2018 US Open Expert Picks—Champions, Dark Horses, Busts, Top Americans

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Daily Serve: Tennis Channel breaks down the draws at the 2018 US Open


The draws are out and our picks are in—here's who we think will succeed, surprise and stumble at the 2018 US Open.

Women's Champion

Zach Cohen: Serena Williams
Serena has a very difficult draw—she could face Venus in the third round and Simona Halep in the fourth. But this should be the event at which the 23-time Grand Slam champion puts it all together this season. Serena looked great at Wimbledon, and she has been healthy enough to get significant practice in since. I’m expecting the best from her these next few weeks.

Joel Drucker: Sloane Stephens
Why not a repeat run? The growth of Stephens’ game over the last year has been quite impressive. She has a remarkable ability to read the court, make smart decisions, play within herself and, when the time is right, land the big punch. On this surface, at this venue, it’s hard to imagine any opponent striking the kind of shot that could severely disrupt Stephens.

Steve Flink: Angelique Kerber
With some serious reservations, I am picking Kerber to take her second title. Halep, Serena and the defending champion Stephens are all in the other half of the bracket. In my view, Kerber has a decent draw.

Ed McGrogan: Angelique Kerber
It’s hard to pick anyone from the quarter of death, as tempting as some of the names are. Far away from the fray is Kerber, who just won Wimbledon and has previously won the US Open. As her career has evolved, she's become a pressure player who invariably finds her opponent’s weaknesses to exploit. While her summer hard-court season has been subpar so far, she’ll have time to find her flummoxing game in Flushing.

Ashley Ndebele: Simona Halep
After a tough first-round loss to Maria Sharapova last year, the Romanian will be determined to improve this year in New York. She’s had a great summer, with deep runs in Montreal and Cincinnati. She’s in a loaded quarter that includes Serena and Garbine Muruguza, but the No. 1 seed is the favorite.

Nina Pantic: Simona Halep
The world No. 1 is poised to win her second Grand Slam of 2018, particularly after a title in Montreal and finalist finish in Cincinnati. She’ll have confidence and experience to rely on, despite being in a loaded section. With the Grand Slam monkey finally off her back, she should play more freely than she did before winning her first major at Roland Garros. 

Steve Tignor: Simona Halep
Like Novak Djokovic’s draw, Halep’s road to the final could be rough—Serena, Venus, Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova are all in her quarter. But also like Djokovic, Halep has been the player of the summer on tour.

Women's Dark Horse (must be seeded No. 20 or lower)

Zach Cohen: Mihaela Buznarescu
Buzarnescu is player that doesn’t  feel like a dark horse. The 30-year-old recently won the first WTA title of her career in San Jose, and then retired from a hard-fought match against Svitolina in Montreal. But if Buzarnescu is over her ankle injury, look for her to make a run here. Her section of the draw isn’t exactly daunting.

Joel Drucker: Maria Sharapova
The time has come for Sharapova to show the form that’s taken her to five major titles. Here’s hoping she and Jelena Ostapenko play a great third-round match.

Steve Flink: Maria Sharapova
This may be the toughest pick of the lot. The No. 22 seed has not had a good year but she could snap out of it anytime. Having won a career Grand Slam, she could potentially get on a roll and keep going.

Ed McGrogan: Maria Sharapova
It hasn’t been a memorable season for Maria, but the former champion plays well in New York. At last year’s Open, her first major since the 2016 Australian Open, she reached the fourth round, and with some shaky seeds near her in the draw—Caroline Garcia, Ostapenko, Madison Keys, CoCo Vandeweghe—she can get there again, and go beyond.

Ashley Ndebele: Aryna Sabalenka
She is not a household name, but the 20-year-old Belarusian is quietly making a name for herself among an exciting crop of young players. She beat Wozniacki in Montreal, reached the semis of Cincinnati and is into the semis of New Haven.

Nina Pantic: Johanna Konta
The Brit has had a hard time in 2018, but seems to have found her A-game just in time for the Slam that saw her breakthrough in 2015. In recent weeks, she’s scored wins over the likes of Serena, Victoria Azarenka and Ostapenko. Konta is back in the position of underdog, with a tough task in No. 6 seed Garcia but little to lose. 

