The 2017 U.S. Open first round draw is maybe the most jaw-dropping major first round I've ever seen. There are so many upset possibilities, and--conversely--so many ways that truly good players will be forced to leave the tournament.
Here's a look at the first round matches that have my attention:
Monica Niculescu vs. Kiki Mladenovic
Earlier in the season, I would have called this "interesting," but would have considered a win for Mladenovic. But the Frenchwoman has been so off lately that an opening round against trickster Niculescu could mean big trouble for her.
Aga Radwanska vs. Petra Martic
Normally, I would overlook this one, but after Martic's Wimbledon quarterfinal run, I'd say that anything is possible, especially when we consider Radwanska's shaky season.
Alison Riske vs. CoCo Vandeweghe
On paper, this belongs to Vandeweghe, and Vandeweghe should go pretty far in the draw, but--she can be off, a first round is nerve-wracking for any player, and Riske tends to like these big events.
Elina Svitolina vs. Katerina Siniakova
Svitolina is another player who should go far--very far--in the U.S. Open, but she could wish for an easier first round.
Naomi Osaka vs. Angelique Kerber
I like the defending champion for this, but again--she could wish for something a big easier for an opening round.
Monica Puig vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
This has the possibility of lasting a long time. It also has the possibility of being over fast. I'm going to go with the first possibility, though. Both players like to fight, and it could be very competitive.
Heather Watson vs. Alize Cornet
One never knows which Heather is going to show up. If it's the "I almost knocked Serena out of the U.S. Open" version, this could be good, given that the Frenchwoman will fight to the end.
Jo Konta vs. Aleksandra Krunic
If Krunic plays in Flushing Meadows the way she played in Cincinnati, Konta will have her hands full. At the Western & Southern Open, the big-hitting Serb knocked out two French Open champions in a row, and engaged in a real knockdown dragout against Alona Ostapenko.
Ana Konjuh vs. Ash Barty
This could also be a close match.
Sloane Stephens vs. Roberta Vinci
Again, on paper, this is a Stephens win. But Vinci is tricky, and she has some very fine U.S. Open memories. Depending on the feel of the court, Stephens' state of mind, and who knows what else--the Italian might be troublesome.
Maria Sharapova vs. Simona Halep
The tennis gods are having some fun here, for sure. This is not so much a "popcorn match" as it is a "pour me a double" match. Wild card Sharapova is rusty and has been riddled with injury for some time. A week ago, I would have sent her out, maybe even in straight sets. But after Halep's huge collapse in the Cincinnati final, there's no knowing whether her head (I'm not worried about the rest of her) can withstand a first-round encounter with the likes of Maria. I'm just hoping the match is played when I can watch it (I have bad luck with this sort of thing). Or maybe I should hope it's played when I can't watch it, since I hate the thought of either of them losing).