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Murray-Basilashvili clash highlights Top 5 men’s first-rounders at Australian Open
Elsewhere, American rising stars Sebastian Korda and Brandon Nakashima both take on Top 16 seeds.
Published Jan 15, 2022
From a former No. 1 against last year’s Indian Wells runner-up to up-and-coming Americans facing Top 16 seeds, there are a lot of tremendous first-round matches in the men’s draw at the Australian Open this year. Here are five of them:
[WC] Andy Murray (GBR) vs  Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) [Murray leads 2-0]
Murray was one of the biggest stories in the tennis world this past week, reaching his first ATP final since 2019 in Sydney—and though he ultimately fell to an in-form Aslan Karatsev in that final, just getting there was a big milestone.
“It’s my first time back in the finals for three years,” he said afterwards.
“It’s been a long road to get back here.”
Along the way he actually faced Basilashvili, battling to a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory after three hours and 15 minutes—almost as long as their only other encounter at Wimbledon last year, which Murray won, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, after three hours and 32 minutes.
That Wimbledon clash could have been a lot quicker, though, as Murray originally led 5-0 in the third set before Basilashvili fought back.
“He is hitting the ball consistently bigger than anyone on the tour,” Murray said of the Georgian after their Sydney meeting a few days ago. “I was having to do a lot of defending and running but my legs stood up well and at the end I served really well in the last set.”
Murray will try to keep his winning record against Basilashvili going in Melbourne.
 Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs Brandon Nakashima (USA) [First Meeting]
Last year, Berrettini’s Australian Open campaign came to a premature end, as he had to withdraw prior to his fourth-round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas due to an abdominal injury. He then went on to reach the quarterfinals or better at the other three majors in 2021—including reaching his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon—and now, back in Melbourne, he hopes to keep that trend going.
The Italian’s opening match could be tricky, though. Nakashima has more than halved his ranking since a year ago, from No. 170 to No. 68, and though he’s 0-2 against Top 10 players, he did push Alexander Zverev to four sets in the second round of the 2020 US Open—he also pulled off an upset in the first round of the last major, the 2021 US Open, surprising John Isner in straight sets.
Berrettini will be playing the hard-hitting 20-year-old American for the first time.
 Cameron Norrie (GBR) vs Sebastian Korda (USA) [Korda leads 1-0]
After a breakthrough 2021 season that saw him win 52 matches (more than half of his career total of 103), claim the biggest title of his career at Indian Wells and make his way into the Top 40, Top 30 and Top 20 for the first time, Norrie had a tough start to 2022 last week, going 0-3 at the ATP Cup—the field was tough too, though, his losses coming to Zverev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz.
Nonetheless, could any kind of a losing streak leave Norrie vulnerable in Melbourne?
Korda won the pair’s only previous meeting a year ago in Delray Beach, 6-3, 7-5. Norrie was only ranked No. 74 at the time, but the 21-year-old Korda isn’t short on Top 20 wins at all, notching five of them, and all last year—can he add a sixth to his resume against the No. 12-ranked Brit?
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 John Isner (USA) vs Maxime Cressy (USA) [First Meeting]
Isner is one of the most accomplished players on the men’s tour at the moment—a Masters 1000 champion, Wimbledon semifinalist and former Top 10 player—but he’s struggled at the Slams recently, falling first round at the last two (and in the first week of the last nine he’s played).
Meanwhile, Cressy has already come out strong in 2022, reaching the first ATP final of his career at the Melbourne Summer Set last week (and making his Top 100 debut this week). He’s also recorded the first three Top 30 wins of his career over the last five months, including the biggest win of his career over a No. 12-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round of last year’s US Open.
The American serve-and-volleyer will try to get the second-biggest win of his career against Isner.
 Reilly Opelka (USA) vs Kevin Anderson (RSA) [Opelka leads 1-0]
Standing at a combined height of 13 feet and 7 inches, Opelka (6’ 11”) and Anderson (6’ 8”) are two of the tallest players on the tour—and they’ve got the big serves to back it up, combining for a total of 34 aces in their only previous meeting in Atlanta in 2016, which Opelka won, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5.
The incredible thing about that match was that Opelka was a No. 837-ranked 18-year-old, while Anderson was an established No. 28 on the ATP rankings, and headed for the first two Grand Slam finals of his career over the next two years at the 2017 US Open and 2018 Wimbledon.
Having struggled with a slew of injuries all over his body over the last few years, Anderson now finds himself just outside the Top 100—but a former No. 5 can never be underestimated…