US Open kicks off with Tsitsipas v Murray blockbuster

  • Matt Trollope

No.3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will tackle former champion Andy Murray in a first-round blockbuster at the US Open, following Thursday's draw for the final Grand Slam tournament of the year.

The match-up was one of several exciting clashes to emerge in what promises to be a thrilling start in New York.

The biggest storyline is Novak Djokovic’s quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam, which he begins against a qualifier in the top half of the draw.

DRAW: US Open men's singles

He cannot face Tsitspas, Murray or second seed Daniil Medvedev until the final – all players who landed in the bottom half – but in the semifinals he could encounter Alexander Zverev, the fourth seed who beat Djokovic at the Tokyo Olympics and is currently riding an 11-match winning streak.

Women’s title favourite Ash Barty is the top seed and starts her campaign against 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva.

The Australian has avoided several threats who have landed in a loaded bottom half of the draw, including defending champion Naomi Osaka and No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

DRAW: US Open women's singles

But Barty could contend with projected quarterfinal opponent Iga Swiatek, while surging fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova also lurk in the top half.

Djokovic’s path to the holy grail

The world No.1 is aiming to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four major titles in a single season, and the Serb has been dealt a manageable draw.

RELATED: Djokovic ready to rebound at US Open, says Woodbridge

Kei Nishikori looms as a potential third-round opponent, while seeds Alex de Minaur (14) or Aslan Karatsev (21) could await in the last 16.

A Wimbledon final rematch against sixth seed Matteo Berrettini could come in the quarterfinals, should the big-hitting Italian survive a projected fourth-round clash with in-form 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz.

Berrettini’s career breakthrough came in New York when he powered into the 2019 semifinals.

Zverev would be Djokovic’s likely semifinal foe, yet the German must contend with threats in his quarter including Jannik Sinner and Gael Monfils – potential fourth-round opponents – and No.7 seed Denis Shapovlov in the quarters.

Osaka seeking third US Open title

A champion at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and 2020, Osaka has a tough task ahead if she hopes to repeat her title-winning feats in 2021.

The Japanese star, who opens against Czech Marie Bouzkova, has landed in a loaded quarter of the draw in which she could meet Angelique KerberCoco Gauff, Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys in the last 16.

Should Osaka progress, potential quarterfinal opponents include recent Olympic bronze medallist Elina Svitolina, two-time major champ Simona Halep – who opens against Montreal winner Camila Giorgi – and rapidly-improving 19th seed Elena Rybakina.

Beyond that, the bottom quarter could offer up a semifinal opponent from an impressive group including Sabalenka, major champions Barbora Krejcikova, Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka – whom Osaka beat in last year’s final – and dangerous floaters Danielle Collins, Ons Jabeur and Elise Mertens.

Tsitsipas v Murray a first-round highlight

Most eyes were attracted to this first-round match-up between the Greek and the Brit – in what will be their first meeting – when the draws were unveiled, but it was not the only bout getting fans excited.

Also in the bottom half, No.8 seed Casper Ruud plays French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut drew Australian shot-maker Nick Kyrgios, and in-form 26th seed Cameron Norrie faces Spanish teen star Carlos Alcaraz, with the winner on his way to a projected third-round clash with Tsitsipas.

In the top half, Zverev takes on big-serving American Sam Querrey while De Minaur faces Taylor Fritz in a battle of the young guns.

In the women’s draw, Stephens and Keys meet in a rematch of the 2017 final, with the winner progressing to a likely second-round clash with Gauff. Barty v Zvonareva has big-name appeal, while Halep has drawn one of the tougher first-round opponents in the giant-killing Giorgi.

Kerber opens against Ukrainian talent Dayana Yastremska, while other first-round highlights include Maria Sakkari v Marta Kostyuk and Muguruza v Donna Vekic.

Projected quarterfinals

WOMEN
[1] Ash Barty v [7] Iga Swiatek
[4] Karolina Pliskova v [6] Bianca Andreescu
[3] Naomi Osaka v [5] Elina Svitolina
[2] Aryna Sabalenka v [8] Barbora Krejcikova

MEN
[1] Novak Djokovic v [6] Matteo Berrettini
[4] Alexander Zverev v [7] Denis Shapovalov
[3] Stefanos Tsitsipas v [5] Andrey Rublev
[2] Daniil Medvedev v [8] Casper Ruud