Murray handed easy first week but Nadal looms in US Open draw

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray may have to reverse the result of his two previous appearances in Grand Slam finals if he is to win the US Open, which begins in New York on Monday. Having lost to Roger Federer in the finals of both the 2008 US Open and the 2010 Australian Open, Murray could face the Swiss again in next month's final at Flushing Meadows.

Yesterday's draw put Murray in the opposite half to Federer. The Scot may have to beat Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, which would be a repeat of arguably the finest performance of his career at the same stage of the tournament two years ago. However, Murray lost to Nadal in the semi-finals at Wimbledon earlier this summer.

Murray could also face a major challenge in the quarter-finals, in which he is seeded to face Tomas Berdych, who beat Federer at Wimbledon two months ago and went on to reach his first Grand Slam final before losing to Nadal. Berdych and Murray had not met for four years until the Czech beat him in straight sets in the fourth round at Roland Garros this year.

Lukas Lacko, a 22-year-old from Slovakia who is ranked No 72 in the world, is Murray's first opponent. The two men have not met in senior competition. Lacko has never played in the main draw at Flushing Meadows, having failed to qualify for the last three years in succession. The winner will play either Spain's Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, the world No 91, or Jamaica's Dustin Brown, the world No 113, neither of whom Murray has met before.

Stanislas Wawrinka and Nicolas Almagro are Murray's potential opponents in the third and fourth rounds respectively. Murray beat Wawrinka in the fourth round in New York two years ago and usually gets the better of him on hard courts. Almagro beat Murray in the French Open in 2008 but has lost to the Scot in their two subsequent meetings on hard courts.

Two British women, Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong, received direct entries into the main draw. Baltacha, whose rise to No 54 in the world rankings gives her the chance to compete in the main competition in New York for the first time, has been given an immediate chance to avenge her first-round defeat at Wimbledon to Croatia's Petra Martic, the world No 88. Baltacha could then face the Czech Petra Kvitova, the world No 29, with Kim Clijsters, the defending champion, a potential third-round opponent.

Keothavong, who reached the third round two years ago, has been drawn against the world No 76, Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei, who has only ever won one match in the main draw in New York. Keothavong, who is ranked No 145 having returned from injury earlier this year, could play the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova, the world No 28, in the second round. Caroline Wozniacki, the top seed in the absence of the injured Serena Williams, could play Keothavong in the third round.

Laura Robson is hoping to join her fellow Britons in the main draw and kicked off her qualifying campaign last night with one of the best victories of her career. The 2008 junior Wimbledon champion beat Australia's Jelena Dokic 6-1, 6-4.

Dokic, a former world No 4, is ranked No 82 in the world, 146 places above 16-year-old Robson. The former Wimbledon semi-finalist has won three successive titles recently on the International Tennis Federation circuit.

Of the other Britons in qualifying, Heather Watson, last year's US Open junior champion, lost a difficult first-round tie with Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino, while Naomi Cavaday was due to play her opening match last night against America's Julia Cohen. Katie O'Brien was facing Japan's Misaki Doi in the second round.

Two British men were hoping to join Murray in the main draw. Jamie Baker, having won his opener against Brazil's Joao Souza, was facing a tough second-round task against France's Marc Gicquel, while Alex Bogdanovic was due to play his first-round match against the American Blake Strode.

Scot's route to glory at Flushing Meadows

First round Lukas Lacko (Slovakia)

Second round Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (Spain)

Third round Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland)

Fourth round Nicolas Almagro (Spain)

Quarter-final Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic)

Semi-final Rafael Nadal (Spain)

Final Roger Federer (Switzerland)

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