Nick Kyrgios’s first-round showdown with former champion Andy Murray is only the start of Australia’s horror US Open draw.
While Kyrgios has undoubtedly copped the worst of it, his nine compatriots in the men’s and women’s singles also face a tough time making an impact at the season’s final grand slam starting on Monday.
Australia’s top-ranked stars Bernard Tomic and 2011 women’s winner Samantha Stosur have been handed the best opportunities – but even they’ll need to produce something special to make the second week.
Seeded 24th, Tomic will open against Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur, ranked 94th in the world, and victory could set up an intriguing all-Australian battle with Lleyton Hewitt in the veteran’s US Open swansong.
The former world No.1, who’ll retire after next year’s Australian Open, must overcome 96th-ranked Kazakhstani journeyman Aleksandr Nedovyesov if he’s to progress in the tournament he won in 2001.
Should Tomic survive the first two rounds, he’d then likely have to topple Wimbledon semi-finalist and 12th seed Richard Gasquet and then his grand slam nemesis, world No.6 Tomas Berdych, in successive matches to venture to the last 16 for the first time in New York.
Exciting teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis could do Tomic and Hewitt a huge favour by ousting Gasquet in the opening round, although the 19-year-old would have to reverse his loss to the Frenchman at last week’s Cincinnati Masters.
Kyrgios, though, faces the tallest order of the lot.
The two-grand slam quarter-finalist, who missed a seeding after falling to 37th in the rankings from a career-high No.25 after the French Open, has lost all three previous encounters with Murray.
Kyrgios’ two most recent meetings with the dual major winner both ended in straight-set defeats at this year’s Australian Open and French Open.
But with wins over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal already to his credit, the controversial youngster has proven he can rise to the occasion on the sport’s biggest stages and Murray will need to be on guard in what shapes as a Davis Cup semi-final preview match-up.
An upset win for Kyrgios could set him on a path to a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Stan Wawrinka, the Swiss fifth seed he infuriated earlier this month with comments about his girlfriend Donna Vekic that earned him a fine and a suspended ban by the ATP.
Late-blooming pair Sam Groth and John Millman are also in the main men’s draw.
Groth is up against wily Ukranian Alexandr Dolgopolov with Millman facing world No.60 Sergiy Stakhovsky.
In the women’s draw, 22nd seed Stosur plays Hungarian Timea Babos and Alja Tomljanovic is up against Italian Karin Knapp.
Daria Gavrilova, who narrowly missed a seeding after climbing to No.37 in the world, will need to conquer third-seeded former Russian compatriot Maria Sharapova for the second time this year to advance beyond the first round.
Italian 26th seed Flavia Pennetta again stands in Casey Dellacqua’s way after ousting the West Australian in the fourth round last year.
Matthew Ebden and John Patrick-Smith are hoping to boost Australia’s numbers in the main draws after advancing to the final round of qualifying at Flushing Meadows.