Roger Federer felt the downside of his faltering position on the rankings ladder - No7, the lowest he has been for 11 years - when he landed in Rafael Nadal's quarter at Thursday's US Open draw.
It was the worst-case scenario for a man who still musters more support around the world than any other player. Even when he calls up flashes of his halcyon days - as he did in Cincinnati a week ago - Federer still finds it near impossible to overcome Nadal on an outdoor court, having lost eight of their past nine matches. If Federer must have groaned at the way the names fell in New York, then last year's runner-up, Novak -Djokovic, also faces a difficult route to the -closing stages.
Most significantly, Djokovic and defending champion Andy Murray are in the same half, which means that they could play their first grand slam semi-final since the 2012 Australian Open. Their three more recent meetings have all come in finals. Murray was interviewed as part of the draw ceremony yesterday and faced an unexpected question: "Who is bigger back home - Prince George or Andy Murray?" His response - "I think the future king is slightly bigger" - was typically laconic and understated.
Yet the Murray fan club has burgeoned since his magnificent Wimbledon victory six weeks ago. Should he back that up by defending his title here, he would surely be a shoo-in for the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year. "It's obviously different," Murray said, when asked how it felt to return to New York as US Open champion. "It's a new experience for me. I've never had to deal with that before.
This week's been a little bit busier, a few more demands on my time, but I'm looking forward to it - I just want the tournament to get started now." He will start against Michael -Llodra, a flamboyant Frenchman who got into trouble last year for making racially charged comments to the crowd in Indian Wells. Such embarrassments aside, Llodra should play to Murray's strengths because he is left-handed - like Jamie Murray, the older brother whom he used to face on a daily basis. Llodra also enjoys coming to the net, where he will make a juicy target for those lethal passing shots.
The seeds likely to face Murray in the first week should not hold too many threats. Juan Monaco (No28) is a clay-courter who lacks outright power, while Nicolas Almagro (No 15) possesses a fine-looking game but seems to doubt himself on some -fundamental level. If Murray makes it to the quarter-finals - a feat he has accomplished in every grand slam he has entered since 2010 - the class of his opponents will climb steeply. He is in line to repeat last year's US Open meetings with Tomas Berdych and Djokovic, only with the prospect of Nadal still to come behind them, if everything follows the path laid out by the seedings.
In the women's tournament, Laura Robson was seeded for the first time at a grand slam, and will open her campaign against -Lourdes Dominguez Lino, the world No?53 from Spain. It is not the -easiest of draws because Dominguez Lino has a 2-0 winning record against her, with both those meetings coming over the past year. Robson is known for raising her game on the big stage and she will need to, for she is defending a heap of points after reaching the fourth round here a year ago. Then, she beat Li Na in the third round - producing what -arguably remains the best performance of her career - and the draw has thrown up a -possible rematch at the same stage next week. Heather Watson, meanwhile, has a difficult opening match against 21st seed Simona Halep, the Romanian who was the last woman to beat the now-retired Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli.