By Jon Wertheim
August 25, 2017

I don’t practice Santaria, I ain’t got no crystal ball. But here's some prognosticating before the 2017 U.S. Open as we anticipate a first-ever Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal meeting at Flushing Meadows and the final Slam of 2017, without Serena Williams in the draw.

Read on for dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more as we breakdown the men's and women's seeds at the 2017 U.S. Open.

Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)

The World No. 1 has had an interesting year, filled with triumph (mostly on clay) and leavened with some uncharacteristic losses in tight matches. Speaking of which, in his last match in New York, he fell 7-6 in the fifth. If Nadal keeps his nerve—and can front-run as he did in Paris—he can win for the third time and earn his first hardcourt title in more than three years. If not….

2. Andy Murray (GBR)

Ever since his Cannonball Run to the top ranking last fall, Murray has been a different, depleted, physically compromised man. A former U.S. Open champ but it’s hard to see him having an outsized impact this year.

3. Roger Federer (SUI)

The winner of two of the three majors in 2017 and a 17-1 record on U.S. hardcourts. Yes, he turned 36. Yes, his last U.S. Open title came in 2008. Pick against him at your peril.

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4. Alexander Zverev (GER)

In a short amount of tine, he’s gone from hot prospect to bona fide star. Two straight Masters Series events will do that to you. Under new coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, AZ is closing in on 50 match wins this season. The big question, as I see it, is the physical conditioning in a best-of-five format. If he can handle that (perhaps with some help from a merciful Mother Nature) he can win this event recalling Marat Safin in 2000.

5. Marin Cilic (CRO)

Coming off a Wimbledon final and now enters the one major he’s won. Depending on how he rolls into town physically, he is either a strong contender to win another U.S. Open or merely an obstacle for the eventual champ.

6. Dominic Thiem (AUT)

You admire the ascent, the work ethic. You shrug at the inveterate playing schedule, resigned that it’s not changing and maybe he knows what is best for him.

7. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Even coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—it’s hard to know what to make of Dimitrov. Loads of talent. Loads of erratic results. He surges. He falls. He returns. Can he truly contend for majors? Arriving in form for an event with a depleted draw will reveal much. 

8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.

9. David Goffin (BEL)

Progress interrupted by that spill at the French Open. (Is there a slip-and-fall lawyer in the house?) A steady, solid player who is really at a disadvantage when his movement is compromised.

10. John Isner (USA)

A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.

11. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)

More an annoyance than a threat.

12. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)

A lithe and athletic player who reached round three last year and ought to do better this year. Bonus points for his doubles play.

Pause here: how many of us would take the next five seeds over the previous five?

13. Jack Sock (USA)

“Young American” as he’s touted in tournament lead-up is now almost 25 and no longer quite so young. Still seeks that Grand Slam breakthrough. You wish he were in better shape, but why not now?

14. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)

Your guess is as good as mine—and, alas his. Undeniable talent. Undeniable immaturity. (And lately, an undeniable hip injury.) At full health and conviction, he’s capable of winning the title, as we saw in Indian Wells (which—though held in March—tends to be a pretty good barometer for Open success.) At subpar health and conviction, he won’t survive week one.

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15. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Given Zverev’s youth, Berdych is—for our money—the best player never to have won a major. The hard, flat strokes disrupt rhythm and make him difficult against any opponent. The sands are sneaking out of the career hourglass but always dangerous.

16. Lucas Pouille (FRA)

A revelation last year, punctuated by a middle weekend takedown of Nadal.

Seeds 17-32

17. Sam Querrey

Fresh off a Wimbledon semi, can he back it up? Maybe the best American hope.

18. Gael Monfils

Come for the party, stay for the (occasional) substance. A semifinalist last year who hasn't been the same since.

19. Gilles Muller

The Nadal-slayer at Wimbledon looks to extend his career year (in his mid-30s).

21. David Ferrer

Still going. Good for Ferrer for this fine mini-comeback over the last few months.

24. Juan Martin del Potro

A top five player, provided he’s healthy. Sadly, that is seldom the case.

25. Karen Khachanov

Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.

28. Kevin Anderson

Nice bounce-back year for the South African includes a run to the final in Washington D.C.

Dark Horse Pasture

Denis Shapovalov: New Laver Cup invitee tries to build on his Montreal breakthrough. This presupposes he qualifies—he should have gotten a wild card.

Frances Tiafoe: Improving steadily. And there are moral victories to the various close matches he’s dropped.

Fernando Verdasco: Still capable of any-given-day upsets

Daniil Medvedev: The best player you’ve never heard of.

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First Round Matches to Watch

Federer vs. Tiafoe

Murray v. Tennys Sandgren

Berdych vs. Ryan Harrison: Man, does Harrison get a lot of lousy draws.