Steve Tignor: Aryna Sabalenka
The belting Belarusian is seeded just 26th, but after her semifinal appearance in Cincy, a deep run at the Open would come as a surprise to no one. Sabalenka starts against a game competitor in Danielle Collins, and could face Petra Kvitova in the third round.

Women's Bust (must be seeded No. 10 or higher)

Zach Cohen: Julia Goerges
Goerges made it all the way to the semifinals at Wimbledon, but the hard-court swing has been cruel to her. The 29-year-old lost in the third round at the Canadian Open, and she followed that up with an opening-round loss in Cincinnati. While she  should make it to the third round in New York, I don’t see her going much further than that.

Joel Drucker: Caroline Garcia
Garcia has never gone past the third round at the US Open. Nothing in her play this year has shown she’s in a strong place to change that New York story.

Steve Flink: Caroline Garcia
The No. 6 seed goes up Konta in the first round. That is a match Konta can win.

Ed McGrogan: Caroline Garcia
The sixth seed is into the quarterfinals of New Haven, which built her confidence but tapped into her physical reserves. Konta is as difficult a first-round opponent as she could ask for, and she could face Sharapova in the fourth round.

Ashley Ndebele: Caroline Wozniacki
Since winning her maiden Slam in Australia, the No. 2 seed has had a seesaw season, losing in the fourth round of the French Open and the second round of Wimbledon. She hasn’t reached the fourth round of any tournament since winning Eastbourne in June.

Nina Pantic: Jelena Ostapenko
The young Latvian enters the hard-court Slam on a three-match losing streak. Yes, she reached the Wimbledon semifinals, but she doesn’t seem to have found her rhythm on hard courts. Her big-hitting game needs to be on point to thrive in New York, and she won't have time to settle in, as she opens against experienced veteran Andrea Petkovic. 

Steve Tignor: Caroline Wozniacki
The No. 2 seed is a two-time finalist at the Open, but she’s had a slow summer, and there are opponents nearby—Sam Stosur, Anett Kontaveit, Kiki Bertens among them—who are more than capable of out-hitting her.

Which American will advance the farthest?

Zach Cohen: Serena Williams

Joel Drucker: Sloane Stephens

Steve Flink: Sloane Stephens

Ed McGrogan: Serena Williams

Ashley Ndebele: Sloane Stephens

Nina Pantic: Madison Keys

Steve Tignor: Sloane Stephens

Men's Champion

Zach Cohen: Juan Martin del Potro
Will it be easy for Del Potro with Djokovic, Federer and Nadal all playing at 100 percent health? No. But I still think the big Argentine gets the job done in New York. He has a favorable quarter of the draw, and it’s highly unlikely he’d have to face Dimitrov—the other highest-seeded player in his section—in the quarters. He should cruise into the semis, which is where it gets tough for him. But he has the ability to beat Nadal on hard courts, and I like his chances against Djokovic or Federer right now. 

Joel Drucker: Rafael Nadal
He’s healthy, eager and even more motivated after his tough Wimbledon semifinal loss to Djokovic. Having won this tournament three times, Nadal is quite comfortable in New York and has all the skills it takes for his first successful major title defense away from Roland Garros.

Steve Flink: Novak Djokovic
Despite having to face Federer in the quarters, I like Djokovic to win the title. His Wimbledon and Cincinnati triumphs will give him the confidence he needs to win seven matches for his third US Open crown.

Ed McGrogan: Rafael Nadal
After Wimbledon and Cincinnati, it’s hard to pick against Djokovic. But it wasn’t as if the Serb breezed through the Midwest Masters event, and best-of-five-set play on hard courts will be another challenge. At the same time, I think people are sleeping on Nadal’s win in Canada, and the defending champion is in a much easier half of the draw.

Ashley Ndebele: Novak Djokovic
It wasn’t long ago that a lot of people thought Djokovic’s winning days were over, but since July, he’s won Wimbledon and his career Golden Masters—beating Nadal in the semis of Wimbledon and Federer in Cincinnati final. He’ll likely face Federer in the quarters, but that shouldn’t stop him.

Nina Pantic: Novak Djokovic
Djokovic is the man of the moment thanks to wins at Wimbledon and making history in Cincinnati. A straight-set win over Federer just added even more fuel to his bid for US Open favorite. He'll be in his element in the Big Apple, where he's a two-time champion. 

