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Serena-Sharapova matchup tops 1st round at U.S. Open

The Associated PressNEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will finally meet in the U.S. Open, and they’ll do it in their very first match.

A long-awaited Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal showdown could come only in the final.

Williams and Sharapova, past U.S. Open champions and two of the biggest stars in women’s tennis, were scheduled for an opening-round matchup when the draws were conducted Thursday for the final major of the year.

Williams and Sharapova have met in the finals of the other three majors and the 2012 Olympics but have never played each other in the U.S. Open. Williams owns a 19-2 record in their WTA Tour matchups and has won 18 in a row, but that lopsided number shouldn’t do much to dampen the hype around what will be the marquee match of the opening round at Flushing Meadows, which starts Monday.

Williams will begin another bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title. Sharapova isn’t the same player she was when she won the 2006 U.S. Open championship — or beat Williams two years earlier in the final at Wimbledon — but remains one of the most popular players among fans in New York.

She was given a wild card into the tournament two years ago shortly after returning from a doping suspension and promptly scheduled for a match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she upset No. 2 seed Simona Halep. U.S. Open officials kept putting Sharapova on the main court in her next couple of matches, drawing complaints from some players who felt an unseeded player wasn’t worthy of such a prime position.

That shouldn’t be a problem this time, as a Williams-Sharapova matchup is too big for anywhere other than Ashe.

They haven’t played since the 2016 Australian Open.

Murray to play Challenger event

MADRID (AP) — Andy Murray will play in a second-tier Challenger Tour tournament hosted by Rafael Nadal’s tennis academy.

The tournament says Murray has accepted an invitation to play.

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, had hip surgery in January. He returned to the court in June playing doubles — including at Wimbledon — before moving back to singles this month. The former No. 1 lost to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati and to Tennys Sandgren in Winston-Salem, both in the first round.

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