There were plenty of intriguing first-round matches when the US Open draw was revealed on Thursday, led by a tantalising clash between close friends Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
ATPTour.com highlights five matches to watch in the opening round at Flushing Meadows.
No. 23 Nick Kyrgios vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
The ‘Special Ks’ have been one of the most exciting doubles teams on the circuit this season. They started their season off with a bang by winning the Australian Open. At the time, Kokkinakis said: “To be a Grand Slam champion with my boy, we have known each other since we were eight, nine years old, done some serious things together, have had some serious experiences, but this is incredible.”
The Australians often refer to each other as “brothers”, but only one can advance to the second round at Flushing Meadows. Their first-round clash will be their first ATP Head2Head meeting and first match against one another since they competed on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2014.
Kyrgios is one of the world’s most in-form players. The 27-year-old has shown the most consistency of his career to reach the final at Wimbledon, win the Washington title and advance to the quarter-finals in Montreal, where he eliminated World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. However, nobody on Tour knows him better than Kokkinakis, who thrives on the big stages with an aggressive game of his own.
Kokkinakis’ resume includes a win against Roger Federer, and last year he pushed Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets at the Australian Open. That makes for a blockbuster showdown between the great friends.
No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem will have to be sharp for his first match at the US Open since lifting his maiden major trophy at Flushing Meadows two years ago. The Austrian will face 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who recently claimed his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Montreal.
Thiem has struggled to find his best form since returning from a wrist injury in March. He does have one thing on his side, though: a 7-0 ATP Head2Head advantage against Carreno Busta. One of those clashes came at the US Open in 2016, when Thiem rallied for a four-set victory.
Form tilts in the Spaniard’s direction after his Canadian breakthrough, and his solid baseline game will force the Austrian to come up with the spectacular winners he has so often hit throughout his career. Will Thiem be able to rely on their past history to earn a first-round upset?
No. 24 Francisco Cerundolo vs. Andy Murray
One year ago, 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray suffered a heartbreaking loss in the first round in New York against Tsitsipas. The Scot will have another chance to oust a seed in the opening round when he plays 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo.
Murray showed signs of good form in Cincinnati, where he emerged victorious from a two-hour, 58-minute epic against Stan Wawrinka and pushed Cameron Norrie hard in the second round before cramping got the best of him.
But his first ATP Head2Head meeting against Cerundolo should prove tricky. Although the 24-year-old has lost three consecutive matches since reaching the Hamburg semi-finals, the rising Argentine has found success on hard courts before. Earlier this year, he made a stunning run to the Miami semi-finals with wins over stars including Gael Monfils and Jannik Sinner.
No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz vs. Sebastian Baez
Last November, Carlos Alcaraz met Sebastian Baez in the semi-finals of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Alcaraz was World No. 32 and Baez No. 111. Ten months later, both men have come a long way. Alcaraz is the third seed at the US Open and Baez was the last player who did not receive a seed.
In their first meeting, Alcaraz prevailed in Milan 4-2, 4-1, 4-2. His powerful game is capable of blasting through all opponents. Baez is plenty aggressive himself, though, and he will try to take it to the Spaniard to play on his own terms.
The Argentine is 1-3 against Top 10 opponents, with his victory coming in the Bastad semi-finals against Andrey Rublev. Will Baez be able to earn another big win against Alcaraz?
No. 14 Diego Schwartzman vs. Jack Sock
There are few fans in the world like those in New York at the US Open. Jack Sock, who thrills crowds throughout the world with his flashy play, will try to use that to his advantage against 14th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The pair’s only meeting came in 2017 on clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where Sock prevailed in three sets. Since then, both men have spent time in the world’s Top 10 and have proven their ability against the best players on Tour. Sock will try to dominate the action with his forehand and speed around the court, while Schwartzman has almost no weaknesses and will try to attack the American’s backhand.
Schwartzman is a two-time quarter-finalist at the US Open. The favourite will try to avoid an early exit this edition of the year’s final major.