Flushing Meadows was abuzz with excitement at the news Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet in round one of the US Open.

Thursday's draw threw up an absolute humdinger of a tie between two of the greatest and most recognisable tennis stars of all time.

But there are plenty of other eye-catching matches in the first round of the final grand slam of 2019.

Below we have picked out six of the best to watch in New York.


SERENA WILLIAMS V MARIA SHARAPOVA

Undoubtedly the stand-out tie in the entire draw. There is little love lost between the two long-term foes, but the rivalry has been extremely one-sided. Sharapova's last prevailed against Williams way back in 2004 and, while the two have never faced off at the US Open, the Russian will need to roll back the years to end the drought.

ARYNA SABALENKA v VICTORIA AZARENKA

Sabalenka can be forgiven for cursing her luck at landing a daunting first-round tie with Belarus compatriot Azarenka, who she has never met in a competitive match. In a year that has seen her reach a career-high ranking of nine, a position she currently holds, a meeting with the former world number one straight out of the gate is not what she would have wanted as she aims to go beyond round four of a slam for the first time.

ALISON RISKE v GARBINE MUGURUZA

Two-time slam winner Muguruza faces a Riske-y tie in the opening round. The 29-year-old Riske has been consistently in the top 50 over the past six years and won the pair's past meeting in Tokyo in 2018.

RAFAEL NADAL v JOHN MILLMAN

On the face of it, this looks a complete mismatch, particularly as Nadal won their only competitive meeting at Wimbledon in 2017. But Australian Millman caused a mammoth upset at Flushing Meadows 12 months ago when he defeated Roger Federer to make the quarter-finals – his best result at a grand slam. He will be hoping for a repeat against three-time victor Nadal.

DENIS SHAPOVALOV v FELIX AUGER-ALIASSIME

In a nice coincidence, two of Canada's finest young stars meet in a repeat of a 2018 first-round tie. On that occasion, Shapovalov consoled his good friend with a big hug after Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire in the third set with the opening two having been shared. Both men have been tipped for big futures and this one could be a cracker.

STEFANOS TSITSIPAS v ANDREY RUBLEV

Tsitsipas' season has stalled after a brilliant start to 2019 that saw him reach the Australian Open semi-finals, where Nadal proved too big of a hurdle to overcome. A first-round defeat at Wimbledon was the precursor to a difficult hard-court warm-up for the Big Apple, which saw early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati – albeit he did reach the last four in Washington. Rublev was a quarter-finalist in Cincinnati, losing only to in-form Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev, and as a fellow star of the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals he will fancy his chances of an upset.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova face a mouthwatering first-round tie at the US Open, while Novak Djokovic is on the same side of the men's draw as Roger Federer.

Williams will be a heavy favourite given her 19-2 head-to-head record over Sharapova, though it will be the first time the rivals have gone up against each other in New York.

The pair last met on court in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals, where Williams was victorious, with a last-16 tie at the 2018 French Open a non-starter due to the American suffering a pectoral injury.

Sharapova has not defeated her illustrious foe in a match since 2004 and faces a monumental challenge against Williams, who was beaten in the final 12 months ago by Naomi Osaka.

Top seed Osaka's bid to defend her title at Flushing Meadows begins against Anna Blinkova, while Kiki Bertens is a potential quarter-final opponent.

Second seed Ashleigh Barty, who made a major breakthrough at Roland Garros, opens up against Zarina Diyas and faces a potential last-eight meeting with Williams.

Karolina Pliskova (3) and Simona Halep (4) each face qualifiers in round one, the latter on a potential last-eight collision course with Petra Kvitova (6). 

Defending men's champion Djokovic, aiming to win a third slam of 2019, faces the unheralded Roberto Carballes Baena first but could be set for a daunting run at Flushing Meadows.

Fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, a man in form having reached the finals in Washington and Montreal while also winning the title in Cincinnati, is Djokovic's projected quarter-final opponent, while Federer may stand in the way in the semis.

Five-time champion Federer faces a qualifier first up, while on the other side of the draw Rafael Nadal has a tricky first-round tie with John Millman – who upset Federer in round four a year ago.

Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev could all prove potential road blocks for Nadal in the latter stages.

The final grand slam tournament of the year is almost here, as the US Open begins at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Novak Djokovic, the dominant force in men's tennis, will hope to defend his title, while Naomi Osaka is looking to rediscover her best major form at the scene of her first triumph.

Meanwhile, veterans Roger Federer and Serena Williams have records in their sights in New York.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the key numbers heading into this year's US Open.