Steve Tignor: Novak Djokovic
With Federer in his quarter, Djokovic doesn’t have an easy path, but he played his best match of 2018 to win Cincinnati. After struggling for two years, he’ll be hungry to make the most of his good form.

Men's Dark Horse (must be seeded No. 20 or lower)

Zach Cohen: Denis Shapovalov
It’s almost unfair to refer to Shapovalov as a dark horse at this point, but I expect the youngster to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him. He will face a qualifier in the first round, and he will likely take on Sam Querrey after that; the Canadian won the last time the two met. Next up would be Kevin Anderson, who is definitely beatable, despite the fact that he is playing some good tennis as of late. If Shapovalov can get by, a trip to the quarterfinals seems reasonable.

Joel Drucker: Kei Nishikori
Nishikori has worked his way back into contention. Having reached the finals here four years ago, he knows how to win big matches in New York. It will be fascinating to see what happens if he and No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman meet in the third round.

Steve Flink: Milos Raonic
I am torn between No. 25 Raonic and No. 30 Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios could give Federer a real scare in the third round, but I trust Raonic more to perhaps make a spirited run.

Ed McGrogan: Milos Raonic
Speaking of forgotten things in Canada, Raonic has quietly made his way back into the Top 25, and he seriously tested Djokovic in Toronto. He’s in the easier half of the draw and is one of the few players you could see taking out Nadal or Djokovic on a day when he’s playing—and serving—lights out.

Ashley Ndebele: Milos Raonic
A former No. 3, Raonic is calmly finding his way back to the top. He has had decent results this summer, including quarterfinals in Wimbledon and Cincinnati. He has a tough first-round match against Next Gen star Jared Donaldson, but the No. 25 seed should prevail.

Nina Pantic: Kei Nishikori
Nishikori is a former US Open finalist, so he's certainly comfortable in Flushing Meadows. His path back to the top has been slow and arduous, but if he's going to find his best tennis again somewhere, it'll be in New York. This summer, he's shown glimpses of his former Top 5 self, and his draw is favorable.

Steve Tignor: Karen Khachanov
The athletic, heavy-hitting Russian has been on the brink for a while, and he may get a chance to cross that brink if he faces Nadal in the third round. Khachanov pushed Rafa in their semifinal in Toronto earlier this month.

Men's Bust (must be seeded No. 10 or higher)

Zach Cohen: Grigor Dimitrov
For the second major in a row, Dimitrov will face Wawrinka in the first round. He was unable to beat Stan at Wimbledon, and that was before Wawrinka started to show improvements in his game. I don’t see the Bulgarian beating him in New York.

Joel Drucker: Grigor Dimitrov
When he’s attacking and constructing,  Dimitrov can play some pleasing tennis. But he sure struggles often, playing rather passively and getting lured into long matches that in due time drain him.

Steve Flink: Grigor Dimitrov
The No. 8 seed is likely to lose to 2016 champion Wawrinka—who looked terrific in Cincinnati—in the first round.

Ed McGrogan: Kevin Anderson
Let’s forget Dimitrov for a moment. Anderson, last year’s runner up, will face a resurgent Ryan Harrison in the first round, would face either Jeremy Chardy or Andrey Rublev in the second, and would likely face Querrey or Shapovalov in the third. The South African has shown a lot over the past year, but that’s no way to ease into a two-week tournament.

Ashley Ndebele: Dominic Thiem
This summer hasn’t been kind to Thiem. Since retiring from his first-round match in Wimbledon, it’s been downhill ever since. He lacks confidence coming into the Open, and his potential second-round foe is Steve Johnson, who will have the U.S. crowd behind him.

Nina Pantic: Grigor Dimitrov
The luck of the draw has done no favors for the No. 8 seed. Wawrinka bested Dimitrov in the first round at the All England Club, and will have even more confidence in New York after rediscovering his best level in Toronto and Cincinnati. 

Steve Tignor: Grigor Dimitrov
This is an obvious pick, so obvious that it can’t be passed up. Dimitrov has had his share of disappointments this season, chief among them being his first-round loss to Wawrinka at Wimbledon. Now he’ll play him again, in the first round.

Which American will advance the farthest?

Zach Cohen: John Isner

Joel Drucker: John Isner

Steve Flink: John Isner

Ed McGrogan: John Isner

Ashley Ndebele: John Isner

Nina Pantic: Frances Tiafoe

Steve Tignor: John Isner


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