With a host of top men’s players out of the fray, Britain’s Andy Murray being the latest in the casualty list, tennis enthusiasts have been expecting a Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer clash in the final of the 4th and last Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, the US Open, at Flushing Meadows, New York. But that hope was also dashed as the winners of this year’s Grand Slam tournaments so far were drawn in the same half, leaving a possibility of their meeting in the semi-final if they can progress that far. The ‘next generation’ men’s players have an opportunity of making their mark in this year’s US Open. The women’s competition seems to be very open with a number of title contenders, including top two seeds, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep, defending champion Angelique Kerber and current Wimbledon Champion Garbine Muguruza.

In the men’s event, defending champion Stan Wawrinka, former world No.1 Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and lately 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray have withdrawn from this year’s tournament; there could be yet another Federer success story in store. The Swiss maestro had a remarkable year winning the Australian Open to bag his 18th Open title and then took the entire clay court season off. That rest helped him win his 8th crown at Wimbledon. But he has also been suffering from a back injury and after losing to Alexandra Zverev in Montreal, Federer opted out of the tournament in Cincinnati to be ready for the US Open.

Two-time US Open champion Rafael Nadal had suffered surprise defeats at the hands of Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgious in Montreal and Cincinnati, but his success on clay court and his 10th French Open title this year elevated him to the No. 1 rank and seeded No. 1 as well in the US Open. Nadal, who has a 46-10 record in the US Open could meet Tomas Berdychin the fourth round, and a possibility of a semi-final clash against Federer is quite strong. Federer, on the other hand, could meet Nick Kyrgios or Sam Querrey in the 4th round and then Dominic Thiem or 2009 title holder Juan Martin del Potro could be his potential opponent in the quarter final.

The ‘next generation’ players are expected to make their mark in this year’s US Open. Alexander Zverev is fast becoming one of the rising stars in men’s tennis and one would not be surprised if he reaches the final this year. He has already beaten Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer this year but he has to show improvement in his Grand Slam form. Grigor Dimitrov seems to be showing his potential again and had beaten Nick Kyrgios to win the title at Cincinnati. Former Champion Marin Cilic is also expected to do well. Local interest will centre around John Isner and Sam Querry, the latter showing great improvement by advancing to the semi-final stage at Wimbledon.

The women’s event is much more difficult to call with at least eight players vying for the world No. 1 ranking, defending champion Angelique Kerber not in her usual form and Maria Sharapova being given a wild card after her ban on doping charges.

Karolina Pliskova is No. 1 in the world and should have little difficulty in reaching the quarter final where she is likely to meet 8th seed Svetlena Kuznetsova, who is expected to see off 10th seed Agnieska Radwanska in the fourth round. Simona Halep is seeded number 2, and is a player who is now in top form. She is pitted in a mouth-watering first round clash against 2006 champion Maria Sharapova who has been given a wildcard this year. Halep’s opponents in the next rounds could include Anastasija Sevastova and Peng Shuai. Also in this group is British No.1 Johanna Konta who could be Halep’s opponent in the last eight. Defending champion Angelique Kerber has not been in great form, and although she has got a relatively easy draw, could meet this year’s French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round. Kerber’s opponent in the last eight is likely to be No.4 seed Elina Svitolina who is having a great season having won 5 titles this year. Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza could face Magdelana Rybarikova whom she beat easily in the semi-finals at the All England Club. Muguruza could then find herself against Petra Kvitova in the fourth round. Another strong contender for the title is 5th seed Caroline Wozniacki who could meet 9th seed Venus Williams in the 4th round. Venus, at the age of 37, has reached two Grand Slam finals this year, and with the crowd behind her, would give a good fight to Wozniacki. The winner of this clash will face Muguruza.

It therefore is anybody’s call in the women’s competition but, in all probability, the semi-final clashes could very well be between Muguruza and Halep, and Pliskova and Svitolina. And many are putting their money on Garbine Muguruza to win her second Grand Slam title of the year. The possibility of a surprise winner emerging should not be ruled out either.

As for the men’s title, the draw seems to be tilting towards a Federer-Zverev clash in the final in the famous Arthur Ashe court. Zverev’s win could usher a new era in men’s tennis with ‘next generation’ players declaring their intent to take over. But, one would only write off Federer at one’s peril. After his victory in Wimbledon, Federer said, “I am not 25 any more. I’m not sure I can win three slams in one year. Winning two is already pretty crazy and good enough for me.” Well, winning three would be ‘crazier’ and that would a record 6th US Open title — one more than Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras.

It is a well-known fact that Grand Slams do produce unexpected results and this year’s US Open may not be any exception, but all in all, a thrilling fortnight is definitely in prospect for millions of tennis fans across the world.

Uday Sankar Dasis a senior journalist.