The final Grand Slam of the season will include an all-Canadian clash between Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round.
1. An all-Canadian clash
It is the first Grand Slam where Canada's top two young stars are both in the main draw together, and somehow best buds Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are slotted right beside each other in a first-round blockbuster. They only had a 1-in-16 chance to meet in the first round after the draw came out and Shapovalov was lined up against a qualifier or lucky loser. Once Auger-Aliassime successfully went through qualifying, there was the small but unlikely chance it would happen. Shapovalov, now playing in his fifth career Grand Slam and with fourth-round points from 2017 to defend, has done a very nice job in backing up his breakout year and remains in the ATP top 30. However, he'll likely need to match his result from last year to stay there and the draw is very challenging. The 19-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., native landed in the same section as No. 5 Kevin Anderson, No. 9 Dominic Thiem and Sam Querrey, along with facing his best friend right off the bat. As for his 18-year-old counterpart, Auger-Aliassime is playing his first career Grand Slam main draw after winning three rounds of qualifying. The hype for the Montreal native is justified – he already has three ATP challenger titles to his name and has snuck into the top 120. "I cracked a smile because the chances were pretty low. ...For sure it's going to be exciting,” Felix Auger-Aliassime said once he found out he had to play Shapovalov. “The fans in Canada may have wanted to see us play further in the draw. It's going to be a great battle.”
The two teenagers actually won the 2015 US Open boys' doubles title in their first junior Grand Slam playing together, so there will be some good memories shared on the court. But this will not be their first professional meeting as they played in the Drummondville Challenger last year, which Shapovalov won in straight sets. This is one of the most anticipated matches of the year and was rightfully put on Grandstand, the US Open's third-biggest court.
2. Milos making his way back
Back as the Canadian No. 1 again, Milos Raonic has started to find his form this summer. After a successful grass season that included a final in Stuttgart and quarter-final at Wimbledon, the No. 24 player in the world had eventual champion Novak Djokovic on the ropes in Cincinnati but was unable to close it out before losing a tough three-setter. Raonic was up a break in all three sets against the 13-time Grand Slam champion and looked to finally get his first win against Djokovic. Although he fell short, it's promising to see that he is healthy going into the final Grand Slam of the year. Raonic withdrew with a wrist injury last year at the US Open, so any points earned in this tournament will boost his ranking. The 27-year-old has surprisingly never made it past the fourth round in New York despite so much success on hard courts over his career. He'll face qualifier Carlos Berlocq in the opening round and had a pretty favourable draw in the early rounds, which includes the out-of-form Grigor Dimitrov and John Isner.
3. Genie on stride
For the second consecutive Grand Slam, Genie Bouchard has successfully gone through qualifying in reaching the main draw. The No. 137 player in the world has had to adjust to life playing in ITF matches and many qualifiers to make tournaments since leaving the top 100 over the past year. Bouchard lost a total of just seven games in three matches during US Open qualifying, which should give her a lot of confidence going into the main draw. It's also her first tournament at Flushing Meadows since reaching a settlement with the USTA after her slip and fall back in 2015. After winning four matches at Wimbledon, the 24-year-old went back to clay and reached the semi-finals in Gstaad, Switzerland, which was her first semi-final in seventeen months. These are promising signs while being under the wing over legendary tennis coach Robert Lansdorp, and she seems to be regaining some form heading into the final major of 2018. Bouchard got a very fortunate draw in the opening round, where she will play French wild-card Harmony Tan. If the Canadian wins, a potential matchup with Mihaela Buzarnescu looms in the second round. Buzarnescu suffered a horrible ankle injury in Montreal less than one month ago, so she’s unlikely to be 100 per cent.
4. Polansky the luckiest loser of all time
A Canadian has already made tennis history at the US Open, and the tournament hasn't even started. Peter Polansky was awarded a lucky loser into a Grand Slam for the fourth consecutive tournament, the first player to ever do so. In fact, no player has ever gotten three straight lucky loser entries in Grand Slams, showing how unlikely the feat was. The 30-year-old lost in the final round of qualifying for the sixth straight Grand Slam, but this year his name was drawn in every major after late withdrawals.
"I think it's quite an accomplishment. Not sure if it's ever going to happen again,” Polansky told TSN after getting his name draw as one of the two lucky losers. “The fact I got in as a lucky loser four times in a row, none of the greats are going to be able to do it because they are consistently in the main draw. …I'm kind of happy to be a part of it. It’s not the best way you want to get into the tournament but it’s something that I'm taking pretty lightly and joking around a bit and enjoying it.” With the accomplishment aside, Polansky was handed an extremely difficult first-round matchup against No. 4 Alexander Zverev. The remaining Canadian in the draw, Vasek Pospisil, drew Lukas Lacko in the opening round and could face world No. 1 Rafael Nadal if he wins.
5. Final Grand Slam for Nestor
Daniel Nestor will be playing his final Grand Slam at this year's U.S. Open, his 97th career major. The most decorated Canadian tennis player of all time will be hanging up his racquet after the Davis Cup tie next month against the Netherlands, making this his final ATP tournament. The soon-to-be 46-year-old is one of the leading pioneers for Canadian tennis and won the US Open back in 2004, along with seven other Grand Slam titles in doubles and four in mixed. His 91 career ATP doubles titles ranks third in the open era and he is a shoe-in for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He and partner Bradley Klahn were awarded a doubles main draw wild-card with his ranking not being high enough to get direct entry. Nestor played his first ATP tournament back in 1989 at the Canadian Open. Nearly 30 years later, his incredible career is nearing the finish line.