FIVE time US Open champion Roger Federer was already able to compete against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows, while Serena and Venus Williams could meet in a third round of a blockbuster.
Federer, the second seed, opens against Yoshihito Nishioka from Japan, anchoring a bottom quarter of the men's singles draw announced on Friday (AEST) with also sixth-seeded Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon champion who beat the Swiss in the final in the Cincinnati Masters this week
Fourth placed Alexander Zverev and seventh seeded Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, are also in half of Federer's draw. The same goes for the Australian Nick Kyrgios, the 30th participant that Federer had to endure in the third round.
It means that if the Swiss maestro wants to win his 21st grand slam title at the next major of the year, he will have to do it the hard way after his nightmare route has been confirmed to the final.
"Of course, Novak and Roger are doing very well and especially they love the hard jobs," said Rafael Nadal, top seed and defending champion, when the draw was unveiled in New York. "Let's see, let's see what's going on."
The Spanish Nadal opens its defense against a known enemy in the Spanish Spaniard David Ferrer in a second chance of the French Open final 2013.
It will be a 31st career meeting between the Davis Cup teammates, with Nadal leading the series 24-6. If he goes ahead in time, Nadal can face the fifth final of the Wimbledon final, Kevin Anderson, during last year's Flushing Meadows final.
Andy Murray, who played his first grand slam since last year's Wimbledon and still fights to recover full fitness after a hip operation in January, received a relatively gentle return to the big stage, and signed Australian James Duckworth, ranked 445th in the world, in the opening round.
But it only gets harder for the Scot, who won his first grand slam title at Flushing Meadows in 2012, when he passes Duckworth. In the second round he would face Fernando Verdasco or Feliciano Lopez for a possible third round with third-seed Juan Martin del Potro.
The Argentine del Potro, the winner of the US Open 2009, opens against a qualification. In the same quarter, the eighth seeded Grigor Dimitrov from Bulgaria received a nightmare draw: a first meeting with the champion of 2016, Stan Wawrinka, who received a wildcard after losing an injury last year.
Wawrinka, a triple grand slam champion, drove Dimitrov in the first round at Wimbledon in July.
AUSSIES COP HORROR DRAW
Federer has reasons to feel hard because of his draw, but the tennis stars in Australia have survived the worst.
Sawn big guns Kyrgios, Ashleigh Barty and Daria Gavrilova have to pull out all the stops to make a deep run during the last grand slam of the season, with all three facing early problems.
Kyrgios opens against Moldavian Radu Albot for the right to play either the Indian Yuki Bhambri or the Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Rarely is routine nothing for Kyrgios, but if he were to win his first two games, the enigmatic double grand slam quarter-finalist would probably bump into Federer in the third round. The Canberran pay the price to fall to the 30th place in the world rankings, a dip that refused him anything but a top-eight rival in the round of 32.
Compatriots Alex de Minaur, who opens against Taro Daniel from Japan, and John Millman, who plays the American wildcard Jenson Brooksby, are also in the half of Kyrgios and Federer.
The other direct participants of Australia in the men's event did not do better. Like Duckworth across from Murray, the most accomplished player who has not been sown at Flushing Meadows, Jordan Thompson also stands for a Brit in the rise of lefthanded Cameron Norrie, while Matt Ebden takes over the Serbian seed Filip Krajikovic and wildcard Jason Kubler has a rough first round clash with 19th seed Roberto Bautista-Agut.
Alex Bolt could give Australia an eighth man in the main table after continuing to the final round of qualifying with a 7-5 3-6 6-3 victory over El Salvador's Marcelo Arevalo, but fellow South Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis crashed to a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 second round qualifying loss for German Yannick Maden.
Australian women are also struggling to leave their mark in New York, with 2011 champion Samantha Stosur attracted to World No. 2 meet and reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in the first round.
After withdrawing from this week's WTA event in New Haven with a virus, eighteen-year-old Ashleigh Barty drew a qualifier for her opener, with double grand slam winner Garbine Muguruza looming as an obstacle to Australia's third player.
Daria Gavrilova, sown on the 25th place, plays Sara Sorribes Tormo, while compatriots Alja Tomljanovic and wildcard Lizette Cabrera compete against each other, guaranteeing at least one Australian in the second round.
WILLIAMS SISTERS ON COURSE OF COLLECTION
The Williams sisters play in a talent-laden top-quarter led by World number 1 Simona Halep.
Serena, looking for a record-like 24th grand slam title, is seeded 17th despite her World No. 26 ranking. US Open officials have taken into account her six titles at Flushing Meadows in determining her placement for the tournament she missed last year when she bore her daughter Olympia last September.
Serena opens against the Magda Linette of Poland, but her placement will not protect her against a possible third round with her sixteenth sister Venus.
It would be their earliest encounter in a grand slam since Venus Serena defeated in the second round of the Australian Open in 1998.
But Venus faces a potentially difficult first round match against 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who got a wild card in the main table as she continues her return from left wrist surgery.