U.S. Open men's seed report
Roger Federer is the pick to win, despite having Andy Murray in his half
Watch out for dark horse candidates John Isner and Juan Martin del Potro
Brian Baker looks to continue his comeback; Andy Roddick's favorable draw
In what must rank among the most absurd stats in sports -- one we trumpet every chance we get -- one of the Big Three (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal) has won 29 of the last 30 major titles. With Nadal out, Djokovic down and Federer 31, can a new figure end this oligopoly?
1. Roger Federer: He's ranked No.1. He won the most recent major. He won the U.S. Open every year from 2004-2008. He beat Djokovic both at Wimbledon and in Cincinnati. It's a boring pick -- and longtime observers think he's past the point of winning a major off of grass -- but he's our pick.
2. Novak Djokovic: After winning in Australia to start the year, Djokovic has backslid a bit in 2012. But he's always been cozy both on hardcourts and in New York. He's the defending champ. And this is a terrific opportunity to salvage his season. The game is there. The state of his mind and body is less certain.
3. Andy Murray: We like the rule "You have to win a major before you can be favored to win a major." But Murray is testing it. After Murray's excellent adventure at the Olympics -- and his fine track record in New York -- you're well within your rights to pick him. A win would mean that all four majors would be won by each of the top four highest-ranked players.
4. David Ferrer: You admire the work ethic. And he has played deep in this event before. But winning seven matches without a "kill shot" is a big ask. Apart from the talent gap, he's prone to burning too much energy in week one. And hard-serving Kevin Anderson (soon to be an American?) is a potentially rough first round test.
5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: A lovely, entertaining player to have around. But still needs to show he's a true A-lister. After a freak fire hydrant injury in Canada (don't ask), there may be a health issue as well. An easy week one draw, but he is in Murray's quarter.
6. Tomas Berdych: Always a bit flighty, the Berd-Man tends to waft and in and out of the conversation. He'll either hit through David Goffin in round one, and win handily; or he'll lose to a patient, efficient, minimalist.
7. Juan Martin del Potro. Absolutely a top-shelf contender. Former winner (2009) is coming off a strong show at the Olympics. You worry about his body enduring seven best-of-five matches -- on asphalt and potentially in heat. But a real chance to win a second title. In the Djokovic quarter but we know how that went on the last big stage (Del Potro took down Djokovic for bronze at the Olympics.)
8. Janko Tipsarevic: The cut-and-paste: Fine player. Congrats on reaching the Top Ten. Not a credible threat to win majors.
9. John Isner: What an up-and-down year for Isner. Wins over Federer and Djokovic. Modest performances at the Majors. A nice chance to salvage his season. But after deep disappointment at Wimbledon, he's found some mojo this summer. Best hope for U.S. representation during Week Two; In Ferrer's section, he has a real shot at the semis.
10. Juan Monaco: One of the more muscular players on tour deserves credit for late-career striving. But how much further can his game take him?
11. Nicolas Almagro: A fun-to-watch veteran who has mastered beating lower-ranked players and has an abominable record against the elite. Could lose early against tricky veteran, Radek Stepanek.
12. Marin Cilic: Big game -- and has enjoyed past U.S. Open success, including a takedown of Murray -- but still too erratic.
13. Richard Gasquet: Tons of talent. A stop-traffic-gorgeous backhand (and game in general) but still doesn't give much indication he's cut out for real greatness.
14. Alex Dolgopolov: Modestly-built, strategic player. But more an annoyance than a threat.
15. Milos Raonic: The Canadian has firmly established himself a credible, future top tenner -- the most recent bit of evidence was his run in Cincinnati. But we await the major breakthrough.
16. Gilles Simon: You love the minimalist tennis. But by now we know the dance steps to the Simon Shuffle: win, win, win, out in round four.
17. Kei Nishikori: Fine young player who likes the hard courts.
20. Andy Roddick: A past winner and he does have a hardcourt win over Federer this year. His body has been waging a relentless revolt for several years now. But, owing to a kind draw, at least he could still be in the draw coming his 30th birthday on August 30th.
21. Tommy Haas: Former top five player having an exceptional season.
23. Mardy Fish: An annus forgettabilis for American veteran. But he can close out the year on a high note with a strong showing at his home Slam.
27. Sam Querrey: Quietly, Querrey querulously... OK we quit. He's playing well of late.
Grigor Dimitrov: You still get a feeling the breakthrough is a question of when, not if.
Brian Baker: Best story men's tennis has given us in years.
Bernard Tomic: An awful lot of talent that will eventually pour forth.
Jerzy Janowicz: Listen to this guy play and then realize that grunting is not exclusively a WTA issue.
Kevin Anderson def. David Ferrer. (Realistically, all 16 of the top men should win their first match.)
Federer vs. Donald Young: The good news is that Young will be setting no records when, likely, he loses.
Jack Sock vs. Florian Mayer: Young American with a challenging, but winnable first rounder.
Qualifier TBD v. Qualifier TBD: One player, ranked outside the top 100, is guaranteed nearly $40,000. Which can make for quite an incentive.
Murray vs. Alex Bogomolov Jr.: A lousy year for ABJ, but he did beat Murray on U.S. hardcourts in 2011.
Juan Martin del Potro vs. David Nalbandian: Plataforma especial.
Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi: They're the top seeds for a reason.
Top half: Federer def. Murray
Bottom half: Djokovic def. Isner