The US Open is back! And like every year at the major, the tennis audience gets lucky with some early-round matchups which are late-round worthy. The 2021 edition will be missing stars Serena and Venus Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, but the quality of the tournament should not take much of a hit.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will have to try and fend off the young talent, ranked No. 2 to No. 5 behind him, in order to win his 21st major men’s singles title and pass Federer and Nadal on the all-time list. The women’s draw will feature 13 major singles champions, signifying a very deep field of players.
Here are the must-watch matches for Day 1 of the 2021 US Open:
Madison Keys (USA) vs Sloane Stephens (USA)
Nothing like starting off this year’s play in Arthur Ashe Stadium with a women’s singles finals rematch from 2017. Stephens got the better of Keys in that match to lift the trophy, but it always seems to be a toss-up amongst the two players. Both are now outside the Top 40 in the world and have had average performances in the tournaments leading up to the US Open. Stephens will be a slight favorite given her 2-0 record versus Keys on hard courts.
Andy Murray (GBR) vs (3) Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
More times than not, it seems like Andy Murray has not receive a favorable draw in major tournaments since returning from his hip surgeries. That does not mean we do not love a first round matchup between the 2012 US Open champion and the current World No. 3. These two have never played each other and Tsitsipas will likely be a problem for Murray, especially in the best-of-5 set format. Not saying Murray won’t put up a great fight, but a best-of-3 set match would give me more hope for the 3-time major champion.
(18) Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Kind of like Murray, I feel like Kyrgios has recently run into the buzzsaw of quality opponents in the early rounds of tournaments. This is a night session match at Louis Armstrong Stadium which means the crowd will be electric. I expect this to be one of the more entertaining first round matches and for it to go the distance. A big factor in this match will be the composure of Bautista Agut. Kyrgios could start to drive him crazy, especially if his play in the match begins to yo-yo.
Camila Giorgi (ITA) vs (12) Simona Halep (ROU)
This may shock some people… Camila Giorgi is the favorite in this match. When you dive deeper into it though, it makes much more sense. Halep has major fitness concerns after missing the French Open and Wimbledon due to a left calf tear and also recently suffering a small tear to her right adductor. Giorgi, on the other hand, made an impressive run in Montreal to win her first significant title on tour. This match is very intriguing because of the potential of a seeded player exiting the tournament early.
(8) Casper Ruud (NOR) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
I’m not exactly sure why I think this will be a competitive match but I guess the Tsonga of old still resonates with me as he is in the twilight of his career. Ruud has been playing very well this season, moving up 16 spots in the rankings since the start of the year, and will look to make a deep run. Given his draw, I do like his chances to get into the quarterfinals. This match should be a crowd-puller and I expect there to be exciting rallies throughout.