 

Men's singles

4 - Djokovic has won four of the past five grand slams – Rafael Nadal claiming the only other title at this year's French Open.

2 - World number one Djokovic is bidding to become just the second man, after Federer (2004 to 2008), to defend his Flushing Meadows title in the 21st century.

35 - The oldest men's US Open champion in the Open Era was Ken Rosewall in 1970 at 35 years, 10 months and 11 days. Federer will be 38 at Flushing Meadows.

5 - Three men have won the tournament a record five times since the sport went professional: Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Federer.

8 - Djokovic only has three US Open titles but has played the joint-most finals in the Open Era (eight, along with Ivan Lendl and Sampras).

0 - The US Open is the only one of the four men's grand slams that has not seen a player claim the title without dropping a set in the Open Era.

61 - At least one of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal has made the semi-finals of every major since Wimbledon 2004, a streak of 61 tournaments.

 

Women's singles

3 - Having won back-to-back majors in the shape of last year's US Open and then the Australian Open, Osaka has not been past the third round at her past two grand slams, losing her opener at Wimbledon.

1 - But across the previous 16 grand slams, Osaka is the only female to have won consecutive titles.

33 - Williams, like Federer in the men's tournament, is aiming to become the oldest women's US Open champion of the Open Era at 37. The record belongs to 2015 champion Flavia Pennetta at 33 years, six months and 18 days.

2 - Simona Halep could become the first European since Kim Clijsters (2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open) to win consecutive grand slams.

24 - Williams has 23 grand slam crowns, the most of the Open Era, and another would see her draw level with all-time record holder Margaret Court.

10 - However, the American has not won any of the past 10 majors - her longest run without victory since 2002.

17 - The women's championship has been won without dropping a set on 17 occasions in the Open Era, most recently by Williams in 2014.

Serena Williams withdrew from the Western & Southern Open ahead of her opening match due to the back injury she suffered in Toronto.

Williams, 37, was due to face Zarina Diyas in Cincinnati on Tuesday, but pulled out as the American great continues to struggle with her back.

The 23-time grand slam champion retired during the Rogers Cup final against Bianca Andreescu on Sunday due to back spasms.

"I came to Mason on Sunday and have tried everything to be ready to play tonight, and was still hopeful after my practice this morning," two-time champion Williams said, via the tournament's Twitter account.

"But unfortunately my back is still not right."

Williams' withdrawal is a concern with the US Open less than two weeks away and the veteran still aiming to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles.

Jessica Pegula, the Citi Open champion, has taken Williams' place and will face Diyas, who knocked her out in qualifying.

Bianca Andreescu's Rogers Cup victory over Serena Williams means the Canadian has now won her first seven career matches against top-10 opponents.

Williams was in tears after she was forced to retire early with an upper back injury during Sunday's final in Toronto.

Teenager Andreescu was 3-1 and a break up in the first set when Williams declared she could not continue, and the 23-time grand slam champion now faces a race to be fit in time for the US Open.

Williams' misfortune meant Andreescu became the first home winner of the WTA Premier tournament since Faye Urban in 1969, and though the triumph came under mitigating circumstances, it has also extended an extraordinary run for the Canadian.

Since beating then world number one Caroline Wozniacki in her first match against a top-10 opponent in Auckland in December, Andreescu has won all six of her encounters with the WTA's leading singles players.

Andreescu beat Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber on her way to winning her first singles title at Indian Wells in March, before defeating the 2018 Wimbledon champion again two weeks later in Miami.

After a shoulder injury forced her to miss the French Open, Andreescu picked up where she left off in Toronto, beating world number five Kiki Bertens in the round of 16 and world number three Karolina Pliskova en route to the final.

With the US Open just around the corner, Andreescu looks well placed to make her mark in a grand slam at Flushing Meadows.

Serena Williams hopes the back injury that saw her retire during the Rogers Cup final disappears after a "small window".

The American great was 3-1 down to Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu in Sunday's decider in Toronto when she retired due to back spasms.

Williams, 37, was in tears on court, but revealed the spasms usually lasted less than two days.

"That's the most frustrating part. I've had this before and it's like 24-36 hours where I'm just in crazy spasm and then it's like gone," the 23-time grand slam champion told a news conference.

"That's a little frustrating for me because I know that I can play, I just can't play today.

"So, I don't know, I'm just taking it a day at a time and see, usually what happens is it continues like that with just that small window and see if I improve after that small window."

Williams enjoyed a fine run in Toronto, improving her win-loss record this year to 19-5.

