At the 2018 US Open, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could play each other for the first time in New York. But, who can play spoiler?
In the history of their great rivalry, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have never played under the lights at the US Open inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. This year, two of the best players of all-time are on the opposite side of the draw, so a matchup in the final is still possible.
If you look at the pathways both players would take towards the final, the road is much easier for Nadal. Federer, who has won the US Open five times, is the number two seed. He has a potential third-round matchup against Australian Nick Kyrgios (23 seed), but his toughest matchup could come in a super quarterfinal that would be a final in most Grand Slams.
That potential opponent would be Novak Djokovic (6 seed). Djokovic just beat Federer in Cincinnati in straight sets and is coming off winning Wimbledon last month. The Serb’s form looks much better now compared to earlier in the year when he was recovering from shoulder surgery.
Djokovic has won the last four meetings at Grand Slams, including the 2015 US Open final in four sets. The two-time US Open Champion has a good chance to raise the trophy in New York for the third time.
As for Nadal, he decided not to play in Cincinnati last week. However, he did win the event prior to that, in Canada (Rogers Cup). The three-time US Open champion could face South African Kevin Anderson (five seed) in the quarterfinals. Nadal beat Anderson in Flushing at last year’s US Open final, but Anderson has to have confidence going in after being a finalist at Wimbledon.
Before the quarterfinals, it is tough to find a spot where Nadal gets knocked out earlier. He does face Spaniard David Ferrer in round one, who can push him a little bit. However, Ferrer is not what he once was in his career. Keep an eye on Kyle Edmund in this section (16 seed).
Edmund has only won one match in three tournaments since Wimbledon. With that being said, the Brit can give any of the top players a challenge. If he plays Nadal in the Round of 16, there isn’t much familiarity between the two as Nadal only played him once on a clay court in Monte Carlo in 2017 (Nadal won in three sets).
Outside of the Big Three on the men’s side, there are plenty of intriguing storylines. One would be in the section of the draw that 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro (3 seed) is in. del Potro is a fan favorite and has one of the best forehands in the sport.
In the last two slams, del Potro has had his run ended by Nadal, but that potentially would not happen until the US Open semifinal. He could play former US Open champ Andy Murray in the third round, but Murray is unseeded and has been battling a hip injury that has limited his play this year.
Two other names that could make a run in this section is the 15 seed from Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and the 11 seed from the USA, John Isner. Tsitsipas is only 20-years-old and is one of the rising stars in the sport. He lost to Nadal in Canada and Alexander Zverev (4 seed) in the semifinals in Washington D.C. He has the potential to break into the Top 10 very soon.
As for Isner, he has the best chance of any American to make a deep run because of the draw. The question with him is whether or not he can bounce back after a heartbreaking loss to Anderson in the Wimbledon semifinal. Now, he did win in Atlanta and he could face Milos Raonic (25 seed) in the Round of 16, which would be a tiebreak fest.
Fortunately, for Isner, there is a tiebreak in the fifth set, so he doesn’t have to play till 70-68. If he can return serve at a decent rate to go with his strong serve, he can reach the quarterfinals here for the first time since 2011.
My favorite first round match is the battle between Gregor Dimitrov (8 seed) and Stanislas Wawrinka. Dimitrov has the head-to-head edge (4-3), but Wawrinka defeated him in the first round at Wimbledon in four sets. Dimitrov’s potential and Wawrinka’s track record in slams makes this a rare classic first-round match
Now, let’s take a look at my predictions starting from the Round of 16:
Round of 16
Nadal over Edmund
Anderson over (19) Roberto Bautista Agut
Del Potro over Tsitsipas
Isner over Raonic
(7) Marin Cilic over (22) Marco Cecchinato
Zverev over Gael Monfils
Djokovic over (12) Pablo Carreno Busta
Federer over (14) Fabio Fognini
Nadal over Anderson
Del Potro over Isner
Cilic over Zverev
Federer over Djokovic
Nadal over del Potro
Federer over Cilic
Nadal over Federer
While tennis doesn’t need this final to happen, it would be a great thing to see this matchup happen at all four major events and it would be must-see TV for any sports fan.