Andy Murray has to beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals this time if he is to give himself an opportunity to win the US Open for the second year in a row, but both last year's finalists will be relieved that Rafael Nadal, who is in raging form, will probably meet Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.
While none of the quartet clearly will have an easy time of it, the defending champion at least will start his campaign against players he has beaten handily over the years. He is 3-0 up against the world No49, Michaël Llodra, whom he plays in the first round. After the 33-year-old Frenchman, his likely opponents are 32-year-old Victor Hanescu (2-0), then the 112th-ranked Xavier Malisse (4-0) or Denis Istomin (1-0).
If he comes through those relatively straightforward challenges, it gets decidedly tougher. He could face Stanislas Wawrinka – who tipped him out in the third round here three years ago and made easy work of their last encounter, giving up just three matches to the Scot in Monte Carlo this year – or sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, who leads Murray 6-4 overall and beat him recentlyin Cincinnati.
As ever, Murray avoided allspeculation about the draw but happily spoke about his return to the place of his first major triumph, when he beat Djokovic in a gripping five-set final.
"It's obviously different," the world No3 said of returning as champion. "It's a new experience for me. This week I've been a little bit busier, with a few more demands on your time and whatnot, but I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait to get started now. I've been here since Friday night, practised a few times here.
"This is a huge tournament for me. I came the first time when I was 15, played my first grand slam final here, and had my first grand slam win here. I won the juniors here when I was 17, so I love this tournament. I'll try to have a good one."
On life after winning Wimbledon, he said: "It's been nice, slightly unreal. It's been a long time [coming] and there's been a lot of pressure on me to do that – not just me, but generations before me, Tim Henman as well. I've enjoyed my tennis the past few weeks but now it's time for business.
"Coming to the US Open last year, I'd never won a grand slam. I didn't know if I was ever going to win one. A lot of people would say – a lot of players, as well, in the press – 'He's good enough to win a grand slam, he's going to win one.' But the more finals you lose, the more you start to doubt yourself and wonder, is it ever going to happen? So getting that weight off my shoulders at the US Open last year was huge. The Olympics was also a very proud for moment, because not many people get the opportunity to do that. And Wimbledon was obviously very, very special for a number of reasons."
Murray said losing the 2012 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer changed his career. "It was very big for me. It was the first time I felt like I'd actually played a good match in a grand slam final. I approached the match in the right way, and I responded very well to losing. Before when I'd lost in a grand slam final, I'd responded poorly and played badly for two or three months after it but having the Olympics right around the corner after the Wimbledon final was important. Losing in that Wimbledon final was a turning point in my career."
With an American audience as ever enthralled by royalty, Murray had to field the obvious references to the new baby, but said, no, the future king was probably, "bigger back home".
Laura Robson, the only seeded teenager in the women's draw, has a tough first-round job against Lourdes Domínguez Lino, the Spaniard who has won their two matches, in Beijing in 2012 and Katowice this year. If Robson reaches the third round, she will most likely play Li Na, whom she beat here at the same stage in her golden run last year.
Heather Watson plays Simone Halep first up. They have never met in competition, but the Romanian is ranked 23 in the world, 54 places ahead of the British player. Fears that Watson is suffering lingering effects of the glandular fever that sapped her strength earlier in the year resurfaced when she failed to get out of the qualifying tournaments in Toronto, Cincinnati and New Haven.
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