All eyes will be on Flushing Meadows over the next fortnight for the final Grand Slam of 2018, the US Open.
While there may be other prizes to play for between now and the end of the year, it is major winner’s who have their names written into the history books and all those heading to New York will be aiming to pen their place into the annals of the game.
Earlier this year, it looked all over for Novak Djokovic, with a long-standing elbow injury seemingly having robbed him of his powers following a dour 18 months.
However, some decent showings led to a quarter-final berth at the French before going on to dominate Wimbledon to claim his 13th Grand Slam title and he now looks the man to beat.
Djokovic is a two-time winner at Flushing Meadows and a recent win in Cincinnati, where he landed a psychological blow in the final against Roger Federer, setting him up nicely to conquer the Big Apple.
Speaking of Federer and with 20 Grand Slams to his name, he is understandably many people’s tip.
His crown has shown signs of slipping in recent months though, most notably the worrying way in which he appeared to lose focus in his Wimbledon quarter-final defeat to Kevin Anderson.
Flushing Meadows used to be his domain, winning the tournament five times in a row between 2004 and 2008 but he has not tasted success since.
Last year he faltered when the draw opened up for him and his route to the final may well be scuppered by a certain Mr Djokovic in the last eight.
Of course, we cannot forget world number one and defending champion Rafael Nadal in all this and he will have his sights on a repeat of his French-US Open double of 2017.
A recent win in the Rodgers Cup bodes well for a player who has claimed this event three times in his career and perhaps wisely chose to skip Cincinnati to protect his troublesome knees.
Djokovic’s form means Rafa has crept out in the betting and he may hold some value in the market, especially having twice beaten the Serb in the US Open final.
Relative new kids on the block Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem are due breakthroughs on hard courts, especially Zverev, who is, incredibly, still to make it past the second round in New York.
Clay-court Thiem reached the final of the French this year but he too has never made it to a third match on the US hard courts.
Therefore look out for an impact from a couple of past champions. 2016 winner Stan Wawrinka has looked good after knee surgery but may not have the stamina to last through two weeks on the hard courts.
Juan Martin del Potro and Maric Cilic should last the pace though, having experienced their greatest days at Flushing Meadows in 2009 and 2014 respectively.
After some horrific injuries, Del Potro’s seeding of third shows how well he has been playing, while Cilic was a finalist in Australia.
Both have big, flat forehands which can trouble their opponents and those eyeing the value may fancy both at decent prices if they get on a roll.
While the men’s tournament is expected to be battled out between a handful of players, the women’s draw looks as wide open as ever.
When it comes to raising her game for the Grand Slams, Angelique Kerber is the queen and will be buoyed by her recent Wimbledon victory.
A past champion in New York having triumphed in 2016, she took extra time off after her SW19 triumph, with her only outing since a second round defeat in Toronto.
Kerber appears to be in the easier half of the draw and holds plenty of value in an open market.
Having missed out last year due to pregnancy, Serena Williams is back at Flushing Meadows and aiming to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams, as well as set a new record with a seventh US Open title.
All looked good at Wimbledon as she powered her way to the final but she was outplayed by Kerber and will feel she has a point to prove on what is seen by many as her home court.
The bookies still have plenty of respect for her, as you can see in her odds, but the 36-year-old will have to do things the hard way, with sister Venus a potential third-round opponent. Top seed Simona Halep is also in her section and it is no surprise that the winner to come from the top half of the draw is priced at just 4/13, as opposed to 43/20 for the bottom half.
Speaking of the world number one and after finally making her breakthrough at the French Open, Simona Halep’s thirst will hardly have been quenched by that success.
A semi-final in 2015 is her best showing in the Big Apple but her form is fantastic, winning in Toronto where she beat Sloane Stephens, while she went down to Kiki Bertens in the final in Cincinnati.
The top half of the draw is a tough one, with both Williams sisters in her section, while Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova could be on the agenda in the quarter-finals.
Halep has beaten them all though and will be keen to prove she can transfer her clay court prowess onto the hard courts.
12 months ago Sloane Stephens caused what was seen as quite an upset as she claimed her maiden Grand Slam with a win in New York.
She has added an appearance in the final of the French Open to her CV since then and despite falling at the first hurdle at Wimbledon, her form is decent after a strong run to the showpiece in Montreal.
Stephens seems a handy price and the presence of others may allow her to go under the radar, although Elise Mertens, who defeated her in Cincinnati, could provide a tricky fourth round opposition.
Last year’s beaten finalist Madison Keys has further boosted her Grand Slam credentials by reaching the quarter-finals in Australia and the last four at the French Open and is a decent price at 18/1.
Maria Sharapova is another former winner but has no form and those looking for momentum may spy Bertens.
Ranked 13th in the world, the Dutch star is a streaky player and her victory in Cincinnati, combined with a semi-final showing in Australia, makes her a very attractive price.
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