Photo: Paul ZimmerRoger Federer (SUI)
Defending US Open champion Andy Murray could face top seed Novak Djokovic, the man he defeated in last year’s final, in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could be set for a blockbuster quarterfinal after being drawn in the same quarter.
Federer, who at No. 7 has been handed his lowest seeding since 2002, and 12-time Grand Slam champion Nadal may have one of the most compelling rivalries in the history of the game, facing each other on 31 different occasions, but the pair have never met in New York.
Murray and Djokovic, meanwhile, have met in three of the last four Grand Slam finals but another chapter of their intriguing rivalry may have to be played out ahead of the showpiece match at this year’s US Open. Murray won his first major title at Flushing Meadows last year, defeating the world No. 1 over an absorbing five sets, and admitted the weight has been lifted off his shoulders as he returns to defend his crown.
“It’s different,” said Murray. “I’m looking forward to getting back on court. I came here (to the US Open) when I was 15. I won my first Grand Slam title here. I won the juniors here. I love this tournament.”
Before entertaining thoughts of a deep run at the final Grand Slam of the year, each of the major title contenders must get through their openers, with Djokovic facing Ricardas Berankis, Murray up against Michael Llodra, Nadal playing Ryan Harrison and Roger Federer against Grega Zemlja.
In other potentially engrossing match-ups, former US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt plays the recovering Brian Baker in the latest step on the American’s return from a severe knee injury picked up at this year’s Australian Open, No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych plays Paolo Lorenzi and Roland Garros finalist David Ferrer takes on a qualifier.
In the women’s draw, defending champion Serena Williams opens her bid for a 17th Grand Slam singles title with a potentially tough contest against 2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone. Maria Sharapova’s withdrawal with a right shoulder injury may have softened up the draw for some but Williams may still meet No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals, not that the American is looking too far ahead.
“I don't look too far in the draw. I just look at the first one," said Williams on Thursday. "For me, my competition comes with each match. Every match is going to be a very, very tough competition for me, and I just stay focused on one at a time."
Last year’s runner-up Victoria Azarenka opens against 21-year-old Dinah Pfizenmaier of Germany, No. 3 seed Radwanska starts against Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa, No. 4 seed Sara Errani faces Ayumi Morita and No. 5 Li Na faces Olga Govortsova.
Two-time champion Venus Williams and Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens will duel for a spot in the second round, while Angelique Kerber plays Czech Lucie Hradecka, No. 7 Petra Kvitova takes on Japan’s Misaki Doi, and No. 6 seed Caroline Wozniacki and 2011 champion Sam Stosur have both drawn qualifiers.