Andy Murray may be hoping to build some rhythm and establish a run of matches at the US Open this year, but he will start with one of the toughest first-round draws possible as he faces Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
The pair have never faced each other. Tsitsipas, seeded third and beaten in the French Open final in June by Novak Djokovic, is part of the second tier of tournament favourites, behind the Serb.
Murray, intussen, arrives in New York after two recent second-round losses, falling to No 12 Hubert Hurkacz in a respectable 7-6(4), 6-3 loss at the Western & Southern Open before losing by an identical score to Frances Tiafoe in Winston-Salem on Wednesday. While Murray was satisfied with his movement and physical shape in those matches, he will have to raise his level significantly and take his chances on big points in order to compete with Tsitsipas.
After winning the first three grand slam tournaments of 2021, top seed Djokovic will start in New York against a qualifier. He is projected to meet his Wimbledon final opponent, Matteo Berrettini, in the quarter-final and fourth seed Alexander Zverev may await in the semi-final.
Djokovic has not competed since his difficult semi-final loss to Zverev at theOlympics, opting to refresh his body rather than contest a warm-up event. The stakes for Djokovic are extremely high – should he clinch the title, he will become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the grand slam and he would break his tie of 20 grand slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The bottom half of the men’s draw is headlined by second seed Daniil Medvedev – beaten finalist two years ago – who opens against Richard Gasquet. Cameron Norrie, seeded 26th, will face 18 year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the first round. Should Norrie and Murray both get that far, they would meet in the third round. Dan Evans, the British No 1 and 23rd seed, faces Thiago Monteiro of Brazil.
In the women’s draw, top seed and tournament favourite, Ashleigh Barty, will face 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva. Barty, who is chasing her sixth title of the year, has been placed into what is a potentially complex part of the draw with a projected quarter-final against 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek. Britain’s Johanna Konta will open against Kristina Mladenovic while Heather Watson faces Kaja Juvan.
One year on from one of the greatest fortnights of her career, defending champion Naomi Osaka is seeded third and she will open against Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic. Osaka has struggled on the court since her return to competition after withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon to focus on her mental health, but she may be buoyed in New York by a difficult draw. She could face the in-form Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.
Intussen, organisers of the Australian Open have announced plans for players to spend two weeks in a biosecure bubble before the 2022 edition rather than the unpopular 14 days of modified quarantine at this year’s event.