Three majors in, 2017 has already been a remarkable year. Between the improbable resurgence of Federer, Nadal and Venus, Serena winning a major while pregnant, Jelena Ostapenko’s arrival, Muguruza’s return to form, the men’s injury epidemic and Bernard Tomic’s press conferences, there’s been plenty to remark about. Now as we approach day 1 of the US Open, it’s only fitting we’re primed for an equally incredible finish.
“Wide open” is a phrase that has been thrown around a fair bit already, but for the first time this year, it is equally applicable to both sides of the tournament. Yes, both the men’s (Federer) and women’s (Muguruza) fields have their favourites, but those favourites have their foibles, and behind them stands a field with no sure things, except that one of them has to make the final. We could be in for a wonderfully wacky two weeks.
Whatever happens, check back here each day for a look at three matches well worth your precious time. There’s an awful lot of tennis to be played, and with it, guaranteed excitement.
Here’s your three to see on day 1 of the US Open.
Sloane Stephens (USA) vs Roberta Vinci (ITA) – 3rd on Louis Armstrong
An Australian Open semifinalist in 2013, American tennis fans have been waiting on Stephens to assume her mantle as the next “great American woman” for a while now. Having struggled with both form and injury, the now-24-year-old has never been able to reach those heights, but if her performances so far this month are any indication, she might have finally found her footing. Back-to-back semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati have her riding high into the US, and if she can get past 2015 finalist Vinci in a match that promises equal parts agility and improvisation, she’ll be a legitimate dark horse candidate.
Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs Daniil Medvedev (RUS) – 3rd on Court 7
From bad boy to talk of the town, everything seems to be coming together for the immensely talented Shapovalov – although whether he’s learnt to adjust the strap on his hat properly remains to be seen. In Daniil Medvedev he faces another young gun, less heralded but certainly no slouch, having downed Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon and new masters-champ Grigor Dimitrov in Washington. At 6’6, the Russian possesses the customary big serve and forehand combination of all the ATP’s giants, but supplements it with impressive court coverage to keep him in points well beyond the first strike. The shot-making darling of the tour right now, Shapovalov will be hard-pressed to have it all his own way, and will need some of that Montreal magic to avoid a first round exit.
Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs Simona Halep (ROU)  – 1st on Arthur Ashe, Night Session
A match Halep simply shouldn’t lose, and yet she very well could. A finalist in Cincinnati and a semifinalist in Toronto, Halep has had an extremely solid USO build-up, but that does nothing to change the fact that Sharapova has owned their head-to-head 6-0, and even with her yet to regain her form or ranking, represents an immense challenge for the Romanian. Sharapova will come in knowing she can use her height and superior slugging to take it to Halep, so it will be up to the world no. 2 to find a way to break the Russian’s rhythm, upping her own aggression and playing shots closer to the sidelines. That said, Halep remains the favourite – and the 2017 version is certainly a superior to anything Sharapova has previously faced – but this is an immense challenge, and under the bright lights of Ashe, will require her absolute best.