After months of uncertainty in the tennis world, a welcome development arrived on Thursday: the US Open draw. For many fans, the bracket for the tournament, which is set to begin on Monday, was confirmation that professional tennis is indeed back.
The draw has revealed the most compelling potential match-ups and story lines of the tournament, aside from the big names that are missing. The biggest takeaway is that Novak Djokovic has a comfortable road ahead.
With world No. 2 Rafael Nadal and 20-time Major champion Roger Federer not at this year’s US Open due to Covid-19 fears and knee surgery respectively, the world No. 1 has a relatively simple path to the final. His hardest potential match-up is against the seventh-seeded David Goffin, who has beaten the 17-time Major winner just once in eight meetings, and that was in 2017 on clay.
For the women, a generational battle looms. Serena Williams, who is seeking a record-tying 24th Major singles title, could run into Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, in the third round.
This would be their first meeting since the 2015 French Open, and the 38-year-old Williams, who has won five of their six head-to-head matches, will hope to push past Stephens, 27, as she pursues her first Major in over three years.
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, 21, faces an even tougher draw. In the round of 16, a Belgian in the form of Elise Mertens or Kim Clijsters, the 37-year-old playing her first Slam since 2012, will most likely be awaiting her. And her quarter-final opponent could include veterans Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams.
There could also be a repeat of last year’s third-round highlight between 16-year-old Coco Gauff and two-time Major winner Naomi Osaka. The Japanese beat the American then, but lost to her in Melbourne in January and the pair could get a rematch in the third round at Flushing Meadows.