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U.S. Open: Men to watch

Rafael Nadal poses with his winning trophy after

Rafael Nadal poses with his winning trophy after defeating Kevin Anderson in the 2017 U.S. Open men's singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 10, 2017. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / JEWEL SAMAD

RAFAEL NADAL

Spain

ATP rank: 1; U.S. Open seed: 1

After rebounding in 2017 from two injury-plagued years that included his third U.S. Open title, it didn’t look good in January when Nadal retired during the Australian Open with right leg pain. After taking considerable time off Nadal found momentum by winning in Barcelona. Then he won his 11th French Open title. Two weeks ago he won on the hard courts of Toronto. He’s No. 1 again for a reason.

ROGER FEDERER

Switzerland

ATP rank: 2; U.S. Open seed: 2

It’s been 10 years since he won the last of his five consecutive U.S. Open titles. Seems almost impossible to imagine. He won the Australian Open this year -- his 20th Grand Slam title -- but seems to have lost a bit of steam, relatively speaking. He went out in the quarterfinals to Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon and lost to Novak Djokovic in the final at Cincinnati. But he’s still Roger Federer.

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO

Argentina

ATP rank: 3; U.S. Open seed: 3

It’s been nine years since Del Potro ended Roger Federer’s title streak at the U.S. Open and won his only Grand Slam title. Injuries curtailed what promised to be a stellar career, but here he is as the No. 3 player in the world, seemingly hale and healthy. He has two titles this season, back-to-back in March over Kevin Anderson and Federer. If he can recreate that magic, he will contend.

ALEXANDER ZVEREV

Germany

ATP rank: 4; U.S. Open seed: 4

Is this 21-year-old finally ready to win a big one? For someone who has won eight tournaments over two seasons, he only has a couple of second-round losses in the U.S. Open. But there’s a wealth of talent in that 6-5 frame. He won the title on the hard courts of Washington earlier this month, and won a strong title at Madrid in May. Has recently brought on Ivan Lendl as a coach.

KEVIN ANDERSON

South Africa

ATP rank: 5; U.S. Open seed: 5

He reached his first Grand Slam final last year at the Open, losing to Rafael Nadal. That Open lacked the injured Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. But after winning the inaugural New York Open at Nassau Coliseum in February, Anderson found himself in the final at Wimbledon five months later. He had beaten Roger Federer along the way, but after spending nearly 24 hours on court during the fortnight, he didn’t have much left in losing to Djokovic in the final. The 32-year-old is having his most consistent season, but will consistency be enough?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Serbia

ATP Rank: 6; U.S. Open seed: 6

Djokovic missed the Open last year with a right elbow problem that he tried to rehab. But eventually he had surgery in February, and it’s always a bit dodgy how a player will be able to come back from those procedures. Well, he won Wimbledon. Last week he beat Roger Federer in the final on the hard court at Cincinnati to complete a career sweep of all nine Masters 1000 tournaments on the ATP Tour. So in a year he’s gone from the missing to the favorite at Flushing Meadows.

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