US Open: Will Roger Federer or Andy Murray fall early at Flushing Meadows with such tough starts?
Roger Federer and Andy Murray, two of the hottest players on the hard courts during the run-up to the US Open, face very difficult tests right from the start at the season's final grand slam starting on Monday.
Second seed Federer, who beat world number one Novak Djokovic in the Cincinnati final and is striving to add to his record 17 grand slam singles titles, plays 34th-ranked Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the first round.
Federer narrowly won their only previous meeting 7-5 3-6 7-6(7) last year in the second round of the Shanghai ATP Masters.
Third-seeded Murray, who defeated Djokovic in the Montreal final, faces number 37 Nick Kyrgios, the talented 20-year-old Australian who is on ATP probation after making a crude personal remark to Stan Wawrinka on court.
Kyrgios faces a 28-day suspension and $25,000 fine if he steps out of line at an ATP event in the next six months, but the International Tennis Federation has said he would not be under such restrictions at the grand slam, which it runs.
Murray eliminated Kyrgios from the Australian and French Open this year in straight sets and holds a 4-0 mark against him, but the Scotsman respects the firepower of the mercurial 20-year-old.
Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray shake hands (Reuters)Reuters
WHAT FEDERER SAID
"My game is going very well. My volleying has been very good lately and very proactive going forward and I think my serve has been unbelievable lately.
"I didn't know [Mayer] was unseeded. Total shock for me to see I was going to play him. It's really tough to be playing Leonardo Mayer.
"The Shanghai match was one of the toughest ones I've ever won in my career. I like the power he has plus the serve, which makes him tough to control from the baseline. He's a challenge."
WHAT MURRAY SAID
"It’s the most I’ve played coming into a US Open, probably in my life. Previously, I’ve come in having hardly played at all and not felt great at the start of the tournament. I’ve been quite nervous and a bit agitated in the few days beforehand because I knew I hadn’t played loads and didn’t feel great in my game. Now I feel good in my game. I’ve played enough, although I’ve no idea how I’ll feel in 10 days or if I’m in the middle of a fifth set with Nick.
Andy Murray (GBR) reacts Reuters
"To be honest, I believe [Kyrgios] likes playing on big stages. I would expect him to be ready for the match. He gets fired up for big matches. Every match is a new match. He's quite an unpredictable player.
"He's a young guy. He made a mistake. All the guys here when they were 19 or 20 made mistakes. His was seen by millions. It's unfortunate it happened. It was wrong."
It'll have done both Federer and Murray the world of good to go into the US Open with those Masters final wins against Djokovic, who's still the hot favourite to take the last slam of the year. The world number one is in the same quarter of the draw as Rafael Nadal, who isn't quite the fearsome prospect he might have been two years ago.
And Federer and Murray could well meet in the semi-finals, if all goes according to plan. With both on such blistering form, that could be the match of the tournament - and the winner of that would be confident he would then lift the trophy.