NEW YORK – Here are the storylines and matches to watch on Day 1 of the U.S. Open. Tennis Channel begins its coverage when play starts Monday at 11 a.m. ESPN2 picks up coverage at 1 p.m. Click here for the order of play.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams kick it off: The three biggest names in the draw are all on the schedule Monday. Nadal looks to extend his 15-match hard-court winning streak against 21-year-old Ryan Harrison (fourth match, Arthur Ashe Stadium), who is back into the top 100 after a good summer hard-court swing.
“I thought [Harrison] was one of these guys the last couple of months,” Nadal said in Cincinnati, when asked to evaluate the best players of the next generation. “I still believe that he can be in the top in the future if he’s able to reverse the situation that, in the last year, he probably didn’t play his best.”
In the night session, Williams begins her title defense against 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone (first night match, Arthur Ashe Stadium). Federer, a huge fan favorite despite his drop to No. 7, will open against Slovenian Grega Zemlja (second night match, Arthur Ashe Stadium).
How long can Venus Williams stick around? The seven-time Grand Slam champion has won just one tour-level match since making the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C. in April, struggling with a back injury and her confidence for the last four months. After withdrawing from Wimbledon, Venus returned to the North American hard courts this summer to go 1-2, including a three-set loss to her U.S. Open first-round opponent, 14th-ranked Kirsten Flipkens (second match, Arthur Ashe Stadium), in Toronto. Flipkens has won just two matches since her breakout run to the Wimbledon semifinals last month.
Matches to watch
Madison Keys vs. Jelena Jankovic (third match, Grandstand): Nineteen American women are in the main draw, the most at any Slam since 2006. Sloane Stephens shouldn’t have any problems with 110th-ranked Mandy Minella of Luxembourg (third match, Louis Armstrong Stadium), but it’s a much tougher task for 18-year-old Keys, who takes on former No. 1 and 11th-ranked Jankovic. Jankovic’s form can be up and down, but she’s coming off a confidence-boosting run to the Cincinnati semifinals, where she beat Stephens along the way. Keys, on the other hand, was forced to pull out of two summer tournaments due to a shoulder injury.
Ernests Gulbis vs. Andreas Haider-Maurer (second match, Court 4): With the men’s first round being played over three days (as opposed to the women’s, which is played over two days), the must-see first-round matches are spread relatively thin. Gulbis, who is seeded at a Slam for the first time in more than two years, has a great opportunity to make the second week in New York. But, as is the story of Gulbis’ erratic career, it’s just about whether he can play his best tennis on a consistent basis. Haider-Maurer, ranked No. 91, is just the kind of player who can trouble Gulbis: someone ranked far below him whom the Latvian expects to beat easily. The two have played only once, last year in Kitzbuhel, Austria, and Gulbis needed three sets to win.
Laura Robson vs. Lourdes Dominguez Lino (first match, Court 17): Ill-timed injuries continue to plague the 19-year-old Robson. On the heels of her fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon, Robson tore the sheath over the tendon in her right wrist during a routine warm-up. She has been practicing and playing with the help of cortisone shots ever since. She was a giant-killer last year, sending Kim Clijsters into retirement and stopping a streaking Li Na before losing to Sam Stosur. Robson, seeded at a Slam for the first time, is 0-2 against Dominguez Lino, ranked No. 52.
Sabine Lisicki vs. Vera Dushevina (second match, Court 13): We haven’t heard much from Lisicki since she lost to the now-retired Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon final. She didn’t like being asked at Wimbledon why she couldn’t replicate her grass success anywhere else. With her big serve and forehand, she should be contending for all the big titles on hard courts, but she’s made the fourth round in New York only once. She could get a big test against Dushevina, who, despite being ranked No. 123, advanced to the semifinals in Stanford, Calif., in July.
Monica Puig vs. Alisa Kleybanova (third match, Court 7): Puerto Rico’s Puig should get some boisterous support when she takes on Russia’s Kleybanova, who is playing her first Slam main draw since the 2011 Australian Open. Kleybanova was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma five months after that tournament and has been slowly mounting a comeback this year.