September 18, 2019
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Serena, Sharapova to play in US Open 1st round; Federer in Djokovic's half

New York, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will square off in a blockbuster first-round match at the US Open, while third-seeded Roger Federer was placed in world No. 1 Novak Djokovic's half of the draw at the last Grand Slam event of the 2019 tennis season.

The 37-year-old Williams, who is still seeking a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, and the 32-year-old Sharapova, winner of five major titles, have never met before at the US Open, but the draw conducted Thursday put their names beside one another in the bottom quarter.

Both have had frustrating, injury-marred seasons yet still remain dangerous competitors that no player relishes facing, while the six-time champion Williams is still regarded by many as the tournament favorite provided that her knee and back problems do not flare up.

Although that match-up clearly will be the most eagerly anticipated of the first round, a pair of talented and big-hitting Belarusians - ninth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, a former world No. 1, two-time Australian Open champion and two-time US Open finalist - will face off in their opening contest.

Those two players are in the same quarter of the draw as Japanese world No. 1 and defending champion Naomi Osaka, who is dealing with a knee issue that has cast a cloud on her tournament before it has even begun.

Provided that Osaka is able to compete at a high level and advance to the third round, she may face tennis' most highly touted youngster, 15-year-old Cori Gauff, who made a big splash at Wimbledon before bowing out in the fourth round to eventual champion Simona Halep.

Several talented players are in the second quarter of the women's singles draw and could benefit if Osaka falters, including the fourth-seeded Halep, 15th-seeded Canadian Bianca Andreescu, 11th-seeded American Sloane Stephens, 24th-seeded Spaniard Garbiñe Muguruza and sixth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova.

Tenth-seeded American Madison Keys and third-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova are players to watch in the third quarter of the draw, while in the bottom quarter 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber and second-seeded Ashleigh Barty of Australia are the other big names along with Williams and Sharapova.

In the men's singles, the 32-year-old Djokovic, the defending champion and winner of three US Open titles overall, will kick off his tournament against unheralded Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.

But he could then could face American former world No. 11 Sam Querrey in the second round and either Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka or 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson in the fourth round.

Anderson could pose a threat because of his huge serve, while Wawrinka defeated Djokovic to win two of his major titles.

Also drawn into the Serbian's quarter of the draw is fifth-seeded Russian rising star Daniil Medvedev, who defeated the world No. 1 en route to capturing his first ATP Tour Masters 1000 title last Sunday in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The 38-year-old Federer, a five-time champion seeking his first title at Flushing Meadows since 2008, would appear to have an easier path to the semifinals, with the Swiss possessing a 27-7 record against the most experienced and accomplished players in his quarter - David Goffin, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori.

Of those players, Raonic is the only one to have defeated Federer in a Grand Slam match - in the semifinals of the 2016 Wimbledon.

In the bottom half of the draw, the 33-year-old Nadal - a three-time US Open champion - is the clear favorite to reach the final.

Among the players who could trip him the No. 2 seed are 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia, big-serving American No. 14 seed John Isner, ninth-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov, sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev, fourth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem and eighth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios, who had a testy encounter with the Spaniard at this year's Wimbledon, also is in Nadal's half of the draw.

But those two players would only square off if they both reach the semifinals.

Main-draw action at the US Open will kick off on Aug. 26 and run until Sept. 8. EFE-EPA

hc/mc

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