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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

US Open draw: Sharapova faces Halep, Federer and Nadal on semi-final collision course

Russian former world No 1 will take on the second seed in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

Maria Sharapova will face Simona Halep in the US Open first round, her first grand slam appearance since returning from a 15-month doping ban. Jason DeCrow / AP Photo
Maria Sharapova will face Simona Halep in the US Open first round, her first grand slam appearance since returning from a 15-month doping ban. Jason DeCrow / AP Photo

Maria Sharapova's return to grand slam action will begin with a high-profile clash against Romanian second seed Simona Halep while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could meet in the US Open semi-finals following Friday's draw.

For Sharapova, a former world No 1 and five-time grand slam champion who returned from a 15-month doping ban in April and was awarded a wildcard invitation to the US Open, it will mark her first match since pulling out of the Stanford Classic three weeks ago with an arm injury.

The 30-year-old Russian, who was banned after testing positive for heart drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, has had mixed results since re-joining the WTA Tour and will need to be at her best early to keep alive any hope of her first title at Flushing Meadows since 2006.

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Defending women's champion Angelique Kerber has a tricky test as she takes on Japan's Naomi Osaka in the opening round and could face red-hot Elina Svitolina, who won a tune-up event at Toronto, in the quarters.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, who is one of the favourites and fresh from her triumph at the Cincinnati Open, could face former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the quarters.

Czech world No 1Karolina Pliskova, runner-up at last year's tournament, will play her first round against Poland's Magda Linette and is projected to play 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the last eight.

On the men's side, Swiss third seed Federer, who is seeking his third grand slam title of the year after wins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, will open his quest for a sixth US Open triumph against American Frances Tiafoe.

Roger Federer begins his bid for a sixth US Open title against American Frances Tiafoe. Gareth Fuller / Pool Photo
Roger Federer begins his bid for a sixth US Open title against American Frances Tiafoe. Gareth Fuller / Pool Photo

Federer, who has been enjoying a remarkable campaign after missing the last six months of 2016 to heal his knee, would face two-time champion and long-time rival Nadal in the semi-finals should the top half of the draw go according to seed.

The pair have never met at the US Open, and while Nadal leads 23-14 in head-to-head meetings, Federer has won their past four clashes, including three hardcourt meetings in 2017 at the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami.

Australian Nick Kyrgios, the 14th seed and recent Cincinnati runner-up, or American 17th seed Sam Querrey, who is enjoying a career-best year, would pose a threat to Federer in the fourth round.

World No 2 Andy Murray takes on American Tennys Sandgren in the opening round. Tim Ireland / AP Photo
World No 2 Andy Murray takes on American Tennys Sandgren in the opening round. Tim Ireland / AP Photo

British second seed Andy Murray, who is returning from a hip injury that forced him to miss all the US Open tune-up events, will play American Tennys Sandgren in the opening round while resurgent 21st seed David Ferrer of Spain is a potential fourth-round opponent.

German fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who has five titles this year and is one of the favourites to win the year's final grand slam, opens against a qualifier and could face Croatian fifth seed and 2014 champion Marin Cilic in the quarters.

The US Open will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 10 in New York.