Andy Murray will kick off his U.S. Open title defense against Michael Llodra on Wednesday. Lleyton Hewitt and Brian Baker are also taking the court for first-round action.
(3) Andy Murray vs. Michael Llodra
Murray and Llodra will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers when they clash in round one of the U.S. Open on Wednesday night. All three of their previous encounters have gone Murray’s way and all three have been played on hard courts. The Scot prevailed 6-4, 6-3 six years ago in Metz, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(7) in the 2008 U.S. Open second round, and 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 at last season’s Australian Open.
Contesting this major as the reigning champ in both New York and it Wimbledon, Murray is looking to regain some form. The world No. 3 lost in the Montreal third round to Ernests Gulbis and in the Cincinnati quarters to Tomas Berdych. Llodra registers at 49th in the world and he is a decent 12-10 at the ATP level this season. The 33-year-old Frenchman, who has not won a match since round one at the All-England Club, is 0-2 on hard courts this summer. Murray generally handles big servers with ease and this should once again play right into his hands.
Pick: Murray in 3 losing 12 games or fewer
Lleyton Hewitt vs. (WC) Brian Baker
Hewitt and Baker will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers on Wednesday. Playing in his 13th U.S. Open, Hewitt boasts an awesome 43-11 lifetime record at the event. He won the title in 2011, finished runner-up to Roger Federer in 2004, and has reached the semifinals on three other occasions. The 32-year-old Australian is clearly slowing down in the twilight of his career, but he comes in at No. 66 in the world with a decent 19-14 record in 2013. Hewitt, a semifinalist in Atlanta, has not played since losing to Ryan Harrison in the Washington, D.C. first round.
Baker has also dealt with more than his fair share of injuries, to an even greater extent than his opponent. The 28-year-old American made a brilliant comeback last summer only to suffer a meniscus tear earlier this season at the Australian Open. Baker returned this month at the Aptos Challenger and he reached the second round of his first two tournaments (in Aptos and at the Cincinnati Masters). This could go either way based on which man is feeling better physically on this particular day, but Hewitt should have an edge with his experience and perhaps a cleaner bill of health.
Pick: Hewitt in 4