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Rafa Nadal handed favorable US Open Tennis draw, Medvedev with a tougher path in the top half

Daniil Medvedev of Russia aims to defend his US Open title. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

By Ricky Dimon

This U.S. Open is without question one of the most wide open Grand Slams of the Big 3 era—even on the women’s side, too. Speaking of the Big 3, only one representative is playing in New York this summer. Novak Djokovic is unable to enter the United States because he is unvaccinated and Roger Federer is still sidelined by a knee injury. Nadal has played only one match since Wimbledon, where he withdrew prior to the semifinals due to an abdominal issue, so the door for other contenders is most definitely open.

With main-draw action beginning on Monday, it’s time to break down the 2022 men’s singles draw.

Medvedev’s quarter

Overall, Daniil Medvedev’s draw is not necessarily a terrible one—especially not during the first week. However, things could get interesting in a hurry starting on Labor Day weekend. Nick Kyrgios, who beat the world No. 1 in Montreal, is a potential fourth-round opponent and Felix Auger-Aliassime is Medvedev’s projected quarterfinal foe as the other top-eight seed in this section. Auger-Aliassime led two sets to love and had a match point in their Australian Open quarterfinal earlier this season but could not get across the finish line. Kyrgios has to face good friend Thanaski Kokkinakis in round one, while recent Montreal winner Pablo Carreno Busta is kicking off his campaign against 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem.

Best first-round matchup — (23) Nick Kyrgios vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis

It’s a rough pairing for the two of them, but it should be awesome for fans. The two Australian Open doubles-winning Aussies will take the court on Monday night following Serena Williams’ first match of her final appearance in New York. Kyrgios may be on fire this summer, but Kokkinakis is playing well enough to make their first-ever meeting at the ATP level competitive.

Possible surprises – We probably shouldn’t be surprised when Carreno Busta does well at the U.S. Open given that he is a two-time semifinalist and now a Masters 1000 champ on a hard court. But let’s be honest…we would be surprised if he makes another trip to the semis. Although the Spaniard’s draw isn’t great, he should be able to take care of Thiem. Medvedev may be too tough in the quarters, but if Kyrgios takes out the Russian beforehand then Carreno Busta may be able to take advantage.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in action at the US Open. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

Tsitsipas’ quarter

Having found his form in Cincinnati, where he finished runner-up to Borna Coric, Stefanos Tsitsipas has to be considered the favorite in this section as the No. 4 seed. That being said, there is a sizable number of Americans who could do some serious damage. Taylor Fritz has announced himself as a very real threat this year with a title at the Indian Wells Masters and a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon (lost to Nadal in five sets). Fritz vs. Brandon Holt is a matchup between players whose moms used to play on the pro tour. Speaking of Americans, Tommy Paul vs. Sebastian Korda is likely to be seen in round two and Maxime Cressy could give Tsitsipas some trouble in the last 32.

Best first-round matchup — (24) Francisco Cerundolo vs. Andy Murray

Cerundolo may have been thought of as a clay-courter prior to this season, but he now has to be taken seriously on other surfaces. The Argentine made a run to the Miami semifinals and he reached the third round of Wimbledon, where he took a set off Nadal. Murray should still be considered the favorite on a hard court, but this a tough opening matchup for the 2012 champion.

Possible surprises — Tsitsipas is an alarming 5-4 lifetime at Flushing Meadows and has never made it past the third round. File away that information and also consider the fact that Casper Ruud is not yet a significant force on hard courts and you would do well to look elsewhere while filling out your bracket. Fritz is an obvious semifinal choice if you aren’t going with the Greek, but don’t be shocked if the Paul-Korda second-round winner goes on to make major noise.

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain reacts at the US Open. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

Alcaraz’s quarter

Just 18 years old, Carlos Alcaraz pulled off what at the time seemed like a miracle upset of Tsitsipas on his improbable way to the 2021 U.S. Open quarterfinals. Fast forward only 12 months and the Spaniard is seeded third and has a mathematical chance to become No. 1 immediately following the tournament. His road through this field, however, is not a simple one. Alcaraz-Coric would be a blockbuster third-round battle, 2014 champion Marin Cilic is a possible fourth-round adversary, and both Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner can be extremely dangerous on any given day. Hurkacz and Sinner are on a collision course for the round of 16 in the half of this section opposite Alcaraz.

Best first-round matchup — David Goffin vs. (26) Lorenzo Musetti

Goffin has not done anything since Wimbledon, but perhaps his Wimbledon form is still somewhere in there? The Belgian reached the quarterfinals and has always been impressive at Grand Slams throughout his decade-plus career. Musetti is at the other end of his career spectrum, as the 20-year-old Italian has climbed up the rankings into seeding position. The shot-making in this one should be stellar.

Possible surprises — I can’t see too many surprises with Alcaraz looming large and both Sinner and Coric playing well, but Ilya Ivashka could emerge into the second week out of Hurkacz’s section. Hurkacz remains inconsistent and Ivashka is not only playing well but also came within a set of the fourth round last summer (lost to Matteo Berrettini in five). As for Alcaraz-Coric, an upset is well within reason given how dominant the Croat was on his trek to the Cincinnati title.

Rafael Nadal practices at the US Open. Photo credit: Mike Lawrence/USTA/US Open

Nadal’s quarter

Nadal’s U.S. Open preparation was not ideal, but other than that the news is all good—and not just because he is well rested. With Djokovic out, the four-time champion is right up there with Medvedev as the top favorites for the title. Nadal could not have gotten a better draw, too. A second-round date with Fabio Fognini would make headlines, but on the court it should be routine. Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov both have the firepower necessary to take out the 36-year-old Spaniard in the quarters, but neither one is in good form these days. In fact, Shapovalov has been a disaster ever since beating an injured Nadal at the Rome Masters this spring.

Best first-round matchup — (14) Diego Schwartzman vs. Jack Sock

Can Sock’s offense beat Schwartzman’s defense? That is the question heading into this Tuesday night match in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Their only previous encounter came five years ago on the red clay of Rome, where Sock prevailed 7-5 in the third. A hard court does not necessarily favor the American, though, as Schwartzman has enjoyed plenty of U.S. Open success throughout his career.

Possible surprises — In the non-Nadal half of this quarter, the four seeds are Rublev, Shapovalov, Cameron Norrie, and Holger Rune. Of that quartet, only Norrie is playing well. The left-hander is never an easy out, but he also won’t strike fear into anyone. Even at 37 years old, John Isner can still take the racket out of opponents’ hands and he should never be counted out on American hard courts. It is by no means out of the question that Isner steals a quarterfinal spot from one of the four aforementioned seeded players.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.