Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the best first round matches at this year’s US Open.

Welcome to New York City.

Welcome to New York City, where the crowds are rowdier and the parties are bigger and….

Well, that’s about it isn’t it?

We’re in the Big Apple for the next two weeks for the tennis year’s biggest party and the final Grand Slam event of the season in the form of the US Open but otherwise, I mean, the tennis is still tennis.

Even in New York, the tennis will rule supreme—and from our vantage point, the tennis will look a whole lot like pretty much everywhere else it is played in the course of a given year. That’s the beauty of it, folks: no matter where you are, tennis is the great equalizer.

In the spirit of all this, let’s look ahead at the first few days of this tournament and identify the first round matches we really can’t miss. If you’re like us and have been on a two-week hiatus, then this little guide should come in handy for you too.

Women’s draw

Anastasia Potapova vs. Coco Gauff

-Why you should watch: At respectively 18 and 15 years old, both Anastasia Potapova and Coco Gauff constitute some part—small or big—of the sport’s future. They’re also both former junior No. 1 players in the world, and it’ll be our first chance to see if the young American Gauff can recapture some of her Wimbledon magic.

-Prediction: Let’s give the edge to Gauff in three tight sets.

Sofia Kenin vs. Coco Wandeweghe

-Why you should watch: Maybe your taste for the promise of American tennis lies more in a different youngster than Gauff—and if that’s the case, you could pick no better player than 20-year-old Sofia Kenin. Fresh off of two semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati, as well as a career-best ranking of No. 20, Kenin is poised for great things in her home Slam.

-Prediction: Kenin in straight sets.

Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova

-Why you should watch: It might be easiest to list reasons why you should not watch this match, maybe? Maybe you want to watch, because it’s Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Maybe you want to watch because you might not have many other occasions to do so. Maybe you want to watch because this might finally be Williams’s time to grab that elusive next Slam title. Maybe you want to watch the latest chapter in the two player’s rivalry—which, to be honest, has been fairly one-sided but a rivalry it still is.

In other words, maybe you want to watch the match to see a great deal of our sport’s history on the same court once more.

-Prediction: Serena Williams easily, in two sets.

Angelique Kerber vs. Kristina Mladenovic

-Why you should watch: This first round match between Angelique Kerber and Kristina Mladenovic is a perfectly fine one between a pair of talented, accomplished and gifted players. That’s really the gist of it.

-Prediction: Angelique Kerber wins it in three tough sets.

Men’s draw

Prajnesh Gunneswaran vs. Daniil Medvedev

-Why you should watch: It is still a surprise to see a small number 5 (!!!!!) to the left of Daniil Medvedev’s name on this main draw for the US Open, but after the summer he’s had in losing in the Citi Open final, the Rogers Cup final and capturing it all at the Western & Southern Open, we shouldn’t be surprised with Medvedev’s arrival. He’s playing someone named Prajnesh Gunneswaran but really it’s all about the Russian: he’s somehow become appointment television.

-Prediction: Daniil Medvedev in a breeze. Straight sets.

Steve Johnson vs. Nick Kyrgios

-Why you should watch: You should always watch Nick Kyrgios play tennis, big and bright lights or not. Either you’ll watch an unbelievable meltdown or you’ll watch one of the most talented players in history—and sometimes it’ll be both at once.

-Prediction: Nick Kyrgios gets his cake and eats it too, in three sets.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime

-Why you should watch: How about a redo of last year’s non-match Canadian civil war between the two players that embody the future of tennis in this country? In 2018, Felix Auger-Aliassime had to call things off and withdraw unfortunatley, but in 2019 the tables have been turned: FAA is the one with the stakes high and the upstart for whom everything seems possible. (And with the feature in The New Yorker.)

-Prediction: FAA gets the win in five sets.

Rafael Nadal vs. John Millman

-Why you should watch: Even if John Millman never accomplishes anything else that comes close of matching his win over none other than Roger Federer at last year’s US Open on his way to a quarterfinal berth, well, he’ll always have that.

But yeah, no we’re not seeing a repeat this year against Rafael Nadal. No sir.

-Prediction: Nadal in straight sets.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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