Federer faces tough opener against Costa

The women's side shouldn't have too many early upsets, though there are a number of matches that have the potential of being competitive.

Here's a look at some of the more interesting opening-round showdowns when the U.S. Open begins:


Roger Federer (1) vs. Albert Costa
Federer was upset at the Olympics by Tomas Berdych, and now he has a first-round opponent ranked in the top 50 (Costa is 44 despite a 19-18 match record this year). The Spaniard has won his first-round match at the U.S. Open four straight years (he made the round of 16 in 2001). Federer has never made the quarterfinals at this event, and he's lost his last two meetings vs. Costa (Rome on clay earlier this year, on hardcourts at Miami in 2003). At least Federer doesn't have David Nalbandian in his half of the draw (the Argentine knocked him out of the U.S. Open last year).

Lleyton Hewitt (4) vs. Wayne Ferreira
Hewitt has looked pretty good through much of the summer, winning at Washington while reaching the finals in Cincinnati (losing to Andre Agassi). He has the potential of making a lot of noise at this event if he gets past this tough veteran opponent. Ferreira made the round of 16 at the 2002 U.S. Open and also made the third round of this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon. In their last meeting, Ferreira beat Hewitt in last year's finals in Los Angeles.

Tim Henman (5) vs. Ivo Karlovic
Nothing like looking across the net and seeing a 6--foot-10 opponent! Karlovic seems to fare pretty well at Grand Slams, making the round of 16 at this year's Wimbledon and last year's U.S. Open. Henman lost to Andy Roddick in the first round at last year's U.S. Open, so on paper this is a bit easier … or is it? Henman is coming off a disappointing first-round loss to Jiri Novak in the first round of the Olympics.

Andre Agassi (6) vs. Robby Ginepri
Is this the last run at another U.S. Open title for Agassi? He showed flashes of his old brilliance recently in Cincinnati, beating Roddick, Hewitt and Carlos Moya en route to the championship. Ginepri, who made it to the third round of last year's U.S. Open, is familiar with Agassi as the two have been Davis Cup teammates before. This is a rematch of the 2002 U.S. Open first round, won by Agassi easily (6-3, 6-3, 6-3).

Marat Safin (13) vs. Thomas Enqvist
Which Safin will show up to this event? The former U.S. Open champion, had a big start to the year by beating Agassi and Roddick at the Australian Open before losing to Federer in the finals. He has had few quality wins since (Sebastian Grosjean, Tommy Robredo) since and also lost in the second round of the Olympics. At least he is 2-0 lifetime vs. his Swedish opening round opponent.

Francisco Gonzalez (14) vs. Robin Soderling
The Swede is ranked 39th in the world, making him a dangerous opponent. Gonzalez may still have the lingering effects from a disappointing loss to Mardy Fish in the Olympic tournament.

Taylor Dent (21) vs. Younes El Aynaoui
Injury woes have left El Aynaoui sidelined most of this year. He's 0-4, including a recent straight-set loss to Dominik Hrbaty at the Olympics. When he is on, he loves playing at the U.S. Open, making the quarters there the last two years. Facing Dent's big serve is a tough task.

Fabrice Santoro (31) vs. Todd Martin
This could be the most entertaining first-round match. Nobody likes facing either of these guys because they play so hard and leave everything on the court. It's nice to see two guys in their 30s making noise! Martin has had so many great moments at the U.S. Open, and he made the round of 16 last year before falling to Juan Carlos Ferrero. This could be his last Open appearance so he will have the fans cheering wildly for him. Santoro has had good success this summer with wins over Hewitt, Bjorkman and Dent (all seeded at this year's Open). He also gave Federer a tough match in Toronto.

Jonas Bjorkman (32) vs. Tomas Berdych
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Berdych stunned Federer at the Olympics. He could give the veteran Bjorkman a tough opener.

Mark Philippoussis vs Nikolay Davydenko
If rankings mean anything, this should be a five-set nailbiter. The Australian is No. 57 in the world, just two spots behind Davydenko. It is hard to believe Philippoussis has slipped that far. Then again, he hasn't won since beating Gonzalez at Wimbledon.


Amelie Mauresmo (2) vs. Marissa Irvin
The American took Daniela Hantuchova to three sets at New Haven last week. She is capable of keeping this interesting for a while.

Elena Dementieva (6) vs. Dinara Safina
The sister of Marat Safin won the lone prior meeting between these Russians (on clay in Berlin last year). Safina has played well in defeat against Justine Henin-Hardenne (Amelia Island), Maria Sharapova (Berlin), Vera Zvonareva (Rome) and Elena Likhotseva (Eastbourne) this year.

Maria Sharapova (7) vs. Laura Granville
Granville must love looking at the U.S. Open draw. Last year she drew Kim Clijsters in the second round. This year it's the Wimbledon champion in the opener, though Sharapova lost early in New Haven to Mashona Washington. Granville can be encouraged to note the prior two matches vs. Sharapova have each gone three sets (the Russian won both).

Jennifer Capriati (8) vs. Denisa Chladkova
Capriati is coming off a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals at New Haven (to Natalie Dechy). Now she faces an opponent from the Czech Republic who is ranked 54th in the world and has won her first-round match in nine straight Grand Slam tournaments. At least Capriati has won the prior two meetings, though she could have drawn an easier first-round foe.

Venus Williams (11) vs. Petra Mandula
After missing last year's U.S. Open due to an abdominal injury, Venus could have drawn an easier first-round opponent too. Mandula, from Hungary, is ranked 62nd in the world and has won her first-round match at the U.S. Open two straight years. Her biggest win this year came against Capriati in Charleston, plus she played well in close losses to Amy Frazier (San Diego) and Patty Schnyder (Olympics) earlier this month.

Nadia Petrova (14) vs. Jie Zheng
Petrova was upset by Lisa Raymond in the New Haven warmup prior to the U. S. Open. Zheng, ranked 59th in the world, almost stunned Ai Sugiyama at the Olympics, losing 8-6 in the deciding set. The Chinese star can't be thrilled with her Grand Slam draws – she lost to Serena Williams in the first round at Wimbledon.

Karolina Sprem (18) vs. Jelena Kostanic
This showdown of Croatians should be interesting since Kostanic is currently ranked 40th in the world. Keep an eye on Sprem, who beat Venus Williams, Meghann Shaughnessy and Magdalena Maleeva at Wimbledon this year (before losing to Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals). Sprem also took Mauresmo to three sets in Montreal earlier this month.

Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi (24) vs. Shinobu Asagoe
Smashnova-Pistolesi has not enjoyed a great summer and the Japanese opponent, ranked 60th in the world, could score a surprise here. Asagoe made it to the third round of last year's U.S. Open.

Elena Likhotseva (25) vs. Maria Kirilenko
This is an interesting battle of Russians. Kirilenko made the third round of last year's U.S. Open before losing to Mauresmo.

Natalie Dechy (28) vs. Jelena Dokic
At first glance, this could be one of the best first-round matches. Then realize that Dechy is on a roll after knocking off Capriati at New Haven. Dokic has lost her last seven WTA Tour matches, last scoring a win back in April. Dechy is 0-3 lifetime vs. Dokic, so this is still worth noting.

Howie Schwab is a coordinating producer at ESPN.