US Open Tennis 2012 Draw: 5 Best Opening-Round Matchups

Thomas AttalCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2012

US Open Tennis 2012 Draw: 5 Best Opening-Round Matchups

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    On August 27th, the U.S. Open will debut as the final tennis Grand Slam of the year. Every player will be chasing the title, but that journey starts with the first round.

    The first round of a Grand Slam is hugely important as it sets the tone for the rest of the tournament. An easy win fills a player with confidence and allows for proper rest.

    On the other hand, difficulties in the opener force the player to begin the grueling tournament with little rest and mental anguish. 

    Furthermore, the first round provides much excitement, and players must be wary of letting the magnitude of the event get to them. 

    Players simply must get out on the right foot, but that's easier for some than for others. This year's draw has set up several difficult showdowns that should get the party started early. 

1. Roger Federer vs. Donald Young

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    Typically, a matchup in the first round between, perhaps, the best player ever to grace the courts and a player ranked 80th in the world doesn't garner too much attention.

    However, this opener will be different. Roger Federer is back on top of the world after his title at Wimbledon and is looking for his first back-to-back Grand Slam titles since 2009 and his first U.S. Open title since 2008.

    Donald Young is trying to get the attention of fans and media back after failing to follow through on his performance at last year's U.S. Open when he made the Round of 16.

    It's a tale of two players. One back in the spotlight, one trying to return to it. One who plays with predictable grace, the other with unpredictable speed and style.

    In all likelihood Federer will win this one, but he will need to be in good shape, quickly, if he doesn't want to let Young believe he has a shot at his former glory. 

2. Tomas Berdych vs. David Goffin

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    A year ago, this showdown would have been completely ignored and Tomas Berdych declared the winner before either player even stepped on the court. Oh, what a difference a year makes.

    Previously unknown, David Goffin made a name for himself at the French Open by defeating seeded Radek Stepanek, making it to the Round of 16 and challenging Roger Federer to a fourth set. 

    As an encore, he took out seeded Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon before eventually falling to Mardy Fish a couple of rounds later.

    Berdych may be the sixth seed at this U.S. Open, but he did suffer a defeat in the first round of Wimbledon this summer and has lost his opener in two of the past four U.S. Opens.

    Berdych is favored, but look for Goffin as he threatens to create the first big upset of the tournament. 

3. Lucie Safarova vs. Melanie Oudin

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    Battling for a spot in the second round, Lucie Safarova and Melanie Oudin are two players in need of a boost.

    Three years ago, Oudin was just 17 and shocked the world by making it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open by defeating Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva. Since then, she has only won three total games at Grand Slams and has failed to make the third round.

    Safarova is another player who has had difficulties at Grand Slams. She made the quarterfinals at the 2007 Australian Open, but she hasn't passed the third round since.

    She has risen to the 15th seed, but she will need to be wary of Oudin if she doesn't want to continue her streak of disappointments when it matters most. 

4. Juan Martin Del Potro vs. David Nalbandian

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    The matchup between the two Argentines tells the story of two men going in opposite directions. 

    By winning the 2009 U.S. Open, Juan Martin Del Potro became, and remains, the only man not named Djokovic, Federer or Nadal to win a Grand Slam since 2005. He was marred by injuries following the success, but has been on the rise since his return.

    He reached the quarterfinals at both the Australian and French Opens this year and took home the bronze at the London Olympics to cement his comeback. 

    For David Nalbandian, the road is a downward spiraling one. Once ranked third in the world, Nalbandian has battled age and injuries as he has fallen from grace. The only publicity he has gotten recently was hugely negative when he injured an official (ESPN) by kicking his chair at a tournament last June.

    Both men play with powerful ground strokes, but Del Potro's serve is likely to make the difference. However, if Nalbandian can stay in it against his Davis Cup teammate, he could get the boost his career so desperately needs. 

5. Nicolas Almagro vs. Radek Stepanek

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    As is the case with most players once they pass the age of 30, Radek Stepanek has had difficulties staying at his highest level.

    At his best, he was ranked eighth in the world and was the face of Czech tennis. Now, however, he has dropped down to the 40th spot in the rankings and has already suffered first-round losses at two Grand Slams this year.

    For Nicolas Almagro, things have rarely gone better. He is the 11th seed of the tournament and will look to close out a successful majors' run this year after making it to the quarterfinals of the French Open and the Round of 16 at the Australian Open.

    A strong baseline attacker, Almagro should force Stepanek into losing in the first round at three Grand Slams in the same year for the first time since focusing on singles.