Peter Bodo: Roger Federer
He fell into butter when Rafael Nadal pulled out of the U.S. Open, and the butter only got softer, deeper, and creamier when the draw was made. Federer eats up stylish players and he’s the only Grand Slam champion in his quarter.
Ed McGrogan: Roger Federer
I picked Federer to win last week, based on form and feel. Since then, he won Cincinnati, Rafa pulled out of the Open, and Djokovic, Murray, Tsonga, Wawrinka, and Raonic were drawn in the same, opposite half of the draw. Call the latter a belated birthday gift from the USTA.
Richard Pagliaro: Roger Federer
Shove sentiment aside and consider that Federer has reached four straight finals, he's moving fluidly, and is third on the ATP in service games held. The five-time champion enjoys massive crowd support in New York, has a favorable draw, won't have to face Rafa, and excels on the fast track of Flushing Meadows.
Peter Bodo: Serena Willams
You got the guts to pick against Serena? Fine, I don’t. She needs to save her year, and the only player I can see capable of dealing with her power on present form is the erratic No. 3 seed, Petra Kvitova. The usual suspects aren’t very threatening this time around.
Ed McGrogan: Serena Williams
Playing the percentages here. Not only that the world No. 1 is due to win a Slam this season, but that she’s more likely to advance than a lot of her top competition, which is lumped together in the other half of the draw. The final will be a mental crucible, though.
Richard Pagliaro: Serena Williams
She’s produced her worst Grand Slam season in years, but remains the best player in the field. If her serve is firing, she lets her shots fly, and doesn't beat herself up over errors, Serena is the favorite to claim her third straight U.S. Open crown and record $4 million payday.
Men's Dark Horse
Peter Bodo: Roberto Bautista Agut
The No. 17 seed is best on clay, but he has disciplined, versatile strokes and moves with surprising ease on all surfaces. If he’s not careful, people will start calling this guy “the thinking man’s tennis player.”
Ed McGrogan: Jerzy Janowicz
A more common “dark horse,” No. 18 Kevin Anderson, could clear the Pole in the second round, but Janowicz is capable of a surprise run. He’s in a quarter filled with potent but inconsistent players (himself included), but comes into Flushing Meadows on the heels of strong results.
Richard Pagliaro: David Goffin
Picking a player who has never won a U.S. Open match and has yet to crack the Top 40 may sound as sane as racing the No. 7 train through Queens. But the surging Goffin is smart, quick, technically sound, and riding the best streak of his career right now.
Women's Dark Horse
Peter Bodo: Garbine Muguruza
She's from Spain and had a great run on clay at the French Open. But she’s just as comfortable on hard courts. Seeded No. 25 here, she starts with a qualifier, and if she can deal with No. 2 seed Simona Halep in round three, who knows?
Ed McGrogan: Ekaterina Makarova
One of the only players to own wins over both Williams sisters at Slams, Makarova owns a lot of wins this year (32). At a career-high ranking of No. 18, the smooth-hitting Russian is in a difficult quarter of the draw, but isn’t cowed by the spotlight of the Slams.
Richard Pagliaro: Svetlana Kuznetsova
A decade removed from her 2004 title run, Sveta has been pained by hip issues and can be prone to flaky shot selection. But she's a two-time Open finalist in both singles and doubles, and owns the all-court skills to threaten most players if her health and head hold up to the stress.
Men’s Upset Special
Peter Bodo: David Ferrer
He’s coming off an excellent tournament in Cincinnati, is one of the great scrappers in the game, and is so consistent that he’s seeded No. 4. But Ferrer is 32, and at times this year he’s seemed short of patience. Dangerous wild card Bernard Tomic will take him out in the second round.
Ed McGrogan: Tomas Berdych
The No. 6 seed has had a horrible summer, going just 2-3 on hard courts. Playing Lleyton Hewitt in a best-of-five set battle is not the elixir Berdych needed. If he gets past the cagey Aussie, Martin Klizan could also pose trouble in the second round.
Richard Pagliaro: Ernests Gulbis
His free spirit and firepower should be suited for New York, but enigmatic Ernie has failed to survive the second round for six straight years. Since his run to the Roland Garros semis, Gulbis is 3-4, including a straight-sets loss to first-round foe Kenny De Schepper.
Women’s Upset Special
Peter Bodo: Maria Sharapova
She's struggled since winning the French Open, losing before the final in Montreal and Cincinnati. At the Open, she’s seeded No. 5 and sure to feel the pressure when she squares off with former Top 10 player Maria Kirilenko, who’s coming back from injury and won’t be intimidated.
Ed McGrogan: Sara Errani
I hate to pick on a natural clay-courter who has developed into an all-surface talent, but I don’t like the No. 13 seed’s chances. Kirsten Flipkens is a difficult opening opponent, and fellow Italian Camila Giorgi could await in round two.
Richard Pagliaro: Sara Errani
The 2012 U.S. Open doubles champion—and singles semifinalist—is an exceptional fighter, but her serve can be punished, her grinding game is not as effective at the Open, and she's won just three matches this year on North American hard courts.