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Get the popcorn ready. There are plenty of must-see first-round matches at the US Open.

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[8] Grigor Dimitrov vs. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
Yes, again. Just two months after Dimitrov and Wawrinka clashed in the opening round at The Championships, the stars will meet again in the match to watch in the first round of the US Open. And this time, somehow, there might be even more anticipation.

Wawrinka, on the comeback from two left knee surgeries last year, beat Dimitrov at Wimbledon on his least favourite surface. And while the Swiss is No. 101 in the ATP Rankings, the 2016 US Open champion is playing at a much higher level than that. Wawrinka won a combined five matches at the Rogers Cup and the Western & Southern Open, all against opponents currently inside the Top 40, with his two losses coming in tight defeats against Rafael Nadal in Toronto and Roger Federer in Cincinnati.

Dimitrov, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, has himself shown progress during this hard-court swing, reaching his first quarter-final since April in Canada and pushing eventual winner Djokovic in a three-set Cincinnati loss. The Bulgarian will be eager to avenge his loss from SW19 in New York, which would extend his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Wawrinka to 5-3.

It will be interesting to see who will be able to control points in Flushing Meadows. Dimitrov is at his best when he is serving well and using his athleticism to take the ball early and move into net. But Wawrinka, who is moving closer to his best tennis, can hit groundstrokes with anyone in the world, especially with his impressive one-handed backhand. The winner will face a qualifier in the second round.

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
Could this be good-bye for Ferrer, who is playing his 16th (consecutive) and final US Open? The Spaniard will look to pull off a stunning upset against World No. 1 Nadal, who leads their rivalry 24-6.

While Nadal has dominated the former World No. 3 over the years, the compatriots are even on hard courts, each winning four of their meetings. And interestingly enough, Ferrer has won both of their Grand Slam matches on the surface, including a clash at the 2007 US Open.

Nadal is in far better form, though, fresh off his victory at the Rogers Cup. Ferrer, who spent 13 consecutive years in the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings until he fell out of the group in July, is now down to No. 148. The 36-year-old is 9-17 at tour-level this campaign.

But against Nadal, expect Ferrer to summon everything he has at a tournament where he has enjoyed plenty of success, including trips to the semi-finals in 2007 and 2012. Ferrer will need to not only chase down all of Nadal’s aggressive shots, as has become the Valencia-resident’s trademark over the years, but he will also need to take it to the top seed if he hopes to keep Nadal from gaining a rhythm. 

[31] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs. Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
Do you know where these two left-handed Spaniards last met? If you guessed the 2017 US Open, you’re right. Lopez, who was ironically the No. 31 seed at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center a year ago, swept by Verdasco in four sets before falling to Federer in the third round.

Both players will be especially hungry at the year’s final Grand Slam, as they earned a total of one match win at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati. It is Verdasco’s 16th consecutive US Open and Lopez’s record 67th straight major main draw appearance.

But this matchup is not only interesting based on their history, but their styles. Verdasco has long been one of the most dangerous baseliners in the world, and he is facing an opponent who comes to net as much as possible. Verdasco is likely to try to control his service games with his serve and a big forehand, while Lopez will serve and volley to pressure the 34-year-old.

Neither guy shies away from the doubles court, either, meaning that fans are almost guaranteed to see some sensational play at the net. Whoever prevails will face former World No. 1 Andy Murray or Aussie James Duckworth.

[29] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs. Frances Tiafoe (USA)
Who could forget #NextGenATP American Tiafoe’s effort in the first round of the 2017 US Open, pushing Federer to five sets as he tried to send the Swiss out in the opening round of a Grand Slam for the first time since Roland Garros in 2003? Tiafoe showed his propensity for the big moment, and he’ll have another shot against No. 29 seed Mannarino.

The Frenchman beat his 20-year-old opponent the last time they met, which was at the 2016 Citi Open in Washington, D.C. But Tiafoe is a different player now than he was two years ago, playing the best tennis of his life. The American claimed his first ATP World Tour title earlier this year at the Delray Beach Open, and at World No. 42 he is within four spots of his career-best ATP Ranking.

But Mannarino has proven a difficult matchup for many players with his flat groundstrokes off both wings. The 30-year-old will try to keep Tiafoe from gaining any rhythm, while the American will use his athleticism and explosiveness to dictate play in front of his home crowd. The victor will face #NextGenATP Alex de Minaur or Japanese Taro Daniel.

[27] Karen Khachanov (RUS) vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
Few players are in as good of form as Khachanov, who used his massive hitting from the baseline to reach the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 event for the first time in Toronto. The Russian, who qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals last year, has captured two ATP World Tour titles, including one earlier this season in Marseille. But his opponent, Ramos-Vinolas, has reached a final at the elite level, doing so last year on clay in Monte-Carlo.

This is a rematch of a first-round clash from Cincinnati, which Khachanov won in three sets. The 22-year-old leads the Spaniard 3-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and all four of their meetings have come in three sets. Khachanov beat Ramos-Vinolas to claim his first tour-level trophy two years ago in Chengdu.

The 6’6” right-hander will try to dominate with his power from the baseline, while the left-handed Ramos-Vinolas will attempt to set himself up in points with his slice serve, and use angles with his forehand to open up the court. Whoever gets through this match could be on a collision course with top-seeded Nadal in the third round. They’ll face Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller or a qualifier in the second round.


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