If Roger Federer is going to come close to winning his 6th US Open and 18th major title, he may need to go through his biggest rival Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.
This is the Swiss' projected path:
Round 1 – Grega Zemlja
Round 2 – Carlos Berlocq or Santiago Geraldo
Round 3 – Sam Querrey or Horacio Zeballos
Round 4 – Kei Nishikori or Tommy Robredo
Quarterfinals – Rafael Nadal or John Isner
Semifinals – David Ferrer or Richard Gasquet
Final – Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray
The first four rounds could have been a lot harder, so I'm pleased with that aspect of the draw. Having said that though, an easy draw on paper can turn dangerous and a hard draw can open up so you can never base too much on paper.
A match against Sam Querrey in the 3rd round should be the first test Roger faces in the tournament because of the American's big serve. Then playing in the 4th round against Nishikori would be a challenge, but also a chance at revenge after the Madrid upset. However, the Japanese youngster may have to go through Marinko Matosevic or Tommy Robredo and that won't be any easy match.
The big match with Nadal awaits in the quarters, but we can't count the chickens before they hatch. They were set to play in the Wimbledon quarterfinals and of course they both went out early in surprising defeats.
The 2010 US Open champion starts his campaign against Ryan Harrison and then will very likely play Vasek Pospisil, who saw his ranking rise stratospherically with his semifinal run in Montreal a few weeks ago. One of Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco should be his 3rd round opponent, and then he may face big John Isner in a rematch of the Cincinnati final (or Philipp Kohlschreiber, the 22nd seed).
One thing I'm more than pleased about is that should Federer get by Nadal, or if Nadal goes out early, then his semifinal opponent based on seeding would be David Ferrer or Richard Gasquet. However, Ferrer has been in bad form recently since his French Open final and Gasquet hasn't made a Grand Slam quarter since Wimbledon 2007 when he made the semis. There is a very good chance we see a surprise in that quarter.
Bottom line is, if Federer had to go through Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic to win the title, that would be near impossible at this point with him being 32 and with it being so hard to handle the best-of-5 grind in Slams. With this draw set up though, if he can make the semis and play Ferrer, Gasquet, or anyone else, it would be a much easier task than facing Murray and he would hopefully have an easier match to prepare for a final against likely Murray or Djokovic.
As for the top half featuring last year's US Open final competitors, they both should make the quarterfinals with ease but there are a few speed bumps along the way.
For Djokovic, he could gace Grigor Dimitrov in the 3rd round, which could be a hard match or it could be simple, just like their 3rd round match at Roland Garros was, which the #1 won 62 62 63. His 4th round is projected to be played against Benoit Paire or Fabio Fognini while his quarterfinal opponent based on seeding should be Juan Martin del Potro.
For Murray, he has a smooth path until the quarterfinals where a match with Tomas Berdych or Stan Wawrinka could await. He could play Juan Monaco in the 3rd round and Nicolas Almagro or Andreas Seppi in the 4th round.
Overall, as a Federer fan I am pleased with his draw. Sure, it's not ideal that he got drawn with Nadal, but you never know what might happen. As for if they face off, I think Rafa would have the decided edge because of the best-of-5 format and his recent run of form, but I would not count Roger out. If he could play as he did in Cincinnati and keep his nerve in the big moments, he would have a chance. But that's a long way away and all this talk is best saved for later.
Have a good time watching the US Open. I will be in Maine on vacation for the first week of the tournament but I'll be writing and keeping up to date with everything that is going on.