Nick Kyrgios has been handed an emotional first-round encounter at the US Open, against his friend Thanasi Kokkinakis in an all-Australian blockbuster.
And in a Flushing Meadows men’s field without Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal will open his bid for a 23rd Grand Slam title against Australian joker Rinky Hijikata when the main draw begins next week.
The two great friends Kyrgios and Kokkinakis – the “Special Ks” when playing together as a doubles team – faced off in a tough quarter, which also includes Russian No. 1 seed and defending champion Daniil Medvedev.
Nick Kyrgios plays a forehand at the Western & Southern Open earlier this year.
Thanasi Kokkinakis and his good friend Nick Kyrgios pose with the trophy after winning the Atlanta Open doubles final. The two will meet in the first round of the US Open.
The Australian Open-winning duo, who will also be seeking a third title of the year together in men’s doubles, have never played each on the main tour, despite Kyrgios winning both of their level encounters lower when he was up- coming teenagers.
When Kyrgios was notified of the draw, he posted a photo of himself and Kokkinakis with the message, “Brother, let’s give them a good show.”
The No. 23 seed Kyrgios, one of the favorites for the title after his extravagant run to the Wimbledon final and subsequent victory in Washington, has a draw on the minefield.
If he beats Kokkinakis, he will likely face dangerous French southpaw Ugo Humbert in the second round and seasoned No. 16-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the third before a possible match against Medvedev.
Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia returns a shot to Jannik Sinner of Italy during the Western & Southern Open.
But the entire men’s field will feel their chances have been boosted by the absence of Djokovic, who announced on social media less than two hours before the closed-door draw that he would not be coming to New York.
US rules would not allow the Serb, who is still not vaccinated against COVID-19, to enter the country to try to win a fourth title, opening a big opportunity for Nadal to run further in his race ” GOAT”.
So Hijikata, the 21-year-old prospect from Sydney who received a wildcard as part of US tennis’ reciprocal deal with his Australian counterparts, has a dream – or potentially nightmarish – encounter with the No. 2 seed. and four-time champion Nadal.
Australia’s No. 1 and No. 18 seed Alex de Minaur will open against Serbian Filip Krajinovic.
Nick Kyrgios is one of the favorites to win the US Open after his wild ride to the Wimbledon final and victory in Washington.
And there’s another all-Australian clash with James Duckworth meeting fellow Sydney star Chris O’Connell, while in-form Jason Kubler will be aiming to continue his breakthrough by beating Swede Mikael Ymer.
In the women’s draw, all eyes were on Serena Williams, 40,’s first opponent in what is expected to be the last tournament of her career.
She will face Montenegro’s world No. 80 Danka Kovinic, with a potential second-round encounter against No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
Defending champion Emma Raducanu, whose victory as a qualifier last year has been dubbed New York’s fairy tale, has a tough opener against famed Giantslayer Alize Cornet, who knocked out the lead serial No. 1 Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon.
In-form Australian number 1 Ajla Tomljanovic will face Czech Karolina Muchova in her opener and, if she gets past a likely second-round opponent, Martina Trevisan, could possibly meet Williams in the round of 16.
Australia’s No. 2 Daria Saville will face Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse in her opener, while Jaimee Fourlis, also a wildcard holder, will play a qualifier yet to be determined.
Nick Kyrgios pictured on vacation with his girlfriend Costen Hatzi
FIRST ROUND DRAW FOR AUSTRALIAN PLAYERS AT US OPEN
(Number indicates seeding)
Nick Kyrgios (23) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Alex de Minaur (18) against Filip Krajinovic (SRB)
Jordan Thompson against Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)
John Millman vs. Emilio Nava (USA)
James Duckworth vs. Chris O’Connell
Jason Kubler vs. Mikael Ymer (Sweden)
Alexei Popyrin vs. Chun-hsin Tseng (TWN)
Rinky Hijikata (wildcard) vs Rafael Nadal (2) (ESP)
Ajla Tomljanovic against Karolina Muchova (CZE)
Jaimee Fourlis (wildcard) against qualifying
Daria Saville vs. Elena-Gabriela Ruse (ROM)