The final tennis major of the season is upon us, as the 2017 U.S. Open will begin on August 28 with several familiar faces expected to be serious contenders. However, stars sitting out on each side of the draw could make for some wild brackets.
Roger Federer seemingly discovered the fountain of youth with the turn of the calendar, having won two major tournaments this season after going nearly five years without a title. He could cap off his magical season with another Grand Slam, while longtime adversary Novak Djokovic is unavailable due to an elbow injury that ailed him throughout the year.
On the women's side, Serena Williams' pregnancy will keep arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time off the court. Victoria Azarenka will also miss the U.S. Open because of a personal matter. Still, this could be another chance for some the game's rising young stars to shine on the big stage.
Let us take a look at the top odds for each side, according to OddsShark.com. Continue for an outlook and predictions for both sides.
2017 U.S. Open: Men's Top Odds
Rafael Nadal: 13/5
Andy Murray: 7/1
Alexander Zverev: 7/1
Nick Kyrgios: 14/1
Marin Cilic: 16/1
Grigor Dimitrov: 16/1
Milos Raonic: 20/1
Dominic Thiem: 25/1
Juan Martin del Potro: 28/1
2017 U.S. Open: Women's Top Odds
Garbine Muguruza: 6/1
Karolina Pliskova: 7/1
Johanna Konta: 8/1
Maria Sharapova: 9/1
Simona Halep: 9/1
Elina Svitolina: 10/1
Angelique Kerber: 12/1
Petra Kvitova: 14/1
Venus Williams: 14/1
Caroline Wozniacki: 16/1
After missing much of last season, including the U.S. Open, with a nagging knee injury, Federer winning two Grand Slams at 36 years old is nothing short of remarkable.
As a result of returning to the form of greatness, it is no surprise Federer is the favorite to win at Flushing Meadows, New York, for the sixth time. What he is doing should not be taken for granted, at least according to ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, per Marc Berman of the New York Post.
"Nobody’s doing what he’s done before at his age. He’s putting together the greatest year in the history of tennis, considering his age. I won’t speculate about his retirement. He’s playing phenomenal tennis. We need to appreciate it, run with it and see how far it goes."
However, Federer will not enter this tournament unblemished. Per Berman, the Swiss star is dealing with a back issue that forced him to drop out of a recent tournament in Cincinnati. His team said he is good to go after a two-week rehab, but a new ailment to a player Federer's age, particularly with his injury history, is not a great sign.
This could be where Rafael Nadal comes in.
The Spaniard is also experiencing a career revitalization, having recently moved up to the ATP's top-ranked player in the world. Thus, Nadal will enter the U.S. Open as the top seed, but he too could face struggles.
Nadal won the 2017 French Open, giving him four tournament wins this season on clay. When it comes to hard surfaces, though, the 31-year-old has yet to snag a tournament win. He has advanced to the semifinals on three occasions but has twice fallen to Federer in the finals.
Hard courts have never been Nadal's strong suit, as 10 of his 15 Grand Slams have been at Roland Garros. Still, he does have two U.S. Open titles, with one coming fairly recently in 2013. There are no apparent injury concerns of late with Nadal, and an opportunity is there to make a serious run with Federer not 100 percent, Andy Murray returning from injury and Djokovic and reigning champion Stan Wawrinka being absent.
This tournament remains rather wide open, but sleepers like 20-year-old Alexander Zverev could emerge, along with Grigor Dimitrov, who holds and impressive 24-6 mark on hard court this season. Also look out for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as a long shot. He has not advanced past the round of 16 since winning his last tournament in May, but he's been excellent with a 17-6 record on hard surfaces this year.
With not much separation between many of the top-odds players, it appears plenty of uncertainty exists regarding a possible winner for the women's bracket.
Garbine Muguruza is the favorite after winning the last major in Wimbledon for her second career Grand Slam win. The 23-year-old looks to be the next star in her sport, and she is playing like it of late with just two dropped matches since Wimbledon and a title in her last tournament at Cincinnati.
The Spaniard has the length, power and speed to challenge for many more majors down the road, and the evolution of her game has not been lost on tennis freelancer writer Tumaini Carayol:
She's been consistent in majors, with at least a round-of-16 appearance in the previous three this season, but Muguruza does have a tendency to come out flat. She's been knocked out of a tournament six times in 2017 before the third round. For a player ranked No. 3 in the world and pushing to take Karolina Pliskova's top spot, that is unacceptable.
Speaking of Pliskova, the 25-year-old plays a similar game to Muguruza. She was a finalist at last year's U.S. Open, but she has yet to claim a Grand Slam title in her career.
Her service game is arguably the best in the world, and she has proved that this season. Pliskova is winning 73 percent of her first service points, along with 47.6 percent of her second serves. This allows her stay competitive in every set, or in some cases dominate like she did in her two-set win over Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the second round at Cincinnati, per BBC's David Law:
Pliskova owns a 6-2 career advantage over Muguruza, including a 6-1 mark on hard court. This makes Pliskova the rightful No. 1 seed and true favorite. Yet, there are some notable names that could shake up the field.
Maria Sharapova enters the tournament as a wild-card bid. She has not participated in a major since the 2016 Australian Open due to suspension, but she has been an elite player for numerous years. Whether she can find her touch right away remains to be seen, but a strong run could make her the story of the event.
Angelique Kerber is the most undervalued player heading into the U.S. Open. The former No. 1 player in the world has had a rough year with no tournament wins, but she is the defending U.S. Open champion along with taking the 2016 Australian Open title.
If Kerber gets going, she will be very tough to beat. Based on where she currently stands among the top odds, Kerber looks like an intriguing option to possibly claim back-to-back titles.