The veteran said she initially felt her back during a tough three-set win over Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova in the semi-finals on Saturday.

"It started yesterday in my match and it just got worse," Williams said.

"My whole back just completely spasmed and to a point where I couldn't sleep and I couldn't really move and so I was just trying to figure out how do you play a match where you have no rotation?"

Serena Williams was in tears as she retired early in the Rogers Cup final due to an upper back injury, handing unseeded teenager Bianca Andreescu the title in her homeland.

Williams, attempting to claim her first WTA Tour title since returning from maternity leave, was a break down at 3-1 in the first set in Toronto on Sunday when she declared she was unable to continue.

The 23-time grand slam singles champion sobbed as she was embraced by the 19-year-old Andreescu, after succumbing to an injury setback just a fortnight before the US Open gets under way.

Andreescu becomes the first home winner of the WTA Premier tournament since Faye Urban beat Vicki Berner in an all-Canadian final 50 years ago.

Powerful Ontario native Andreescu will rise to 14th in the world on Monday, replacing Amanda Anisimova as the highest-ranked teenager in the women's game.

The gifted youngster claimed her maiden WTA singles title at Indian Wells in March and will be one to watch in the final grand slam of the year at Flushing Meadows next month.

In the post-match presentation, Williams said: "Oh my gosh. Thank you, guys. I'm sorry I can't do it today, I tried but I just couldn't do it. Bianca, you are a great sportswoman. Thanks to my team.

"It's been a tough year, but we'll keep going."

Williams has now featured in four finals since giving birth to her first child in September 2017, failing to win any of them.

Andreescu spent a spell on the sidelines after pulling out of the French Open due to a shoulder injury and expressed sympathy for her iconic opponent, who is 18 years her senior.

"Serena, you made me cry a bunch over there," said Andreescu. "I know what it's like to pull out of tournaments and be injured. But you're truly a champion, I've watched you play so many times. You are truly a champion on and off the court.

"I'm speechless right now. I'm the first Canadian to make the final and win this tournament since 1969. This week has not been easy, I've had many many tough matches, and especially what I've been through the last two months hasn't been easy. I kept telling myself never give up."

Serena Williams survived a scare before getting past Marie Bouzkova in the Rogers Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

The American great made another slow start at the WTA Premier event, but again recovered to reach the final courtesy of a 1-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Czech qualifier Bouzkova.

Williams moved into her 96th WTA Tour final and fifth at the Rogers Cup, where she is a three-time champion and will face Bianca Andreescu in the decider in Toronto.

But the 23-time grand slam winner looked in trouble early, dropping her first set of the tournament against the 21-year-old Bouzkova.

Williams committed 18 unforced errors in the first set, a backhand into the bottom of the net seeing her drop the opener.

Needing a response, Williams broke in the seventh game of the second set, crushing a forehand return winner on her way to winning the final four games of the set.

Bouzkova threatened to land the first blow of the decider, but Williams saved three break points in the third game.

That would prove to be crucial as she broke in the following game, taking a 3-1 lead she would not relinquish.

Andreescu awaits in the final after the 19-year-old Canadian overcame Sofia Kenin 6-4 7-6 (7-5) in the day's earlier semi.

She became the first Canadian to reach the women's singles final at the modern Rogers Cup and first since 1969, when the event was called the Canadian Open.

Naomi Osaka was offered a dose of reality after her winning start against Serena Williams was ended, but the Japanese claimed defeat meant she "accomplished [her] dream".

Two-time grand slam champion Osaka will return to the world number one ranking next week, yet she crashed out of the Rogers Cup on Friday in a 6-3 6-4 defeat to Williams.

The all-time WTA great is an icon for Osaka; however, the 21-year-old had won their only two prior meetings - including an incredible US Open final in which Williams repeatedly ranted at the officials.

Humbled this week in Toronto, Osaka acknowledged this loss belatedly provided the experience she had always anticipated when facing Williams.

"For me, it's always fun to play her," she told a news conference. "This is someone that I looked up to forever.

"And, actually, this is how I thought the first time I played her in Miami was going to go.

"So in a weird way, losing today, I accomplished my dream. I know that sounds kind of weird, but if there's anyone in the world that I would want to lose to - of course I would never want to lose - I don't mind losing to her, because I learned a lot.

"And this is someone that I kind of modelled my game after when I was little. So this is such a big learning experience for me."

Osaka said Williams played "amazing, which is what she does", and the victor agreed her level had improved from the pair of 2018 defeats.

