year after her dreams of winning a calendar-year Grand Slam were dashed, Serena Williams returns to the U.S. Open in search of a second straight Grand Slam title in 2016 after she won Wimbledon last month.
Roberta Vinci stunned Williams in the semifinals last year; it was just her third loss of the season and was the last singles match she played in 2015. The 34-year-old has not been as dominant in 2016, winning just two singles titles, though she has reached the final in each of the year's first three Grand Slam events.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, a familiar foe who previously upset Williams stands in her way right out of the gate at the U.S. Open:
Williams continues to succeed at an age (34) in which most tennis players are fighting to stay on top. Carl Bialik of FiveThirtyEight.com thinks the 22-time Grand Slam champion is more impressive now than at any point in her career:
She's gone from battling for titles against women close to her age (Martina Hingis and Venus) and older (Lindsay Davenport, five years her senior) to dominating against a much younger group of rivals who have yet to break through, mainly because of, well, her. If she can get past the shoulder pain that hampered her in Rio, she'll aim for an Open-era-record 23rd major title.
Bialik did mention Williams' shoulder, which forced her to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open two weeks ago and played some role in her loss to Elina Svitolina in the third round at the Olympics.
Angelique Kerber, who defeated Williams in the Australian Open final, missed an opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when she lost to Karolina Pliskova in the Western & Southern Open final.
Williams has been ranked No. 1 for 184 straight weeks, two weeks shy of tying Steffi Graf's record on the women's side. There are scenarios in which Kerber can overtake her at the U.S. Open, with the most enticing being a matchup in the final.
Sandra Harwitt of USOpen.org pointed out Kerber has seen a vast improvement in her game lately:
Recent times have seen her improve on all fronts. She’s reaching the later rounds more regularly, showing the stamina needed to survive tough battles, and has adapted a self-assuredness while managing not to put undue pressure on herself to succeed.
The fact that in the past three weeks Kerber journeyed to the Montreal semifinals, flew to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics where she reached the final, then flew directly to Cincinnati where she again was a finalist, prove she’s upgraded her overall approach to the game.
A showdown between the top two women's seeds would be a fitting way to cap off the Grand Slam season, especially since they have split two matchups at the Australian Open and Wimbledon already in 2016.
Williams is always the favorite until someone knocks her off. She has won the U.S. Open six times, including three straight from 2012 to 2014. The dominant force in women's tennis is not entering this tournament with momentum, but no one else is capable of flipping on the "go switch" as quickly as she can.