Cilic v. Gilles Simon: Not the opponent you want if you’re not 100%.

Isner v. Kohlschreiber (potential round three): It’s about time these two faced off at the Open.

Doubles winner

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares

Semifinals

Federer d. Nadal

Zverev d. Murray

Final

Federer d. Zverev

Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

1. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

She was the favorite of Wimbledon and was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100. A finalist last year, she comes in with a new, shiny No. 1 ranking. What an opportunity to legitimize it.

2. Simona Halep (ROU)

As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. This was a year of opportunity for Halep. While she deserves credit for competing, this is her last chance of 2017 to bag that elusive Slam. In the someone-has-a-sense-of-humor match, she starts against Sharapova.

3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

An enigma for the first half of the year and a killer from Wimbledon on. Can seal the deal as 2017 MVP with a title. One of those players who speaks openly about her ambivalence about the chaos of New York (and by extension its signature tournament.) But between the Wimbledon title and Cincinnati hardcourt title, Mugu has to be the favorite.

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4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)

We keep saying that the breakthrough ought to be a matter of when and not if. In Toronto, she offered another tasting menu of her skills and authoritative ball-striking. Never been beyond round three in New York. And challenging first round foe in Siniakova.

5. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

An awfully strong year, but an awful lot of runner-up finishes (six and counting). You worry about the lower back issue and you worry about her lower power grade. But she is a two-time finalist, comfortable in New York. In other words, be prepared for any result.

6. Angelique Kerber (GER)

Last year’s winner has spent most of 2017 in the sub-Zero. And she’ll start with a challenging match against young Naomi Osaka. The Cinderella-to-pumpkin lines begin in eins, zwei, drei…

7. Johanna Konta (GBR)

All credit to Konta for her upward mobility. A fine run at Wimbledon ended in the semis. But her play on hardcourts has been unremarkable thus far.

8. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)

The old cut-and-paste: that the 2004 U.S. Open champ remains a contender in 2017 is testament to her professionalism and her athleticism. A terminally underrated player who could easily steal her third major.

9. Venus Williams (USA)

Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she made her debut, reaching the final and stealing the scene. Expectant aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. A sentimental favorite but…

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10. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)

Sadly, a player in decline. The absence of power once motivated her. Now it seems to deprive her of self-belief.

11. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)

A giant-killer who punches above her height and embraces competition. But has turned in mostly meh results in New York, including a loss to then-15-year-old Cici Bellis in 2014 and a third round exit in 2016.

12. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

French Open champion turned in a solid Wimbledon but little to show for on North American hardcourts. You like the attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) but you wonder if she isn't feeling the effects of a long and eventful season.

13. Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Your comeback player of the year.

But has never been at her best in New York.

14. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

Mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game, but when does she truly break through in singles?

15. Madison Keys (USA)

If she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.

16. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)

Best player you’ve never heard of. Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.

Seeds 17-32

18. Caroline Garcia

Not unlike Mladenovic—her former doubles partner—she’s a terrific athlete who needs to work on closing.

20. CoCo Vandeweghe

A semifinalist in Australia and week two player at Wimbledon now brings her serve to the final Slam of 2017.

21. Ana Konjuh

Nice week two run in 2016.

22. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Coming off a semifinal at the previous hardcourt major.

30. Julia Goerges

Fine summer of hardcourt tennis.

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Dark Horse Nation

Serena Williams: Count her out at your peril.

Maria Sharapova: Can a former No. 1 and former winner be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.

Sloane Stephens: Shaking off the rust after a foot injury, she’s looked like a top 10 player over the last six weeks.

Ash Barty: One of the better stories in tennis this year. A year ago she was playing cricket—chick-et the Aussies call it. Now she’s inside the top 50.

Kristyna Pliskova: Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.

Oceane Dodin: A top ten player by 2020.

Donna Vekic: Showing signs of playing to her potential.

CiCi Bellis: Already won a lot of matches on a lot of surfaces. And she turned 18 in April.

Jelena Jankovic: All former No.1’s (and former finalists) get recognized, no matter how steep their descent

First Round Matches to watch

Halep vs. Sharapova: It’s official. Sharapova has become a sympathetic figure.

Konjuh vs. Barty: Lousy draw for both.

Stephens vs. Roberta Vinci: Tricky opponent for resurgent Stephens.

Vandeweghe vs. Alison Riske: American on American action for these divided times.

Kvitova vs. Jankovic: Lot of combined time in the top five.

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Upset Special

Just for kicks…. Siniakova d. Svitolina

Doubles winner

Hingis and Chan

Semifinal

Keys d. Pliskova

Muguruza d. Halep

Final

Muguruza d. Keys

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