The U.S. Open has released its seedings for its 2014 edition and as expected, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic are the top seeds. This is just the third time Serena has been seeded No. 1 at the U.S. Open, but she won the tournament the two previous times she's been the top seed.
The top four for the men are: 1. Djokovic, 2. Roger Federer, 3. Stan Wawrinka and 4. David Ferrer. For the women, the top four seeds are: 1. Williams, 2. Simona Halep, 3. Agnieszka Radwansaka and 4. Petra Kvitova.
Here's why certain seeding cut-offs matter:
• No. 1 and No. 2: It means neither seed can face each other until the final. With Rafael Nadal's withdrawal, No. 3 Federer gets the second seed. It also means either he or Djokovic could face Australian Open champion Wawrinka in the semifinals.
• Nos. 1 through 4: It means each is the highest seed in his/her own quarter. If you're the field, you're hoping Thursday's draw puts you in either Wawrinka or Ferrer's quarters. Wawrinka has been vulnerable on the summer hard courts, taking losses to No. 21 Kevin Anderson in Toronto and No. 41 Julien Benneteau in Cincinnati. Ferrer has had a good summer, making the Toronto quarterfinals and Cincinnati final, but losing to Federer both times. He's a tough out but you'd still rather be in his section than Federer or Djokovic's. For the women, everyone is hoping to avoid the Serena quarter.
• Nos. 5 through 8: These four cannot meet Nos. 1-4 before the quarterfinals. This would explain the sighs of relief when both Andy Murray and Ana Ivanovic secured the No. 8 seeds.
• Nos. 9 through 16: They could play a top eight seed in the Round of 16, though seeds 9 through 12 cannot face a top four seed.
• Nos. 17 through 32: Fail to snag a top 32 seeding and you could be drawn against a top player in the first round. Seedings provide draw protection, and the ability to secure a seed makes a player's draw much easier to navigate because they are guaranteed not to face another seed until the third round. Three rounds may not sound like much, but it certainly has an impact on the pocketbook. Lose in the first round and you take home roughly $35,000. But make the third round and you clear a check of $105,090.
Four questions ahead of the U.S. Open draw:
Can Andy Murray avoid Djokovic and Federer in the quarterfinals? His losses this summer have been disappointing -- he blew a 3-0 lead in the third against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto and then blew a 4-0 double-break lead on Federer in the second set in Cincinnati -- but overall his tennis has been sharp. He was a champion in 2012, but lost in the quarterfinals last year to Wawrinka.
Will Maria Sharapova land in Serena or Simona's half? The Russian -- seeded fifth -- hasn't beaten Serena in nearly 10 years. She's never lost to Halep and beat her three times this year, including last week in Cincinnati. She has no points to defend in New York after skipping the tournament last year with a shoulder injury. This is a good opportunity for her to make a jump up the rankings.
Could we get a 2013 U.S. Open final rematch in the fourth round? Last year's runner-up Victoria Azarenka secured a No. 16 seeding, which means she could be drawn to play last year's champion Serena in the fourth round. Azarenka has been hampered by injury this year and withdrew from last week's tournament in Cincinnati in hopes of healing her knee. Regardless of her form, she's always been able to summon incredible fight against Serena and an early match-up could be a test for the favorite.
Will Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Venus Williams be bracket busters? Venus Williams is seeded 19th and given her fantastic run to the final in Montreal (where she defeated Serena in three sets) her placement in the draw will be intriguing. The same goes for Tsonga, who defeated four top ten players en route to his second ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto (Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov, and Federer.) He'll be seeded 9th.
And some first round upset alerts: Some unseeded men could draw the big names in the first round, including Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, Jerzy Janowicz, David Goffin, Donald Young, Jack Sock, and Dominic Thiem. As for the women, keep an eye on where Elina Svitolina, Camila Giorgi, CoCo Vandeweghe, Alison Riske, Magdalena Rybarikova, Francesca Schiavone, and Shelby Rogers land. Any one of them is capable of taking out a seed.