Anything could happen - Becker excited ahead of US Open

The 2017 US Open, the final grand slam of the calendar year, will be held between August 28 and September 10 at Flushing Meadows, New York.

"I don't know, 60-plus players in between us that don't agree in our section that we should make it to the semis".

The National's sports desk offer up their predictions for who will excel, surprise and struggle over the next two weeks. Or do you have some of your own?

How ironic then that the man with arguably the most miles and years behind him, 36-year-old Roger Federer, is not only fit enough to compete in his 17th U.S. Open, but is the favorite to win it. He has been the man to beat all season, and with the majority of his opposition either injured or inexperienced, he is the obvious choice.

Seeded 4 and two-time Masters victor this year in Rome and Montreal, we're probably stretching the definition of "dark horse" with Alexander Zverev. He lost to Tommy Haas in Stuttgart before Wimbledon and that did not do him any harm, did it?

Djokovic, Wawrinka and Nishikori, all three in the top 10, have chose to imitate Federer, who has sacrificed the last five months of 2016 to regain health, including the global of the United States and the olympic Games in Rio.

Yet a contest between the two in NY is now a distinct possibility following Friday's draw ceremony in Manhattan.

Federer, although ranked third on the official ATP rankings, is the bookies' No 1 at 23/20 odds, followed by Nadal at 5/2. The new number one right now is [Rafael] Nadal, so it is not really clear.

The 30-year-old Russian, who was banned after testing positive for heart drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, has had mixed results since re-joining the WTA Tour and will need to be at her best early to keep alive any hope of her first title at Flushing Meadows since 2006.

"I played absolute shit", was Zverev's brutal summary.

In 2009, Nadal missed defending his Wimbledon title with tendinitis in his knees.

The draws look fraught with difficulty as Federer and Nadal must face a stir of extreme talent and massive experience in their draws throughout in order to meet each other in the semi-finals. But it translates to less-than-ideal preparations. He is facing a field far less threatening than the one at Roland Garros. His draw is certainly a very kind one, clay-court specialist Pablo Cuevas the nearest seed and David Goffin, who has only recently returned from injury, his closest top 10 compatriot.

Alexander Zverev - the victor of two ATP Masters 1000 events in 2017 - and former US Open victor Marin Cilic are potential semi-final opponents for Murray, the 2012 US Open champion. The similarities in playing styles are so uncanny they have prompted fair, and sometimes unfair, comparisons between the two. But it seems like tennis has become more an older man's game, more so this year with the renaissance of Federer and Nadal. But can he find his form to end the Grand Slam season with a fourth career major title?

Thanasi Kokkinakis will open his campaign against two-time quarter-finalist Janko Tipsarevic, while Bernard Tomic faces 19th seed Gilles Muller. I always felt like I stepped away and came back really strong, vacation and all this stuff was really important to me and still is of course.

Their first meeting was earlier this year in Miami, where Federer won after a first set tiebreak, which suggests that if Federer isn't quite at his best then his teenage opponent may be able to give the five-time champion a run for his money. But I'd love to play Rafa here in NY.

"I have trouble imagining that I could win three Grand Slam tournaments in a year".

The Australian, despite the loss, is motivated by the fact that he reached his first ever Masters final.

There is no doubt, Federer is back.

At the Rio Olympics, he became the only tennis player, male or female, to have won two Olympic singles titles with a thrilling 7-5 4-6 6-2 7-5victory over Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro before completing a sensational year by becoming world No 1 for the first time. For the global tennis-watching cognoscenti, this year's North American hard-court swing has had a delightfully youthful twist to it. If the match features a player that is blessed with a superb return, however, selling might be a good option. This is Zverev's time to deliver. As the summer season culminates at the US Open, injuries have wrecked the men's side. It could go either way with him because people have invested a lot of faith in him with little payoff for many years.

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