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Nick Kyrgios facing Thanasi Kokkinakis in US Open first round, Serena Williams could meet second seed in second round

Friends and doubles partners, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis will face off for the first time in top-flight tennis. (Getty Images: Kevin C. Cox)

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis have been drawn together in a bittersweet first-round encounter at the US Open for the friends and double partners.

In a Flushing Meadows men's field without Novak Djokovic due to his unvaccinated status, Rafael Nadal will open his bid to claim a 23rd grand slam title against Australian wildcard Rinky Hijikata when the main draw kicks off on Monday.

Friends Kyrgios and Kokkinakis have been pitted against each other in a tough quarter, which also features Russian top seed and defending champion Daniil Medvedev, who Kyrgios recently beat in Montreal.

The Australian Open-winning pair, who will also be seeking a third title of the year together in the men's doubles, have never played against each on the main tour, though Kyrgios did win their two lower-level encounters when they were up-and-coming teens.

Kyrgios posted on Instagram: "My brother. Let's give 'em a good show."

"Let's have some fun, my boy," Kokkinakis wrote.

Kyrgios is seeded 23rd and is one of the favourites for the title after his run to the Wimbledon final and subsequent victory in Washington, but he has a minefield draw.

If he beats Kokkinakis, he will likely play dangerous French leftie Ugo Humbert in the second round and battle-hardened 16th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the third, before a possible match-up with Medvedev.

But the whole men's field will feel their chances have been lifted by the absence of Djokovic, who announced on social media less than two hours before the behind-closed-doors draw that he would not be coming to New York.

US rules would not allow the Serb, who is still unvaccinated against COVID-19, to enter the country to bid for a fourth US title, opening up a big opportunity for second seed Nadal to get his fifth crown at Arthur Ashe.

So Hijikata, the 21-year-old prospect from Sydney who has been handed a wildcard as part of US tennis's reciprocal arrangement with their Aussie counterparts, has a dream — or potentially nightmarish — encounter first up.

Alex de Minaur, the Australian number one and 18th seed, will open against Serbian Filip Krajinovic.

And there is another all-Australian clash first up, with James Duckworth meeting fellow Sydneysider Chris O'Connell, while the in-form Jason Kubler will aim to continue his breakthrough year by beating Sweden's Mikael Ymer.

In the women's draw, all eyes were on 40-year-old Serena Williams's first opponent, at what is expected to be the last tournament of Williams's career.

She will face Montenegro's world number 80, Danka Kovinic, with a potential second-round encounter against number two seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

In-form Australian Ajla Tomljanovic will face the Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova in her first match, and, if she gets past likely second-round opponent Martina Trevisan, may possibly meet Williams in the last 32.

Aussie number two Daria Saville will take on Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse in her opening match, while Jaimee Fourlis, also handed a wildcard, will play a qualifier yet to be decided.

Defending champion Emma Raducanu has a tough opener against renowned giant-killer Alize Cornet, who knocked out top seed Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon.


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