But some of the very things that contribute to the grandeur of the Majors can also make the early rounds a little dull. Watching top-ten players bulldoze their lower-ranked compatriots can have short-lived appeal, but for me it doesn't take long before that wears thin and I'm ready to go in search of more compelling, competitive matches.
In that spirit, here are my picks for first round matchups that could produce some exciting tennis:
Mikhail Youzhny v. Nick Kyrgios
Résumé-wise, these two players are worlds apart. Youzhny is an "old" veteran that's been on tour for 15 years and has 10 career titles. Kyrgios turned pro last year and has yet to capture an ATP title (though he has a few Challenger titles in his pocket). Still, Kyrgios has shown the potential to make noise at big events (see Wimbledon 2014) and looks like he could potentially even be a future top-ten player. Youzhny hasn't had a great year, but he probably won't give up without a fight. After all, he is the player who drew blood while smashing a racquet into his own head after losing a point… Yikes. The two have never played before.
Tomas Berdych v. Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt's not the player he used to be, but he's still a dangerous floater in the draw—especially early in the tournament before he's exhausted. Berdych, whose results have been less than stellar this year, can't be happy to be meeting the scrappy Australian first round. This one has a good chance to turn into a dogfight, even though Big Berd has beaten Rusty both times they've met.
Marin Cilic v. Marcos Baghdatis
After serving a doping suspension, Cilic has rebounded and steadily gotten back to playing high-quality tennis. Baghdatis' ranking has climbed up to 86 from his year-low of 155, but on the year he's still only compiled a 7-9 record on the main tour. Still, he's a shot-maker and he's usually entertaining to watch. The quality of this match will probably come down to Baggy's health, but if he's well, things could be interesting. Cilic leads their head-to-head 4-1.
Serena Williams v. Taylor Townsend
My gut tells me that Taylor Townsend isn't quite ready for the big time, but she's a talented player with some potential for the future. It will be interesting to see how she handles her first US Open main draw match while facing one of the all-time greats in Serena Williams. Even though Serena has had a down year (by her standards), I'm not sure that this match will be close. Still, I think it has merit as a possible Present v. Future kind-of matchup. This will be their first meeting.
Maria Sharapova v. Maria Kirilenko
Sharapova has had the far better career, but Kirilenko has been very good too, reaching a career-high ranking of 10 in the world (and 5 in the world in doubles). Injuries have limited Kirilenko's playing time this year, but she's not going to be intimidated by Sharapova. If Kirilenko is healthy she could make things interesting against her countrywoman. Sharapova leads the head-to-head 5-2.