How to watch: From noon to 5 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN, from 5 to 8 p.m. on ESPN2 and from 8 to 11 p.m. back on ESPN; streaming on ESPN+ and ESPN3.
The United States Open singles first round continues on Tuesday with a plethora of experienced veterans and exciting young players starting their campaigns toward the top of the ladder. Beyond tournament favorites like Serena Williams and Daniil Medvedev, there are plenty of exciting players to watch.
Here are some to keep an eye on.
Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are at best estimates and certain to fluctuate based on the completion time of earlier play. All times are Eastern.
Arthur Ashe Stadium | NOON
Andy Murray vs. Yoshihito Nishioka
Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam winner, was last seen on the main stage of the singles world at the 2019 Australian Open. At the time, he was faced with a hip surgery that had the potential to end his career. Now Murray, 115th in the ATP singles rankings, has pushed himself back onto the tour with a vengeance. Last week, at the Western and Southern Open, Murray beat Alexander Zverev, the fifth seed at this year’s U.S. Open, on his way to the round of 16. Although Murray, 33, is not performing at his peak, his relentless defensive efforts have been on display since his return, and he will look to make a deep run.
Yoshihito Nishioka, the world No. 49, is going to be a difficult opponent for Murray. Nishioka, at just 5-foot-7, frustrates opponents primarily by extending rallies and digging into stalwart defensive positions while redirecting his opponent’s pace rather than generating his own. Although both players’ fitness levels could be questioned after such a long break from the professional tour, the younger Nishioka, 24, may have the edge in this best-of-five format.
Arthur Ashe Stadium | 7 p.m.
Karolina Muchova vs. Venus Williams
Karolina Muchova, the 20th seed, won her first WTA title last year at the Korea Open, but that success did not continue into 2020. With a 3-5 record this year, Muchova is in need of a fresh start. Although her performance against Naomi Osaka in the second round of the Western and Southern Open last week showed some glimmers of her potential, she struggled to control points with her ball placement against an opponent who is a proponent of power tennis.
Venus Williams, who won her second Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in 2000, is no stranger to powerful baseline tennis. Williams has continued to stretch her career well past what many would have expected, but it has not come at a cost to her playing ability. Ranked 67th, Williams particularly impressed at the Top Seed Open in mid-August, beating Victoria Azarenka in the first round before losing to her sister Serena Williams in a three-set match. If Williams can continue to deliver powerful groundstrokes without being thrown off by Muchova’s crafty responses, she has a chance to deliver an upset on a court where she has achieved so much.
Louis Armstrong Stadium | 7 p.m.
Grigor Dimitrov vs. Tommy Paul
Grigor Dimitrov, the 14th seed, reached the semifinals at last year’s U.S. Open after struggling with a shoulder injury earlier in 2019. Dimitrov faces a similar situation, having contracted Covid-19 during an exhibition tournament in June. Dimitrov has been outspoken about his struggles with returning to fitness even after recovering, and he has stressed that people need to understand the risks associated with the disease. It will be interesting to see if Dimitrov has the stamina to compete in the Grand Slam’s best-of-five set format.
Tommy Paul, an unseeded American ranked 58th in singles, is no stranger to Dimitrov, or five-setters. In the second round of this year’s Australian Open, Paul, 23, upset Dimitrov in a fifth set super-tiebreaker. It was an exceptional performance from Paul, one in which his usual weaknesses — like a backhand that even to the uninitiated seems mechanical — were put on hold and every shot fell where he directed it, allowing him to pressure Dimitrov into the corners of the court.
If Dimitrov is to get his revenge, he’ll need to be at the top of his game and put pressure on the young American by approaching the net with aggressive strokes aimed at his backhand.
Court 11 | 7 p.m.
Kim Clijsters vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova
Kim Clijsters, returning from her second retirement, has won the U.S. Open singles title three times. Although she was retired for seven years, from the few matches she has played this year, it has been impressive to see that she can still rise to the level of the pro tour. Although she has lost both of her matches on the WTA tour this year, they were close contests against Garbiñe Muguruza and Johanna Konta, the 10th and ninth seeds at the Open. Clijsters, who has grown somewhat accustomed to competing after a lengthy break, may have a potent advantage through her experience and mental strength.
Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 21st seed, was doing quite well before the interruption of play. Within the last year, she had reached the third round of a Grand Slam twice, at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Since returning from pandemic-forced hiatus, she has struggled to find her rhythm, winning only two of her last five matches. In her second-round loss at the Western and Southern Open, she struggled to unlock her opponent’s serve, and broke only once. These consistency issues will be difficult for Alexandrova to overcome against an experienced player like Clijsters.
Here’s this fan’s game plan for juggling the matches.
Starting at 11 a.m. Eastern on ESPN+, I will be watching Jannik Sinner and the 11th-seeded Karen Khachanov on Court 8. These young players have never met in competition, and both possess incredibly powerful two-handed backhands. It’s sure to feel like a shot of espresso to start off the second day of the tournament.
No matter how exciting my morning coffee is, I’ll need to move on to Arthur Ashe Stadium at noon. Viewers on ESPN will most likely be sent there at the beginning of coverage, as Andy Murray returns to Grand Slam competition. Although the match might be a grind, it would just feel incorrect not to watch Murray angrily berate himself throughout a tough match, motivating himself and pulling off feats that seem nearly physically impossible.
Afterward, I’ll head back to ESPN+ to split-screen two matches: the second-seeded Sofia Kenin facing Yanina Wickmayer at Louis Armstrong Stadium, and the 27th-seeded Ons Jabeur playing Katarzyna Kawa on Court 12. Both Kenin and Jabeur had breakout tournaments at the Australian Open. Kenin won the competition, while Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. Both women have the ability to pull an impossible shot out of thin air. A flair for the unexpected will captivate viewers.
Around 4 p.m., I expect to switch to watching Ivo Karlovic face Richard Gasquet. The choice of this match is purely sentimental, and the kind that always worked best when the U.S. Open could be held with spectators. You could watch two old favorites, past their prime but still capable of incredible feats. Relegated to an outside court — Court 6 — there would only be small bleachers, close to the edges of the court so fans could see every bead of sweat and feel the energy of these gladiators competing. If the virtual experience can deliver even half of this energy, I’ll be ecstatic.
At 7 p.m. I’ll be spoiled for choices. Last year I discovered how to create a four-way split screen in the ESPN app, and I’ll be using it to full effect: Muchova and Venus Williams on Arthur Ashe, Clijsters and Alexandrova on Court 11, Dimitrov and Paul on Louis Armstrong Stadium, and the cherry on top, the sixth-seeded Matteo Berrettini opening his campaign against Go Soeda on Court 17. It’ll be a struggle to juggle these matches, and I’m sure I’ll miss good points from each of them as I shift my focus from one small quadrant of my screen to another. But that’s a small price to pay for the joy of being overwhelmed by the talent assembled under the lights of Flushing Meadows.