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US Open preview: Draw, seeds, who is missing?

After a seven-and-a-half-month wait for the second Major of the year, Sports Mole takes a look at the upcoming US Open at Flushing Meadows.

While players have been attempting to get match fit in more familiar surroundings over recent months, it has taken until August for the ATP and WTA Tours to get back into full swing.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in numerous schedule changes, most notably the US Open at Flushing Meadows being staged before the clay-court showpiece at Roland Garros.

However, with concerns remaining over the global crisis and players having reservations about the change in surface with limited preparation, we could see very different fields line up in the United States and France respectively.

Ahead of the action getting underway in New York on Monday, Sports Mole gives you the lowdown on the second Major of the year.

Western & Southern Open

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates match point against Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain in a first round match on day one of the 2019 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2019© Reuters

Despite arguably being provided with a favourable route through to the final, Novak Djokovic had to work hard for his victory at the Western & Southern Open this week.

However, to his credit, Djokovic came from behind to defeat Roberto Bautista Agut and Milos Raonic in the semi-finals and final respectively.

The unseeded Raonic deserves special praise for his return to form, beating Sam Querrey, Andy Murray and Stefanos Tsitsipas on the way to the final.

Over four years since her last title, Victoria Azarenka triumphed in the women's event, being confirmed as champion when fellow finalist Naomi Osaka withdrew through injury.

The two-time Australian Open winner dropped just one set on her way through to the final, coming from behind to see off Johanna Konta in the last four.

Who is missing?

Rafael Nadal in action at the Rogers Cup on August 8, 2019© Reuters

While neither draw is necessarily depleted when it comes to big names, both have taken a hit with several stars opting out of the trip Stateside.

On the men's side, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer revealed their plans relatively early, with Gael Monfils soon becoming another top-10 player to remain in Europe.

Former champions Stanislas Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro, the latter through injury, will also not be present, while Kei Nishikori recently joined that list after testing positive for coronavirus.

As far as the WTA Tour are concerned, six of the top 10 will not be present in New York, including world number one Ashleigh Barty

Two-time Major winner Simona Halep is focusing on the French, while 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu will not be defending her title.

Seeding changes

Karolina Pliskova pictured at Wembley on July 3, 2019© Reuters

While Djokovic naturally remains as first seed, there is a knock-on effect further down with players being pushed up the seeding list.

Tenth spot is taken by world number 14 Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime is up from 20th to 15th and 32nd spot is handed to world number 38 Adrian Mannarino.

Karolina Pliskova is top seed in the women's draw, up from her world ranking of three, with Serena Williams improving from ninth to third.

Rebecca Peterson completes the list of 32 seeds, progressing up from 46th spot in the global standings.

The draw

Serena Williams in action during the US Open final on September 7, 2019© Reuters

Djokovic will be happy with his first-round draw after being provided with a clash against Damir Dzumhur, but big-serving John Isner is a possible last-16 rival.

Dominic Thiem will feel differently in the opposite side, with Marin Cilic, Murray and Auger-Aliassime all potential foes before the quarter-finals.

The tie of the opening round is undoubtedly Alexander Zverev against Kevin Anderson, who is unseeded after a spell out through injury.

Pliskova begins her campaign against Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina, but Williams faces a stiffer test against Kristie Ahn, who reached the last 16 in 2019.

Elder sibling Venus Williams starts up versus 20th seed Karolina Muchova, while there will be plenty of attention when returning former champion Kim Clijsters goes up against Ekaterina Alexandrova.

How could the Brits fare?

Johanna Konta of Great Britain celebrates her win over Shuai Zhang of China in the third round on day five of the 2019 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2019© Reuters

Frustratingly for the pair of them, Konta and Heather Watson have been drawn against each other in the opening round, their first head-to-head since the meeting in Nottingham two years ago.

Murray has been handed a much tougher draw than he would have wanted with Japanese left-hander Yoshihito Nishioka his first-round opponent, the winner likely facing Auger-Aliassime.

Dan Evans, up to 23rd seed, squares off against Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild, who is featuring in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Should Kyle Edmund find a way past the unpredictable Alexander Bublik, Djokovic is expected to lay in wait in the second round.

Cameron Norrie faces opposition in the form of Diego Schwartzman, who has reached the quarter-finals of this competition in two of the last three years.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas in action at the Australian Open on January 24, 2020
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