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Djokovic, Nadal on path for another quarterfinal clash

The men's draw at the US Open this year will revolve around one major question: Will Novak Djokovic, loser of two consecutive hard-court Masters 1000 finals in recent weeks, fall prey to a resurgent Roger Federer? A rejuvenated Andy Murray? How about a re-inspired defending champion Marin Cilic? We could go on, but you get it. So let's get right down to an analysis of the draw:

Best first-round match: As if controversial 20-year-old rising star Nick Kyrgios hasn't had enough to feel bad about lately, he's drawn No. 3 seed Murray as his first opponent. Kyrgios, ranked No. 37, has a big, flashy game, but Murray is playing some of the best tennis of his life.

Luck of the draw: Thomaz Bellucci, seeded No. 30, could make it all the way to the fourth round playing just one man who was a direct entry into the tournament, No. 134 James Ward. Bellucci could meet a qualifier in the fourth round as well. (There are four qualifiers in his eighth of the draw.) Should he win that match, he could play qualifiers in the next two rounds, though that's a long shot.

Favorite most ripe for the picking: Rafael Nadal may be a lowly (for him) No. 8 seed, but he won the US Open the last time he played the event (2013) and is 20-1 in his past three appearances. So yes, count him as a favorite. Nadal meets young sensation Borna Coric in the first round and could meet No. 32 seed Fabio Fognini (who's beaten Nadal twice this year) in the third round. Nadal could then face Djokovic in another quarterfinals clash -- just months after they met in the same round at the French Open.

Favorite best positioned to sail: Federer, seeded No. 2, won't meet a player with the kind of game that could trouble him under ordinary circumstances until a prospective fourth-round clash against No. 13 seed, hard-serving John Isner.

Cinderella candidate: Grigor Dimitrov, seeded No. 17, has been struggling. But he's extremely talented and just 24 years old. He's lost some very close matches in recent weeks. To make matters worse, Dimitrov is in the same quarter as last year's Cinderella finalists, No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori and No. 9 Marin Cilic. But the Bulgarian has the game to beat them both -- and everyone else as well.

American with the friendliest path: Isner may have to survive a shootout with that other ace-maker, No. 21 Ivo Karlovic, but the path to a fourth-round meeting with Federer looks negotiable. And a quarterfinal against No. 6 Tomas Berdych wouldn't be the worst possible fate for him, either.

Fish out of water: Marco Cecchinato, a 22-year-old from Palermo, Italy, ranked No. 102, hasn't won a single main-tour match in his career. He's built his excellent record entirely in Challenger events. He's playing American Mardy Fish, who's playing his final event, in the first round.

Most likely to hit reset button: Djokovic is unhappy with his recent losses in Montreal and Cincinnati. He's also having one of the best years of his career. Does anyone doubt he'll feel he has something to prove at this tournament?

Hard luck of the draw: Two of the three exciting and controversial young Aussies really have their work cut out in the opening round: Aside from the Kyrgios-Murray encounter, Thanasi Kokkinakis must play No. 12 seed Richard Gasquet, who handled Kokkinakis with relative ease just last week in Cincinnati. Only Bernard Tomic caught a break. He'll face Damir Dzumhur in the first round -- but may have to meet his pal Kokkinakis or Gasquet in Round 3.

Match we'd most like to watch: Thirty-seven-year-old Tommy Haas is down to No. 497 as a result of his continued injury problems, but few players are as inspirational -- or more delightful to watch. Haas plays southpaw power-server, No. 42 Fernando Verdasco. Haas leads the head-to-head 3-1, but they met at the US Open in 2009 with Verdasco winning in five tough sets. Expect fireworks.