US Open draw: Five first-round matches to watch out for

Even as Novak Djokovic aims for a record-breaking 21st Slam, here are some of the interesting first round clashes at this year's US Open

Stefanos Tsitsipas will take on Andy Murray in a blockbuster first round at the US Open

Novak Djokovic’s quest to complete the Grand Slam will begin against a qualifier following Thursday’s release of the US Open draw.

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who is riding an 11-match winning streak and who toppled Djokovic en route to the Tokyo Olympics gold medal, could meet the 20-time Grand Slam champion in the semi-finals.

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In the women’s field, World No 1 Ash Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka are the pre-tournament favourites.

While Barty will open her campaign against 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva, Osaka will take on World No 86 Marie Bouzkova.

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As the US Open begins on Monday, August30, here are the five first-round matches to watch out for:

Andy Murray v 3-Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas will take on 2012 champion and former World No 1 Andy Murray in a blockbuster first round.

The Greek star has struggled for form since reaching the final at the French Open and fell in the opening round at Wimbledon.

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Murray, meanwhile, is hoping to recapture some of the old magic in New York. The Brit has undergone mutliple surgeries on the hip and isn’t quite the player he was nine years ago. But he still possesses the signature grit and will try and make life difficult for Tsitsipas.

This is their first career meeting.

Daniil Medvedev v Richard Gasquet

Richard Gasquet (left) and Daniil Medvedev

After Djokovic, Medvedev has been one of the most consistent players on the hard court in the past few seasons.

Though Gasquet’s star is fading, his one-handed backhand can still do some damage. The Frenchman reached the finals in Umag earlier this month.

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They are 1-1 in career head-to-head with Medvedev winning their last match 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 at the St Petersburg Open last year.

18-Roberto Bautista Agut v Nick Kyrgios

It will be a clash of personalities as the flamboyant Nick Kyrgios takes on the low-profile Roberto Bautista Agut.

Kyrgios possesses a big serve and can derail opponents with his unpredictable play. But Bautista Agut is a patient operator and knows how to grind out a win.

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Neither of them have been able to hit their stride in the US hard-court season though. Kyrgios has one win to show in three tournaments while the Spaniard as a 2-2 record.

They have won one match each in their previous encounters.

Madison Keys v Sloane Stephens

Madison Keys (left) and Sloane Stephens

There will be a first-round rematch of the 2017 all-American final as Sloane Stephens is pitted against Madison Keys.

Both former Top 10 players are unseeded this year.

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2017 champion Stephens hasn’t managed to get past the round of 16 in the US Open tune-up events and lost in the first round at the Cincinnati WTA event.

Keys has also been struggling for form and is currently on a three match losing streak.

Stephens leads their career head-to-head 4-2.

12-Simona Halep v Camilla Girogi

Former World No 1 Simona Halep has dropped out of top-10 in the WTA rankings and was unable to play the French Open and Wimbledon this year due to a calf injury.

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She has played three matches since her comeback at the Canadian Masters, winning only one so far.

The Romanian, this year’s No.12 seed, opens against the powerful Camila Giorgi, who scored the biggest title of her career two weeks ago in Montreal.

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The Italian likes to attack relentllessly and is unlikely to back down from the challenge against one of the best known counter-punchers in the women’s game.