- In his first Tour-level match since the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, Andy Murray will face Frances Tiafoe
- The winner will meet Alexander Zverev in the second round
- Kyle Edmund hopes to reach his second success in three meetings over returning South African Kevin Anderson
- Cameron Norrie fights his way into the main draw to face Reilly Opelka
NEW YORK, USA – Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie will open their Western & Southern Open campaigns on Day One.
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Andy Murray [WC] v Frances Tiafoe [WC] | First meeting
In his first tournament since the Davis Cup title last autumn, Andy Murray will face tricky Frances Tiafoe to start his Western & Southern Open campaign. The tournament, moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to New York just a week before the US Open due to COVID-19 pandemic, remains somewhat special for the former World No.1. In Cincinnati, in 2008 Murray beat close friend Novak Djokovic to claim his first ever Masters title. In 2011 he sealed a second crown when the Serbian was forced to retire through injury midway through the second set.
Murray, the only Brit in the Western & Southern Open Hall of Fame, has a 31-12 win-loss record in the tournament having lost the 2016 final to first-time Masters 1000 finalist Marin Cilic.
At the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre, Murray trained with Karen Khachanov and an extremely fit Dominic Thiem. The former Wimbledon champion confessed to feel off the pace training in quick and hot conditions, although more and more comfortable in terms of hip.
He said, in his pre-tournament press conference: “I’m looking forward to it, like just to be back competing again. Since I got here, it’s very different conditions, very lively, quick, very hot. I practiced with (Dominic) Thiem, (Andrey) Rublev and (Karen) Khachanov. Those guys don’t really hold back, as well. Yeah, a bit of a different speed to what I’ve been used to.
“I felt a little bit off the pace at times. But I’m feeling quite good on the court physically in terms of my hip. When I spoke to my team a couple months ago, that was really all I wanted. I wanted to get hopefully to the US Open feeling pretty pain-free so that I could go out and play and enjoy playing in a Grand Slam again.”
It will be the first meeting with the unpredictable American, whose peculiar approach to life and tennis turned into flashy groundstrokes and quick runs. He certainly is a showman, thanks to his robust forehand and improvised volleys but still can be quite inconsistent, and it remains to be seen how well he has recovered from coronavirus.
Prediction: Tiafoe in two sets
READ MORE | Tennis | The ATP Rankings as the season restarts
Kyle Edmund v Kevin Anderson [PR] | H2H tied at 1-1
Kyle Edmund will meet returning Kevin Anderson, who used his protected ranking to gain a berth into the main draw of the first Tour-level event after the lockdown. They posted a five-set victory apiece in their two previous meetings. The British No.2 won the most recent battle at the 2018 Australian Open first round, the South African came back from two sets to one down at the 2017 Roland Garros to reach the fourth round.
In New York, the Brit won the ATP 250 title last February beating Andreas Seppi in the final. Then, he looked fit and fiery during the exhibition matches at the Battle of the Brits.
On the contrary, two-time Grand Slam finalist Anderson played only eight events since January 2019, limited by right elbow and right knee injuries. He declared himself to be finally ready to compete again, but he can’t be at full strength. And he would need the best of his all-court game to dismiss the Brit who can now match his massive serves and returns.
Prediction: Edmund in straight sets
Cameron Norrie [Q] v Reilly Opelka
Norrie is going through a pleasing renaissance – he has always had a decent complement of weapons, doing everything pretty well, but up against the serving machine of Opelka, what has impressed the most over the Battle of the Brits is Norrie’s improved movement.
His agility during the domestic exhibition competitions really stood out, and after a few heartbreaker losses at the Slams, it looks as though the Brit is back on the up. However, despite Opelka’s size, laterally he moves deceptively well, and as expected, likes to engage in a serve-forehand one-two punch combo, and still maybe has to finesse his volleying, but let’s face it, when someone that size charges down the net to punch a volley over, you still have to give him the odds.
Norrie’s key will be to maybe make him move back and forth, where he is not so comfortable. Both have played in domestic competitions since lockdown eased, but Norrie has had marginally more success and thus might be a little more match-tight, especially having come through qualifying.
Prediction: Norrie in three sets.
Edmund & Norrie are scheduled second on Courts 17 & 11 respectively, not before 12:30pm (5:30pm BST), and Murray is scheduled third on Grandstand, not before 2pm (7pm BST).
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