NEW YORK – A chorus of screams suddenly erupted just west of the main practice courts on Sunday.
It's a particular sound, reserved for only a few of the game's true greats. And with the absence of Rafael Nadal at this year's event, it could only be one player: Roger Federer, on his way to a practice session.
Federer, the No. 2 seed and the on-form player coming into the last Grand Slam of the season, kicks off his 2014 campaign during the night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium against the Bosnian-born Australian Marinko Matosevic. It is the best part of the Tuesday schedule at the U.S. Open.
Federer will be greeted and supported as if he were a native New Yorker, which pretty much happens to him everywhere he goes – even in London, against true Brit/Scot Andy Murray.
That match will be followed by the entrance of No. 1 woman Serena Williams, who drew herself an intriguing matchup in the first round. She plays 18-year-old Taylor Townsend, a wild-card entry who probably won't be needing too many more of those, a fellow African-American with a completely different style. And a left-hander.
It could be a blowout. Or it could be intriguing. As usual with Serena Williams, it sort of depends on Serena.
MATCHES TO WATCH - MEN
**Another all-American matchup on Arthur Ashe Stadium Tuesday afternoon will feature No. 13 seed John Isner, a former University of Georgia Bulldog, against Marcos Giron, the current NCAA singles champion from UCLA. Isner actually never won the NCAA singles title during his four years at Georgia, although he did win the doubles championship and was part of a championship team title. Isner lost the 2007 final in a third-set tiebreaker to Somdev Devvarman, who also has had a career on the ATP Tour. Giron is (charitably) listed at 5-foot-11; Isner is 6-foot-10.
**On the Grandstand, No. 20 seed Gaël Monfils of France takes on another American wild card, 17-year-old Jared Donaldson. Donaldson, already ranked a career-best No. 303, is playing in his 17th pro event already this season. But this is only the third top-level event of his career. Donaldon lost in the final round of qualifying here a year ago as a 16-year-old, and won two matches to make a main draw for the first time in his career last month at the ATP Tour stop in Washington, D.C. But let's just say that in Monfils, he has no idea what kind of a ride he's in for.
***On Court 17, last on the schedule will be Aussie Bernard Tomic vs. Jamaican-German Dustin Brown. A contrast in styles in the extreme. Tomic, who was once considered a major part of the next generation of players but who has fallen on some more challenging times, is still only 21 years old. His deadpan demeanour could be a perfect foil for Brown, who can electrify a crowd like few others beyond his friend and occasional doubles partner Monfils.
MATCHES TO WATCH - WOMEN
***Canadian Genie Bouchard, the cover subject for this weekend's New York Times Magazine U.S. Open issue, has had a difficult few weeks since WImbledon. After making two semi-finals and one final in the first three Grand Slam events of the season, she has one more Grand Slam opportunity this season. Bouchard faces Olga Govortsova of Belarus in the first round, which should – SHOULD – be a relatively uncomplicated match to get through.
***American Coco Vandeweghe, still just 22, seems to be starting to come into her own this summer. She faces Donna Vekic, just 17, a Croat who came on with a splash last year but has fallen back a little bit since then. It's a matchup of blonde big-hitters, with Vandeweghe sure to enjoy the home-crowd support.