"I knew [Osaka's] game a little bit more, so that's a little easier," Williams said. "And I'm just overall a little bit better. You know, last year was a miraculous year for me, to be honest.

"So I know her game. I watch her a lot. I knew what I needed to do to hopefully try to get a win today, and it helped a little bit."

As Williams advances to face Marie Bouzkova, Osaka will work to defend her restored ranking more successfully than last time.

Osaka's form fell off a cliff after taking number one with the Australian Open title and she later conceded the pressure had been tough to handle.

She explained on Friday: "I guess I'm excited. But also, at the same time, I feel like that's a position that I think requires a lot of work and a lot of just hardheadedness.

"I can't really let what other people say affect me, and I just have to keep working hard and putting effort. I think that the results, of course, will show, but I have to not think too much about winning or losing."

Serena Williams is the last seed standing at the Rogers Cup as defending champion Simona Halep made a quarter-final exit on Friday.

Williams was in impressive form as she powered past Naomi Osaka in their first meeting since last year's controversial US Open final.

The American great is the only seed into the last four, with Halep's title defence coming to an end at the WTA Premier tournament.

 

WILLIAMS WONDERFUL AGAINST OSAKA

Williams has apologised for her meltdown at Flushing Meadows last year and the 23-time grand slam champion produced a brilliant display against Osaka.

Osaka had won her previous two matches against Williams in straight sets, but the 37-year-old secured a 6-3 6-4 victory over the Japanese star on Friday.

Williams may have been expecting to face Halep in a rematch of their Wimbledon final, but the Romanian bowed out against Marie Bouzkova.

The Czech qualifier continued her run, winning the first set 6-4 when Halep retired injured.

PLISKOVA, SVITOLINA STUNNED

Karolina Pliskova also exited in the quarter-finals, suffering a 6-0 2-6 6-4 loss to Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

That result meant Osaka, who later lost to Williams, will replace Ashleigh Barty atop the world rankings.

Andreescu will face Sofia Kenin after the American upset Ukrainian sixth seed Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.

At 37, Williams is by far the oldest player left in the draw, with the others – Bouzkova (21), Andreescu (19) and Kenin (20) all under 22.

Serena Williams produced a brilliant display to claim a straight-sets win over Naomi Osaka in the Rogers Cup quarter-finals on Friday.

In the first meeting between the stars since last year's controversial US Open final, Williams was in impressive form, recording a 6-3 6-4 victory in Toronto.

Williams' meltdown at Flushing Meadows during the decider in 2018 overshadowed what was Osaka's first grand slam success.

The 23-time grand slam champion has since apologised and, in their first meeting since, Williams delivered an impeccable performance at the WTA Premier tournament.

Impacted by slow starts this week, Williams made a better opening to her clash with Japanese star Osaka, who had to dig out of a hole at 2-3.

However, Osaka – playing more tentatively in windy conditions – sent a forehand long to give Williams, a three-time winner of the tournament, a break in the eighth game.

Williams took the set with a big serve and then broke again in the third game of the second set as Osaka, who will return to top spot in the rankings, struggled to find answers.

The American had lost her previous two meetings with Osaka, but managed to close out what was an impressive victory.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will go head-to-head for the first time since the controversial 2018 US Open decider after the pair reached the Rogers Cup quarter-finals.

Osaka prevailed against childhood hero Williams last year at Flushing Meadows, where the 23-time grand slam champion's epic meltdown contributed to her defeat.

Williams was issued a code violation for what umpire Carlos Ramos deemed to be coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou, irritating the former world number one who insisted she was not a cheat.

A point penalty for racquet abuse led to her branding Ramos a "liar" and a "thief" and she was then docked a game, after which she called for the match referee and alleged she was being treated differently to male players.

Osaka's maiden major was overshadowed by Williams' behaviour. Now, the two players are set for a rematch in Toronto.

 

SERENA SURVIVES ALEXANDROVA TEST

The 37-year-old American star was pushed by Ekaterina Alexandrova in a 7-5 6-4 victory on Thursday.

Williams trailed the Russian qualifier 3-0 in the first and 3-1 in the second, however, the eighth seed produced when it mattered most to advance at the WTA Premier event.

A three-time champion, Williams – playing for the first time since Wimbledon – said: "I definitely feel like it takes a while to get back into the rhythm, because we've had a long season of just clay and then grass, and now we're on hard courts. So it definitely feels different, especially for me now. Usually I don't feel that huge of a difference, but for whatever reason I do this year."

