US OPEN '17: Can Federer, Nadal take advantage of absences?

File-This Aug. 18, 2017, file photo shows Rafael Nadal, of Spain, returning to Nick Kyrgios, of Australia, at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Roger Federer seeks his sixth US Open championship, Rafael Nadal his 3rd

NEW YORK — Men to watch at the U.S. Open, where play begins Monday:



Ranked: 1

Age: 31

Country: Spain

2017 Match Record: 49-9

2017 Singles Titles: 4

Career Singles Titles: 73

Major Titles: 15 — U.S. Open ('10, '13), French Open ('05, '06, '07, '08, '10, '11, '12, '13, '14, '17), Wimbledon ('08, '10), Australian Open ('09)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: '16-Lost in 4th Round, '15-3rd, '14-Did Not Play, '13-Won Championship, '12-DNP

Aces: Winning 33 percent of his return games this season, second-highest rate on ATP Tour. ... Back atop the rankings for the first time since 2014.

Topspin: Playing at an elite level this season so should get to quarterfinals — or better — at Flushing Meadows for first time since 2013 title. ... Still has never faced Roger Federer at U.S. Open; they could meet in the semifinals this year.



Ranked: 3

Age: 36

Country: Switzerland

2017 Match Record: 35-3

2017 Singles Titles: 5

Career Singles Titles: 93

Major Titles: 19 — U.S. Open ('04, '05, '06, '07, '08), Wimbledon ('03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '09, '12, '17), Australian Open ('04, '06, '07, '10, '17), French Open ('09)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: '16-DNP, '15-F, '14-SF, '13-4th, '12-QF

Aces: Back in New York after missing the tournament a year ago while taking off the last half of the season to let his surgically repaired left knee heal. ... The time off worked: No one has played better this year, including titles at the two majors he entered, the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Topspin: Sat out a hard-court tuneup in Ohio after tweaking his back. If he's fine, look out. If not, it's too much to ask for him to win his first U.S. Open title in nearly a decade.



Ranked: 6

Age: 20

Country: Germany

2017 Match Record: 46-14

2017 Singles Titles: 5

Career Singles Titles: 6

Major Titles: 0 — Best: 4th, Wimbledon ('17)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: '16-2nd, '15-1st, '14-DNP, '13-DNP, '12-DNP

Aces: Tied with Federer for most titles in 2017. ... Establishing himself as the sport's "Next Big Thing."

Topspin: After showing he can win a Masters title and compete with the elite, one thing remains to accomplish: a deep run at a major tournament. He is certainly capable of it, but when?



Ranked: 7

Age: 28

Country: Croatia

2017 Match Record: 29-14

2017 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 17

Major Titles: 1 — U.S. Open ('14)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: '16-3rd, '15-SF, '14-W, '13-DNP, '12-QF

Aces: Runner-up finish at Wimbledon proved he is firmly in the group of players right behind the Big 4.

Topspin: Hasn't played since dealing with a foot blister in loss to Federer at All England Club, then missing time with an injured left leg, so unclear what sort of contender he'll be.



Ranked: 18

Age: 22

Country: Australia

2017 Match Record: 26-12

2017 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 3

Major Titles: 0 — Best: QF, Australian Open ('15), Wimbledon ('14)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: '16-3rd, '15-1st, '14-3rd, '13-1st, '12-DNP

Aces: Seems to have recovered from hip problem that bothered him at Wimbledon. ... Run to final in Ohio this month, including upset of Nadal, was latest demonstration of his immense talent.

Topspin: Has the game to succeed in New York and the charisma to become a fan favorite.



Ranked: 21

Age: 29

Country: United States

2017 Match Record: 30-16

2017 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 10

Major Titles: 0 — Best: SF, Wimbledon ('17)

Last 5 U.S. Opens: '16-1st, '15-1st, '14-3rd, '13-2nd, '12-3rd

Aces: Seeded 17th, his quarter of the draw includes the only two American men above him: No. 10 John Isner and No. 13 Jack Sock.

Topspin: Never had much success at Flushing Meadows, including three consecutive losses, but also never had the sort of confidence he has now, coming off his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon.


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