The all-Russian Maria vs. Maria battle will provide an interesting early test for Sharapova, who is seeking her first US Open title since 2006. Since winning her fifth career Slam at Roland Garros in June, the 27-year-old hasn’t played with much consistency – she made earlier-than-expected exits at Wimbledon (fourth round) and Montreal (second round), before reaching the Cincinnati semis, where she fell to resurgent Serb Ana Ivanovic, 7-5 in the third. But the ever-ambitious 27-year-old is 5-2 lifetime against her compatriot, who has seen limited court time this year due to knee trouble.
Kirilenko, who’s fallen out of the Top 100, will be playing only her eighth match of 2014, and drawing her former Fed Cup teammate in the opening round seems a cruel fate. In order for her to still be standing at the close of Day 1 at the US Open, she’ll have to play an aggressive brand of tennis against Sharapova and come out firing in Arthur Ashe Stadium, capitalizing on any and all opportunities to approach the net and cut off the mid-court ball. With her legs not at 100 percent, this could be a tough task against the former No. 1, who is 33-3 when facing opponents ranked outside the Top 100 at the majors.