Popcorn Matches: Four clashes you won’t want to miss in the US Open first round
Thursday’s draw at the US Open has delivered some mouth-watering matchups as the players bid to make their mark in the final Grand Slam of the year.
Tennishead looks at the ‘popcorn matches’ from the first round:
Stefanos Tsitsipas  vs Andy Murray
Former world number one Andy Murray has been handed arguably one of the toughest draws possible at Flushing Meadows as he takes on Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Murray, who currently finds himself ranked 114 as he continues his return, impressed in his opening two rounds at Wimbledon before falling to Denis Shapovalov in the third round.
Tsitsipas on the other hand has enjoyed his best year on tour, achieving a career-high ranking of world number three and reaching his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros, where he came within one set of major glory against Novak Djokovic.
The match-up will be the first career meeting between the pair, though Murray will hope to inflict Tsitsipas’ second consecutive first-round exit at a major after the Greek was stunned by Frances Tiafoe at the All England Club two months ago.
Despite coming into the contest as the underdog, the 2012 US Open champion will be buoyed by his 65% win record against top 10 opponents.
Whoever prevails from arguably the pick of the matches from round one will face either Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Adrian Mannarino in the second round.
Roberto Bautista Agut  vs Nick Kyrgios
Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios will attract attention whoever he plays at Flushing Meadows, though the fact he faces talented Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut makes the contest all the more intriguing.
Kyrgios has had a hugely disruptive 18 months after deciding not to travel during the pandemic and subsequently suffering a series of injuries, most recently against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Wimbledon first-round – though his talent cannot be questioned.
Bautista Agut on the other hand has had a disappointing year by his standards, falling outside of the top 20 for the first time since July 2019 and possessing a 22-20 record for the season.
Nevertheless, the Spaniard did enjoy some success at SW19, reaching the fourth round before losing to Denis Shapovalov. Although the Spaniard has reasons for optimism, his 62% win percentage at Flushing Meadows is the lowest of all four majors.
The winner of the tie will likely face talented Finn Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round, who is enjoying an impressive run at the Winston-Salem Open.
Alexander Zverev  vs Sam Querrey
If there is one player likely to stop Novak Djokovic on current form it’s Alexander Zverev. In fact, the German did so just four weeks ago en route to Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games.
Since then, Zverev has continued his winning streak, entering New York with an 11-match unbeaten run including yet another Masters title in Cincinnati.
The German will hope to go one better than he did 12 months ago after failing to capitalise on his two set lead against Dominic Thiem in the final.
Despite his remarkable form, Zverev could have hoped for an easier first-round tie than home favourite Sam Querrey.
The big-serving American can certainly cause the world number four a few problems, though has failed to win his first round match at Flushing Meadows on the last three occasions dating back to 2017.
The victor will face either Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Lucas Pouille in the second round.
Cameron Norrie  vs Carlos Alcaraz
After Murray was drawn against Tsitsipas, the fortunes of British players in the draw failed to improve after Cameron Norrie was drawn against Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz.
Norrie has enjoyed one of his most successful years on the ATP tour with a 37-18 record as well as lifting his first tour title in Los Cabos last month.
Despite an impressive 2021, Norrie has lost his last three matches on the American swing as he enters the US Open for the fifth time.
Whilst Norrie comes into the contest in somewhat questionable form, 18-year-old Alcaraz has won five of his last six matches, including an impressive run at the Winston-Salem Open.
Alcaraz, who is perhaps best known for his performances on the clay, has won 21 of his last 27 on the hard-courts and will provide a stern test for the British number two.
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