NEW YORK, NY, USA - The announcement that 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams would take on fellow former World No.1 Maria Sharapova in the first round of this year's US Open reverberated through the tennis world, quickly becoming one of those "Where were you when...?" moments for the game's top players.

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"Someone texted me about it," said 2017 finalist Madison Keys, fresh off a title run at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. "I think I was shopping, had no idea the draw was actually happening. So it was like, ‘Oh my god! Look at this first round!'"

For reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, the Monday match-up struck close to home as the Romanian herself drew Sharapova two years ago at this tournament, falling in what was regarded as one of the best matches of the season.

"We don't talk about that," Halep said, smiling. "It's past, so we'll just live the present. It's going to be a big match, definitely. If it's on Monday, then I will watch it. Were it Tuesday, no, because I have a match."

Scheduling conflicts aside, top seed Naomi Osaka, who played Williams to win her first major title at US Open last year, predicted all eyes would be on the clash - their 22nd overall, and their first since the 2016 Australian Open.

"Of course I'm going to watch it. I know you all are going to watch it," she said on Friday, referring to the journalists present for the US Open's annual Media Day. "I think everyone in New York is going to watch it.

"I'm not that surprised that that happened, because at every Grand Slam there is always some sort of drama. You know what I mean? Like, there will be a first round where it's like,' Oh, my God.'"

"Of course I'm going to watch it. I know you all are going to watch it. I think everyone in New York is going to watch it."

- Naomi Osaka

Rogers Cup champion Bianca Andreescu agreed, citing the all-Canadian encounter on the men's side between Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

"I think they played each other here two years ago," she said, adding with a conspiratorial giggle, "I feel like the draws are rigged sometimes because the Canadians keep playing each other first round!"

No.2 seed Ashleigh Barty played Sharapova in the opening round of her own Cincinnati campaign, perhaps explaining the straight-talking Aussie's unfazed attitude regarding the match-up.

"There are a lot of other quality first rounds. It's not the only first round in the draw."

Keys later theorized that the locker room focuses less on individual rivalries and more on gamestyle archetypes, and how one matches up with another.

"You'll have situations where you have people who play very similarly, and seeing how that’s goes down, or two players who play completely differently, or a match-up where one person’s game-style completely frustrates the other player. I think that’s what interests me the most.

"You question how one player is going to handle another player’s strengths. We get intrigued by contrasting game-styles, and how that’s going to work out. It’s a lot more to do with that than specific person vs specific person."

Pressed to pick a winner, the American - along with the rest of her colleagues - abstained, instead opining on how the match is symptomatic of the game's evolving depth.

"Looking at whoever has won the last few Slams or big tournaments, you think, 'Well that makes sense.' It's a list of 25 different people, but there's never a week where you think, 'I didn't see that coming!' Instead, you think, 'That makes sense because she's really good and has been playing well.

"Everyone is a favorite. Everyone is a darkhorse. Nothing is surprising anymore."