Thursday August 25th, 2011's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's seeds at the U.S. Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses and predictions. Click here for the women's report.

1. Novak Djokovic: The big question mark -- at least at this writing -- is his shoulder. The Djokovic camp is projecting optimism. But you hear "rotator cuff" and you wince. In full health, Djokovic is the clear favorite to win Major No. 3. (All the more so, given his draw.) We'll still tip him. But you just hope that ability decides his fate, not muscles and ligaments.

2. Rafael Nadal: Even if he eats nothing but cold food for the next two weeks, the defending champ doesn't appear to be in form to defend. A rough go of it on the hardcourts. And then there's the matter of that five-match losing streak to a certain Serb.

3. Roger Federer: We've said that a lot has to go right for Federer to win another major. Well, there are worse scenarios than the two guys ranked ahead of him struggling with injuries. Also doesn't hurt that he's in a soft section of the draw. Tsonga -- his nemesis this summer -- or Fish could loom in the quarters, but a lot can happen in five rounds.

4. Andy Murray: Mind the gap. The staircase dividing the top three and the next three is a long one. But after a flameout in Montreal, Murray reinserted himself in the conversation by winning Cincinnati. It's hard to tip a Slam virgin, but there's a big opportunity here for Murray to get lucky.

PODCAST: Previewing the U.S. open with Jon Wertheim

5. David Ferrer: The hardest working man in tennis can bring his peerless stamina to bear at this event. Probably won't win. But you can bet on his making life miserable for a few folks along the way.

6. Robin Soderling: Holy plateau! Robin has settled into a sidekick role. His wrist injury has limited his play. Were this not a Slam, it's unlikely he'd be in the draw.

7. Gael Monfils: He's more of a performer than a winner, but he sure is fun to watch. His impatience, his inconsistency and his questionable grasp of tactics preclude him from winning the title. His athleticism and disposition preclude him from being dull. So, in a sense, everyone wins.

8. Mardy Fish: The highest-ranking American has a big opportunity for his long-awaited Grand Slam breakthrough. A top five player over the last 90 days, Fish is definitely in that next set of contenders after the Big Three. Pause, too, to acknowledge his admirable late-career surge. (For all the talk of his easy draw, Tobias Kamke is no slouch.)

9. Tomas Berdych: Oh, the migrations of the Berd-man. He reaches the Wimbledon final in 2010, then flies away. He flaps his wings for months, then he beats Federer on hardcourts. He's like Marat Safin without the relentless candor and depth of character. When he loses early, don't be surprised. When he plays Super Saturday, don't be surprised, either.

10. Nicolas Almagro: Another industrious Spaniard. This colorful presence and emotional player will make middle weekend, no more, no less.

11. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Health is always a concern -- and he was clearly less than 100 percent in Montreal and Cincy. But he's played well this summer, including a pair of wins over Federer, and will benefit from the extra day between matches.

12. Gilles Simon: Interesting player to watch. His minimalist game is deceptive and, though he won't win, he may well play into Week Two.

13. Richard Gasquet: Has the game of a champion, but not the wiring. Could have a tough first-rounder against Sergiy Stakhovsky.

14. Stan Wawrinka: A quarterfinalist last year, he has a complete game -- and a ravishing backhand.

15. Viktor Troicki: Game has tailed off lately, but plays his best tennis on hardcourts.

16. Mikhail Youzhny: Track record at U.S. Open -- including a semifinal appearance and win over Nadal -- bodes well.

18. Juan Martin del Potro: The champ in 2009, he's still making his way back. Not ready to win again, but ready to inflict some damage.

21. Andy Roddick: It's jarring to see him seeded this low. But for old time's sake...

22. Alexandr Dolgopolov: After an encouraging start to the year, he's struggled a bit. A player to watch nonetheless.

26. Florian Mayer: Hard-serving German is headed to the top 20.

27. Marin Cilic: Simply too good to be ranked this low and not acknowledged.

28. John Isner: Finding his game again. And his serve always makes him dangerous.

29. Michael Llodra: Come, villagers! Step right up. Don't be shy. Kids, watch a real, live serve-and-volleyer!

32. Ivan Dodig: A qualifier last year, he almost got a seeding in 2011. Plus he has a win over Nadal.

Kevin Anderson: Is the hard-serving South African the Kevin Curren of this era?

Gilles Muller: Metamorphosis into a world beater in New York.

Alex Bogomolov Jr.: A late-career surge to rival Mardy Fish. A teaching pro two years ago, he's now top 50.

Ernests Gulbis: On talent alone.

Grigor Dmitrov v. Gael Monfils: Flash special.

Ryan Harrison v. Marin Cilic: A big chance for American teen to knock off a struggling former top player.

John Isner v. Marcos Baghdatis: Baghdatis tends to be the great foil for heroic performances (Agassi) and American upsets (Donald Young).

Jack Sock v. Marc Gicquel: A thoroughly winnable match for the young American.

Takhovsky v. Gasquet: There are many vulnerable players, but most of them drew well in the first round.

The Bryans. We know all about them and yet this remains one of the great underrated stories in sports.

Semifinals: Djokovic d. Federer; Nadal d. Murray

Finals: Djokovic d. Nadal

Champion: Djokovic

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