The 2021 US Open draw has been released, and promises numerous intriguing second-week clashes as well as first-round barnburners.
Wimbledon champion and No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty, fresh off her fifth title of the season in Cincinnati last week, opens against 2010 US Open runner-up Vera Zvonareva. The Australian will also face a second-round test against a fast-rising former junior World No.1: either Lyon champion Clara Tauson, 18, or Lausanne finalist Clara Burel, 20.
A projected quarterfinal against 2020 Roland Garros champion and No.7 seed Iga Swiatek would be one to circle: Barty defeated the Pole in a high-quality third round in Madrid this May. Ahead of that, Swiatek would need to navigate a section that includes Cincinnati finalist Jil Teichmann and Olympic gold medallist and No.11 seed Belinda Bencic.
This quarter also features a first-round highlight between two players whose improvement in 2021 has seen them feature in some of the year's best matches. No.22 seed Karolina Muchova takes on Sara Sorribes Tormo off the bat; both have defeated Barty on a big stage this season (Muchova at the Australian Open and Sorribes Tormo at the Olympic Games), and could meet the World No.1 again in the fourth round.
Karolina Pliskova's summer resurgence has seen the 2016 US Open finalist return to a Top 4 seeding for the first time since Roland Garros last year. Runner-up in Rome, Wimbledon and Montreal this year, the Czech will open against the finesse of 19-year-old American Caty McNally, who memorably took Serena Williams to three sets under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium two years ago. Looming in the fourth round for Pliskova could be either Roland Garros finalist and No.14 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or the surging No.24 seed Paula Badosa.
Pliskova's projected quarterfinal opponent is the 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. The No.6 seed returns to Flushing Meadows for the first time since lifting the trophy as a 19-year-old on her debut. Andreescu, who has been beset by injury and illness this year, faces a difficult route as she seeks to recapture that form. The Canadian opens against Viktorija Golubic, whose 45-17 win-loss record this year includes a Wimbledon quarterfinal and two WTA finals.
The third round could see a barnburner between Andreescu and the mercurial No.27 seed Jelena Ostapenko, and another big hitter, No.10 seed Petra Kvitova, looms in the fourth round. Kvitova will need to navigate past a stacked section that sees No.17 seed Maria Sakkari take on 18-year-old talent Marta Kostyuk in the first round, with the winner of that to face either three-time US Open quarterfinalist Anastasija Sevastova or the in-form Katerina Siniakova.
All eyes will be on defending champion and No.3 seed Naomi Osaka as she seeks to rediscover the form that has taken her to four hardcourt Grand Slam trophies to date. The Japanese player opens against Marie Bouzkova, and her projected third-round opponent is No.31 seed and last year's quarterfinalist Yulia Putintseva, who memorably upset Osaka twice in 2019 - including in the first round of Wimbledon.
Elsewhere, the third quarter wastes no time in delivering popcorn encounters. There will be a first-round rematch of the 2017 all-American final as Sloane Stephens is pitted against Madison Keys. Both former Top 10 players are unseeded this year, and the winner could face the 17-year-old No.21 seed Coco Gauff in the second round.
The tournament will get no easier for whoever survives between Gauff, Stephens and Keys: 2016 champion and No.16 seed Angelique Kerber, who has been resurgent in the past two months, looms in the third round. Kerber faces trouble of her own off the bat though, opening against the hard-hitting Dayana Yastremska.
Former World No.1 Simona Halep's return from a calf injury will be severely tested in the first round, too. The Romanian, this year's No.12 seed, opens against the powerful Camila Giorgi, who scored the biggest title of her career two weeks ago in Montreal. No.19 seed Elena Rybakina could await the winner in the third round, and No.5 seed Elina Svitolina in the fourth.
Svitolina's section features a first-round matchup that will delight fans of variety: No.25 seed Daria Kasatkina starts her campaign against Tsvetana Pironkova, the Bulgarian who reached the quarterfinals last year in her first tournament back after a three-year maternity leave.
Lying in wait for No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka are a contrasting pair of in-form players. The Belarusian's projected third-round opponent is the charismatic No.26 seed Danielle Collins, who put together a 12-match winning streak in July and August over two continents to capture her first two titles in Palermo and San Jose.
In the fourth round, the winner could face the crowd-pleasing hot shots of No.20 seed Ons Jabeur, who has reached at least the quarterfinals in five of her last 10 tournaments. Jabeur herself faces an intriguing path to get there, with rising Colombian teenager Maria Camila Osorio Serrano looming in the second round and No.14 seed Elise Mertens, a quarterfinalist here last year, in the third.
Projected to face Sabalenka in the quarterfinals is No.8 seed Barbora Krejcikova, who has won 25 of her last 28 matches - including her first three career titles in Strasbourg, Roland Garros and Prague. Indeed, across her last seven tournaments, Krejcikova has either taken the title or lost to the eventual champion.
The Czech will face a stern test in round four. Two-time Slam champions Garbiñe Muguruza, the No.9 seed, and Victoria Azarenka, the No.18 seed and last year's runner-up, are projected to resume a rivalry that has previously delivered some spectacular tennis in the third round.
2021 US Open: Projected third-round matches
 Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs.  Veronika Kudermetova (RUS)
 Karolina Muchova (CZE) vs.  Jennifer Brady (USA)
 Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs.  Jessica Pegula (USA)
 Anett Kontaveit (EST) vs.  Iga Swiatek (POL)
 Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs.  Petra Martic (CRO)
 Paula Badosa (ESP) vs.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
 Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs.  Maria Sakkari (GRE)
 Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) vs.  Bianca Andreescu (CAN)
 Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs.  Daria Kasatkina (RUS)
 Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs.  Simona Halep (ROU)
 Angelique Kerber (GER) vs.  Coco Gauff (USA)
 Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) vs.  Naomi Osaka (JPN)
 Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) vs.  Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)
 Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs.  Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
 Elise Mertens (BEL) vs.  Ons Jabeur (TUN)
 Danielle Collins (USA) vs.  Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)