At 31 years of age, Rafael Nadal is once again at the top of the ATP ranking. His fourth reign started a bit odd as he surpassed Andy Murray not because of some outstanding tennis but rather due to the Brit's inability to compete on the professional circuit. Thus, entering the US Open Tennis Championships as the world No. 1 for the first time since 2010, it fuels those big expectations around Rafael Nadal. The first seed in New York, he was assigned the upper half of the draw where Roger Federer has also been inserted. Thus, they are on a collision course for the semis as both aim a deep run at this tournament.

For Nadal, things are a bit trickier as his warm-up session wasn't that great losing to Kyrgios or Shapovalov in the early stages in Cincinnati and Montreal.

Rafael Nadal and his projected trajectory at 2017 US Open

Seeking a third success in New York, Rafael Nadal will enter the lions' cage by facing Dusan Lajovic (85 ATP) in the round of 128. The 27-year-old Serb lost their sole previous meeting dating back from 2014 French Open's round of 16. If he gets past Lajovic, Nadal will face the winner of Taro Daniel vs. Tommy Paul. Moving forward, the third round may put the Spaniard against Richard Gasquet of France. The round of 16, may bring Fabio Fognini or Tomas Berdych. It's a decent draw or Nadal who may have his first serious test in the quarterfinals.

Grigor Dimitrov, 2017 Cincinnati winner and 2017 Australian Open semifinalist, may get his revenge. He went on losing that thriller match against Nadal back in January in what was a five sets heart-stopping encounter. The winner of this possible matchup may get into Roger Federer's way in the semis. The Swiss tennis star is the one holding the headlines on the second quarter of the draw.

If Federer and Nadal stick to their favorites' status, New York will witness their fourth direct encounter in 2017 and their 38th overall.

A third US Open title will confirm Nadal as the world No. 1

Reaching the highest step of men's tennis is something only a few will achieve. While Nadal is not on his first trip to the summit, his latest surge is mostly based on the points he earned back during the clay court phenomenal bid.

The summer swing brought no further success, and 2017 Us Open has a lot at stake with Federer starting his bid for the world No. 1. If Federer and Nadal make it to the semis, the winner of that match will be the world No. 1 two weeks from now when the ranking will be updated with the 2017 US Open's points.

If Nadal will reclaim his lost mojo and will go all the way in New York, then he will put a solid buffer space between him and the rest of the pack. Moreover, he will reach the milestone No. 16 in that surreal Grand Slam race.