U.S. Open Day 1 matches to watch: Serena, Djokovic, Nadal kick off play

US Open Day 1 schedule and top matches to watch featuring Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova and more.
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NEW YORK – The U.S. Open kicks off at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens, on Monday as the top half of the men’s and women’s draws get underway. Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal headline play at the year’s final major tournament. Matches begin at 11 a.m. ET on WatchESPN and coverage on ESPN begins 1 p.m. ET. Check out the full television and broadcast schedule here. Full order of play for Monday can be found here.

Matches and storylines to watch on Day 1

Serena Williams begins her bid for the Grand Slam: Fresh from a win in Cincinnati over Simona Halep in straight sets, the younger Williams sister and defending champion opens the night’s play at 7 p.m. ET against No. 86 Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia. The two haven’t met before, but expect Serena to steamroll her competition, especially on the biggest stage in professional tennis during the night’s play. Notably, Diatchenko has won just one hard court match during the summer season at Baku. She retired in her first round in Vancouver against Petra Martic. Serena, meanwhile, dropped just one set (against Ana Ivanovic) en route to defending her Western & Southern Open title.

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​Make sure to also check out Venus Williams, who starts her campaign on Arthur Ashe (second match) against the feisty Monica Puig for a spot in the Round of 64.

Defending champion Marin Cilic gets snubbed: Last year’s surprise champion Marin Cilic won’t be getting any special treatment at this year’s U.S. Open, it seems. He isn’t appearing on Arthur Ashe in round one when he takes on Guido Pella of Argentina, but rather plays second on Louis Armstrong. Kei Nishikori, who Cilic defeated in straight sets, also plays his first match on the smaller showcourt. Nishikori, the No. 4 seed and recent champion at the Citi Open over John Isner, plays the flashy Frenchman Benoit Paire first.

Mardy Fish’s swan song starts on the Grandstand: Former top-ranked American Mardy Fish returns to the U.S. Open for the first time since 2012 and starts off against No. 102 Marco Cecchinato of Italy. Fish had an impressive straight-sets win over Viktor Troicki in Cincinnati and he’s also had some success at the Open, reaching the quarterfinals in 2008.

Maria Sharapova withdraws from the tournament: Set to play Daria Gavrilova in the first round, No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova withdrew from the tournament on Sunday, citing a leg injury. Russia's Daria Kasatkina takes her place in the draw.

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Can Rafael Nadal pull through at night? We all know Rafael Nadal has been struggling with his form this season. It’s been tough overcoming injury and his hardcourt season so far has been less than stellar. He says he’s feeling better though and he did win some rounds in Montreal and Cincinnati. But his opponent Borna Coric has a lot of upside. In fact, the 19-year-old won their only meeting in the Basel quarterfinals in 2014, 6–2, 7–6(4). Playing at Ashe under the lights, however, is a whole different experience and one that should favor the Spaniard.

A couple of All-American match-ups highlight Day 1: What could be better than seeing an All-American match-up at the U.S. Open? Watching two of them. The first is sure to draw a packed crowd: Sloane Stephens, who won her first title at the Citi Open this summer, takes on big-serving power player CoCo Vandeweghe on Louis Armstrong (third match). Vandeweghe has the edge in their head-to-head, winning two matches to one. Sloane, however, took the last on clay in Strasbourg earlier this year. Meanwhile, Vandeweghe’s wins came way back in 2012 and 2010. In the other All-American match, check out Irina Falconi and 2012 U.S. Open girls’ champion Samantha Crawford vie for a spot in the second round on Court 11.

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Madison Keys is also in action on Monday, starting off against Klara Koukalova (fourth match, Grandstand) and Court 17 will feature a full slate of Americans, including Lauren Davis, Tim Smyczek, Alison Riske and Steve Johnson. Also keep an eye out for young Americans Ryan Shane, who earned a wildcard for winning the 2015 NCAA Singles Championship, and 18-year-old Tommy Paul, the lone American male to make it out of the qualifying rounds.​

Upset alert: All eyes will be on No. 26 seed Eugenie Bouchard, who’s now reportedly being coached by Jimmy Connors, to see if the young Canadian can turn around her season with a strong run in New York. She faces a tough opponent in American Riske, who achieved her best showing at a major in Flushing at the 2013 tournament when she advanced to the fourth round. Bouchard stunned the tennis world when she made it to the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open last year and did one round better by making her first major final at Wimbledon. She’s since dropped from a career-high of No. 5 to No. 25 and she’s won just one match (in Cincinnati against Kateryna Bondarenko) since flaming out in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon.

But Bouchard can take comfort in the fact that she owns her head-to-head against Riske, having one four of their five meetings in straight sets. Riske, too, has had a streaky hard court season, making this matchup one to watch.

More matches to watch: Novak Djokovic vs. Joao Souza (last day session match, Arthur Ashe); Oceane Dodin vs. Jelena Jankovic (second match, Court 13); Matthew Ebden vs. Grigor Dimitrov (first match, Court 5); Belinda Bencic vs. Sesil Karatantcheva (fourth match, Court 5); Kristina Mladenovic vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (second match, Court 7).

This post was updated to reflect the change in the draw after Sharapova's withdrawal from the tournament.