1. Rafael Nadal: He's won the past two Slams and is firmly entrenched as numero uno. But until he can prove his bona fides in New York -- where he's never won, of course, so much as reached the final -- it's hard to tab him as the favorite. Especially coming off two desultory performances in Toronto and Cincy. Physically, Nadal should be okay, a change from years past. And the draw gods have smiled on him. It's the fast court that remains a cause for concern.
2. Roger Federer: As the critics were busy considering what to wear to the Federer funeral, suddenly, the Mighty One is back, winning Cincinnati, making a personnel move and getting happier with the state of his game. Yes, he's only won two titles in 2010 and lost to lots of lesser lights. But when a five-time champ shows up in form -- especially with his 2009 vanquisher not in the draw -- how is he not the favorite?
3. Novak Djokovic: Fast becoming tennis's mystery man. A disturbing trend: He tends to play well in week one, only to have the wires short in week two. He has the game to win a second major, no one denies that. But can the heart and head (and respiratory system) cooperate?
4. Andy Murray: "Andy will win a Slam one day" is getting stale. If not now, when? Comes into his favorite major with some momentum, having beaten both Federer and Nadal this summer. And he appears comfortable with his mom as a de facto coach. Now about those seven wins...
5. Robin Soderling: Holy mediocrity, Batman. Robin ought to be a terrific hard-court player, what with those, flat pace-laced strokes. But his results this year have been most ordinary.
6. Nikolay Davydenko: Another Mystery Man. The eccentric Russian looked terrific in late 2009 and early '10, especially on the fast hard courts. But thanks largely to injury, he's hasn't been heard from much since. Always a dangerous player but lingering injury and limited match play might hinder his progress.
7. Tomas Berdych: Has yet to piggyback on his tremendous Wimbledon showing. But those flat, hard strokes ought to go over well. Plus he appears to have overcome his penchant for shaky effort. Burtal first-round draw against Michael Llodra, but after that, look out.
8. Fernando Verdasco: Loads of talent and hardcourt weaponry but the results haven't kept pace with the expectations this year. Can upgrade a fine-but-not-great season with a strong showing.
9. Andy Roddick: On the plus side, the Americans have a player back in the Top 10. It's been a funny year for Roddick, some superlative tennis (Miami) mixed with some bad losses. Plus a case of mono. Always a threat in New York -- and his draw could have been much worse -- but he surely wishes he had more momentum coming in.
10. David Ferrer: An admirable grinder who's wrung everything from his game and will win battles of attrition. But lacks the serve and arsenal to threaten for the title.
11. Marin Cilic: After a fine performance in 2009 -- in which he appeared destined for the top five -- the palindromic one has regressed this year. Last chance to salvage a disappointing season.
12. Mikhail Youzhny: Always dangerous, his power game is at odds with his physique.
13. Jurgen Melzer: Austrian lefty had done himself proud at the past two majors but appears to have a hit a wall.
14. Nicolas Almagro: Have to admire anyone with the body of a middle reliever who competes at this level. Fun, expressive player but not a threat to win a hard-court major.
15. Ivan Ljubicic: Hard-serving Croat had the week on his life on the hard courts of Indian Wells but has been quiet ever since.
16. Marcos Baghdatis: Needs the diet of Fish (his likely third-round foe). Terrifically talented player is always worth watching, but lacks to stamina/fitness to win seven best-of-five matches.
17. Gael Monfils: A personal favorite on athleticism alone. But the results seldom keep pace with the talent.
18. John Isner: In a vacuum, he'd be a strong pick. But on a bum ankle, his game is severely compromised.
19. Mardy Fish: In throes of his finest year. Can garnish with a strong showing in New York. What's the over/under on the number of times we get the backstory on his diet?
20. Sam Querrey: The fourth American in the Top 20, Querrey is emerging as a mercurial dangerous/maddening player: winning titles, but still looking for a Slam breakthrough. May well get another crack at Murray -- for the third time in eight or so weeks -- in third round.
24. Ernests Gulbis: Not unlike Querrey, a dangerous player seeking more consistent results. Given him credit on a fine bounceback year, though.
27. Fernando Gonzalez: Gonzo's best days are behind him, but always a dangerous player on the right day.
31. David Nalbandian: The player no one wants to face. Former semifinalist is suddenly playing A-level tennis. Unlikely to hold up for seven rounds, but a major yellow highlighter on this name. If he makes it to the quarters (against Nadal?), it wouldn't be surprising at all.
32. Lleyton Hewitt: Former U.S. Open champ no longer a threat to win the title, but always a threat to win a particular match on guts alone.
Michael Llodra: Hard-serving lefty.
Thiemo de Bakker: Young player with a bright future.
Alex Dolgopolov: Perhaps the best male player you've never heard of -- and he's only 21. Check him out.
Gulbis vs. Jeremy Chardy: Two players of tomorrow.
Querrey vs. Bradley Klahn: Seeded American takes on 2010 NCAA champ.
Berdych vs. Michael Llodra: Tough first round opponent -- a hard-serving lefty -- for Wimbledon finalist.
Djokovic vs. Viktor Troicki: Battle for Serbia.
Lleyton Hewitt vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu: Two solid veterans.
None. All 16 seeds will advance. (If Isner is immobile, he could go down.)
The Bryans, Bob and Mike: Time to back up the record and the summer publicity with another Slam.
Nadal vs. Murray
Roddick vs. Federer
Federer vs. Nadal (the last time they played in the final of a major was the 2009 Australian Open)