 

OSAKA ON TRACK TO RECLAIM TOP RANKING

Australian Open champion and second seed Osaka overcame teenager Iga Swiatek 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in the last 16.

Osaka rallied from a break and two set points down to eventually prevail against the Polish 18-year-old.

The Japanese star is on track to return to the WTA's summit on Monday ahead of Karolina Pliskova, who must beat Bianca Andreescu to have any chance of claiming the top ranking.

Pliskova accounted for Anett Kontaveit 6-3 7-5, while Andreescu outlasted Kiki Bertens 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 6-4.

 

HALEP'S TITLE DEFENCE ALIVE

Defending champion Simona Halep eased past Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 6-1 in just 67 minutes.

Halep – the fourth seed – was a class above as she reached the Rogers Cup quarters for the fifth time.

Next up for Halep is qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who stunned former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-2.

Sixth seed Elina Svitolina and Sofia Kenin also moved through to the last eight.

Former world number one Serena Williams battled past Ekaterina Alexandrova to book her spot in the Rogers Cup quarter-finals.

Williams – the eighth seed – was far from her fluid best but saw off her Russian opponent 7-5 6-4 in Toronto on Thursday.

A three-time champion of the WTA Premier event, Williams will face either second seed Naomi Osaka or teenager Iga Swiatek in the last eight.

Williams has made slow starts throughout her campaign in Canada this week and the 23-time grand slam winner continued that theme against Alexandrova.

The 37-year-old found herself trailing 3-0 in the first set, a netted forehand in the opening game setting the tone as she was broken twice.

However, Williams reeled off four successive games and won seven of nine to gain momentum against Alexandrova, who fended off three set points at 4-5.

Williams eventually closed out the set thanks to a double fault – Alexandrova's eighth – but just as the American star threatened to go on a roll, she was halted.

The veteran started the second set just like she did in the first, dropping serve and to love after sending a forehand wide in the opening game before falling 3-1 behind.

Alexandrova was a menace throughout, saving three match points but the 24-year-old was unable to prevent Williams – who was willing herself on – from advancing to the quarters.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka eased into the last 16 at the Rogers Cup, while Simona Halep survived a scare on Wednesday.

Williams, a three-time champion at the WTA Premier event, was in good form in her first appearance since Wimbledon, beating Elise Mertens in the second round.

Osaka moved a step closer to reclaiming the number one ranking, while Halep edged through.

 

SUPER SERENA, OSAKA CLOSE TO TOP

Williams, the eighth seed, came from a break down in each set to get past Mertens 6-3 6-3.

The American 23-time grand slam champion was in decent form against Mertens, who troubled Williams at different times.

Meanwhile, Ashleigh Barty will lose the top ranking after Osaka booked her spot in the third round.

Osaka took the first set over Tatjana Maria 6-2 before the German qualifier retired.

It means the Japanese star or Karolina Pliskova will replace Barty, who lost on Tuesday, atop the world rankings.

HALEP SURVIVES SCARE

Halep, the defending champion, moved through but only just, edging Jennifer Brady.

The Romanian fourth seed and Wimbledon champion overcame the qualifier 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-5) after almost two and a half hours.

It was a good day for the seeds – Pliskova and Elina Svitolina advancing with the likes of Belinda Bencic and Anett Kontaveit.

Pliskova's bid to return to the top of the rankings is alive after a 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 victory over qualifier Alison Riske.

Svitolina, meanwhile, battled past Katerina Siniakova 6-3 3-6 6-3.

 

WOE FOR WOZNIACKI

The only seed to depart was Wozniacki, who fell to 18-year-old qualifier Iga Swiatek 1-6 6-3 6-4.

Wozniacki, the 2010 champion and 2017 runner-up, led 3-0 in the final set before losing six of the final seven games to the Polish teenager.

Serena Williams powered past Elise Mertens in the second round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Wednesday.

The 23-time grand slam champion recovered from a break down in both sets to claim a 6-3 6-3 victory over Mertens midweek.

In action for the first time since her loss in the Wimbledon final, Williams – a three-time champion of the WTA Premier event – was tested.

The eighth seed was broken early in each set but rallied to claim a strong win over Mertens in the first meeting between the pair.

Williams fell 3-1 behind in the first set before reeling off five consecutive games to take the opener.

She was then broken in the second game of the second set before responding, Mertens unable to hold in the fifth game despite initially recovering from 0-40 down.

That would give Williams complete control as she moved into a last-16 clash against Ekaterina Alexandrova.

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