The draw ceremony for the 2021 Australian Open produced many blockbuster first-round men's match-ups, it’s hard to pick the best—but here five enticing bouts to keep an eye on.
(11) Denis Shapovalov Vs. Jannik Sinner [First meeting]
Shapovalov had a fantastic finish to 2020, not just reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open, but breaking the Top 10 for the first time a week later after reaching the semifinals of Rome.
But Friday’s draw was hard on the Canadian, giving him arguably the toughest first-round match-up in the tournament—Sinner was on fire at the end of 2020, too, reaching his first major quarterfinal at the French Open and winning his first ATP title in Sofia, and he doesn’t seem to have lost any steam in the off-season, reaching the semifinals of the Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne this week.
The No. 36-ranked Italian teenager was also the first player out of the seeds for the Australian Open.
Who will win the first battle of what could become one of the next great rivalries?
(4) Daniil Medvedev Vs. Vasek Pospisil [Medvedev leads 2-1]
Medvedev is probably the hottest player on the tour at the moment. He won 10 matches in a row to close out 2020, which brought him a Masters 1000 title in Paris and the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals, and he's already extended that winning streak to 12 matches in a row with a pair of wins at the ATP Cup this week, against No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and former No. 4 Kei Nishikori.
But Posipisil has given him trouble before. After Medvedev snuck through their first encounter at Shanghai in 2019, 7-6 (7), 7-5, the Canadian got revenge in Rotterdam last February, powering to the third Top 5 win of his career, 6-4, 6-3. The Russian struck back at Vienna in the fall, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The former Wimbledon quarterfinalist is definitely not someone Medvedev wanted to face so early.
(9) Matteo Berrettini Vs. Kevin Anderson [First meeting]
As if facing a former Grand Slam quarterfinalist in the first round isn’t tough enough, what about a two-time Grand Slam finalist? That’s what Berrettini is going up against as he takes on Anderson, a runner-up at the 2017 US Open (to Rafael Nadal) and 2018 Wimbledon (to Novak Djokovic).
The South African, a former No. 5, is currently working his way back up the rankings after struggling with knee injuries the last few years—he was No. 120 a year ago, now No. 82—but no matter where he’s ranked his big game always makes him a threat. He's someone nobody wants to face in the opening round.
Anderson has 19 career Top 10 wins—could No. 10-ranked Berrettini become his 20th?
(5) Stefanos Tsitsipas Vs. Gilles Simon [First meeting]
Berrettini-Anderson isn’t the only first-round match-up between a current and a former Top 10 player—there’s also Tsitsipas against Simon. The Frenchman is currently ranked No. 64, but he’s been ranked as high as No. 6 in the world, and he’s a former quarterfinalist at this event, reaching the final eight back in 2009. He also lifts his game against the big names, as exemplified by his 34 career wins over Top 10 players.
Tsitsipas, a semifinalist here in 2019, won’t want to underestimate the French veteran…
(18) Grigor Dimitrov Vs. Marin Cilic [Cilic leads 4-2]
After winning his first major at the 2014 US Open, Cilic went as high as No. 3 on the ATP rankings in 2018 after a seven-month stretch that saw him reach his second and third major finals at the 2017 Wimbledon and 2018 Australian Open. After a tough couple of years he’s currently down at No. 43, one of a handful of players who were just outside the seeds, and a dangerous floater in the draw.
Unfortunately for Dimitrov, he drew Cilic in the first round. Even worse, Cilic leads their head-to-head, 4-2—and even worse, Cilic leads 4-1 on hard courts, and 3-0 on outdoor hard courts.