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Daily Serve—Breaking down the US Open draws from Flushing Meadows

It wasn’t too long ago that a Venus Williams vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova match was a conceivable Grand Slam final. At this year’s US Open, though, it’s a first-round match, as the Russian tries to regain her place among the game’s best.

Kuznetsova isn’t the only unseeded player who could have an early impact on the tournament, as former Grand Slam champions, along with a mix of up-and-comers and veterans from the ATP and WTA tours, prepare to challenge their peers ranked among the top 32.

On the men’s side, all eyes will be on a couple of US Open champions currently on the comeback trail.

Since he was a junior, former world No. 1 Andy Murray has known nothing but success in New York, the site of his first major final and Grand Slam title. Hobbled by a hip injury before having surgery, Murray has shown some encouraging signs upon his return, as he reached the quarterfinals recently in Washington. Provided his body holds up, the Scot could possibly face Juan Martin del Potro, the world No. 3, in the third round.

Andy Murray's three-set, three-hour, 3 A.M. match at the Citi Open:

Stan Wawrinka—only two years removed from his title-winning run—has also been working his way back from injury. And like Murray, the Swiss is coming off a recent strong showing with a quarterfinal appearance in the quarterfinals in Cincinnati. That could be an ominous sign for his first-round opponent, the stylish Grigor Dimitrov, who fell in the first round at Wimbledon to Wawrinka.

Also lurking among the floaters is a trio of Americans, two of whom are having career-best years, and another who will be trying to replicate the success he experienced in Flushing Meadow only a year ago.

Having started the post-Wimbledon stretch with a run to the title—his second of the year—in Newport, R.I., on grass, Steve Johnson struggled on hard courts until a deep run in Winston-Salem, N.C., right before the Open. He could make life difficult for the No. 9 seed Dominic Thiem should they meet in the second round.

Then there's Frances Tiafoe, the young American who won his first title this year on hard courts. He faces a seeded player in his opener for the third year in a row—although this time it's not Roger Federer. Better situated with his place in the game this time, the 20-year-old faces the No. 29 seed Adrian Mannarino.

Despite reaching a ranking high this year, Johnson and Tiafoe’s countryman Sam Querrey has struggled for much of 2018. The veteran, who made his first US Open quarterfinal last year, opens against fellow veteran Andreas Seppi, then could face young Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the No. 26 seed in the second round.

Agnieszka Radwanska can relate in regard to trying to recapture past glory. The former world No. 2 hasn’t won a title in two years and has never been past the fourth round of the US Open. Still, she’s in the section of the draw with No. 7 Elena Svitolina, whom she could meet in the second round: Svitolina only advanced to the fourth round for the first time last year.

One of Radwanska’s longtime opponents, Alize Cornet, also didn’t make the cut-off point for the seeds. Having won a tournament on clay after Wimbledon, the Frenchwoman recently posted a hard-court win over Angelique Kerber, a player she could face in the second round.

Camila Giorgi is another one who has the potential to make a major dent on the draw. The big-hitting Italian reached the fourth round here in 2013 and is coming off her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon. She faces young American Whitney Osuigwe in the first round, then could go against the winner of the Williams-Kuznetsova match.

Svetlana Kuznetsova wins the Citi Open:

Speaking of Kuznetsova: just a few weeks ago, the 2004 US Open winner came out on top at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Playing dominant tennis throughout the week, the Russian only dropped one set on her way to the title.

Williams, her first-round opponent in New York, has yet to reach a final in 2018.

Is this an upset waiting to happen? One thing is for sure: This match reflects just how dangerous a path to the title can be for the top seeds.


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