US Open draw sets up possible Federer-Soderling quarter; Venus could get familiar foe

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If Roger Federer is going to reach a seventh consecutive U.S. Open title match, he might need to get past the man who ended his Grand Slam semifinal streak.

Five-time U.S. Open champion Federer was given a possible quarterfinal against two-time French Open runner-up Robin Soderling in Thursday's draw. The No. 5-seeded Soderling upset Federer in the quarterfinals in Paris this year, stopping Federer's record run of reaching at least the semifinals at 23 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.

"I'm motivated to do well because I love New York, I love playing in Arthur Ashe (Stadium)," Federer said. "If I couldn't get motivated by this stadium and this city, then I'd have some issues."

The other men's matchups in the quarterfinals could be No. 1-seeded Rafael Nadal against No. 8 Fernando Verdasco, two-time major finalist Andy Murray against Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic against No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko or No. 9 Andy Roddick.

The top-seeded woman, 2009 runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, could face 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round and 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals.

Other possible women's quarterfinals set up Thursday are defending champion Kim Clijsters against French Open runner-up Sam Stosur, 2000-01 U.S. Open winner Venus Williams against French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, and 2008 U.S. Open finalist Jelena Jankovic against Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva.

"I know if I play well that I can beat anybody out there," said Clijsters, who also won the 2005 Open, "so that's what I'm going to try to achieve."

Murray, hoping to become the first British man since 1936 to win a Grand Slam title, could meet No. 20-seeded Sam Querrey of the United States in the fourth round. Another American, Wimbledon marathon man John Isner, is seeded 18th and also is in that quarter of the draw.

In the semifinals, Murray was drawn to meet Nadal, who lost in that round in New York each of the past two years and is trying to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open for the first time.

Federer was drawn to meet Djokovic or Roddick in the semifinals. Federer beat Djokovic in the 2007 U.S. Open final and the 2008 and 2009 semifinals.

"Over the last three years here, I've only lost to one player — Federer — and that gives me enough reason to believe I can go far this year," Djokovic said, "because I like the courts, I like the atmosphere here. I just like the tournament — it's suitable to my game, and to my personality."

Federer could face another familiar opponent in the third round: 2001 U.S. Open and 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt. Federer beat Hewitt in the 2004 U.S. Open final, part of a 15-match, head-to-head winning streak for Federer — which ended when Hewitt beat him in the final of a grass-court tournament at Halle, Germany, in June.

"I know my way around New York so well. The center court is so familiar," Federer said. "The fans have always been so great. They've always been behind me, and that's always so key, and I hope it's going to be, again, the same this year."

He lost in the 2009 U.S. Open final to Juan Martin del Potro, who — like No. 1-ranked Serena Williams — previously withdrew from this year's tournament, having not recovered fully from surgery. Del Potro's wrist was hurt; Williams cut her foot shortly after winning Wimbledon, although she hasn't explained exactly what happened.

"It would be great to have Serena compete," Clijsters said, "but that's sports, and that's life."

Williams' older sister Venus, who is seeded No. 3, could face an intriguing matchup in the third round against No. 32-seeded Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria. Pironkova has won two of her previous three matches against Venus Williams, including a straight-set upset in the Wimbledon quarterfinals June 29.

That was the last match Williams played on tour; she sprained her left kneecap in early August, forcing her to withdraw from hard-court tournaments at Cincinnati and Montreal.

The U.S. Open begins Monday, and Williams will have gone more than two months without a match by the time she meets her first-round opponent, Roberta Vinci of Italy, who is 1-7 for her career at Flushing Meadows.