NEW YORK: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were put on a quarter-final collision course for the US Open Thursday while Roger Federer’s hopes of an 18th Grand Slam title were buoyed by a kinder draw.
World number one Djokovic, who won the title at Flushing Meadows in 2011, is the top seed and will be trying to reach the final for a fifth straight year.
In 2013, the Serbian star fell to Rafael Nadal in the title match, but the Spaniard won’t defend his title because of a right wrist injury.
Djokovic opens his campaign against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman. He could come up against 13th-seeded John Isner in the fourth round, but the big-serving American arrives in New York nursing an ankle injury that forced him out of the tournament in Winston-Salem on Thursday.
Eighth-seeded Murray, the 2012 US Open winner who hasn’t won a title since his emotional 2013 Wimbledon triumph, opens against Robin Haase of the Netherlands and could face a dangerous fourth-round clash with French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Also in the top half of the draw, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, seeded third, opens against Czech Jiri Vesely and could face big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, seeded fifth, in the quarters.
Raonic, who reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, will ease into the Open against a qualifier in the first round.
Federer has a lighter-looking path in the bottom half of the draw, with seventh-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov his scheduled quarter-final foe.
Second seed Federer, who won five straight US Open titles from 2004-2008, appears poised to expunge the memory of last year’s fourth-round loss to Tommy Robredo.
The resurgent Swiss arrives in New York off a hardcourt title at Cincinnati and will open his campaign against Australian Marinko Matosevic.
Dimitrov, dubbed “Baby Fed” for his game’s similarities to that of the Swiss great, reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon, but he has never made it out of the first round in three US Open appearances.
He’ll try to reverse that trend when he opens against US wildcard Ryan Harrison.
Also in the bottom half, sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych and fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer are projected quarter-final opponents.
On the women’s side, two-time defending champion women’s champion Serena Williams could find two familiar rivals in her path as she vies for a first Grand Slam title of 2014.
World number one Williams is projected to face Serbian eighth seed Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals.
Although Williams leads their career head-to-head 7-1, former world number one Ivanovic ousted the American in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.
Williams could find herself up against another player who has managed to get the better of her on a major stage in the round of 16 — Australian Samantha Stosur.
Stosur, seeded 24th, stunned Williams in the 2011 US Open final.
In the semi-finals, Williams could find herself facing third-seeded Petra Kvitova or seventh-seeded Eugenie Bouchard.
Kvitova and Bouchard were put on course for a quarter-final clash that would be a re-match of the Wimbledon final in which Czech Republic’s Kvitova routed the rising Canadian star to claim a second Wimbledon title.
Williams, attending the draw ceremony on Thursday, said she wouldn’t be looking that far ahead in the draw.
Having failed to make it out of the fourth round at any Grand Slam this year, the 17-time major winner won’t be taking anything for granted, even against unheralded first-round opponent Taylor Townsend.
“The way my year’s been going, I’m worried about every single match,” said Williams, who despite her lack of Grand Slam success this year has looked strong in taking two hardcourt titles in three weeks in preparation for the Open.
“I feel like if I’m playing well, I have a chance to win my match, like I have the match on my racquet,” she said. “But anyone can surprise you.”
At least Williams doesn’t have to worry about a week-one meeting with elder sister Venus, who landed in the bottom quarter of the draw headlined by world number two and second seed Simona Halep and fifth-seeded Russian star Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova defeated Romania’s Halep in the final of the French Open to capture her fifth career Grand Slam title.
Sharapova will open against fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, while Halep will face US wildcard Danielle Rose Collins.
Venus, 34 and a seven-time Grand Slam champion, will feel like a youngster when opening against 43-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm.