A trio of serving monsters stand between Alex de Minaur and a first grand slam quarter-final appearance at the fan-free US Open starting on Monday.
De Minaur, seeded 21st, should have little trouble negotiating his way past Slovakian world No.95 Andrej Martin in the first round at Flushing Meadows.
But then he may need a hard hat for potentially hazardous battles with Ivo Karlovic, Sam Querrey and Milos Raonic in successive matches.
At 41-years-old and 211cm, Karlovic is both the oldest and tallest player on the men’s tour.
The Croatian owns one of the deadliest weapons in the game, with Lleyton Hewitt famously claiming Karlovic was “serving out of a tree” during his first-round ambush of Australia’s then-defending Wimbledon champion in 2003.
At 198cm, Querrey is relatively pint-sized compared to Karlovic.
But he still towers over the 183cm tall de Minaur and used his own supersonic serve to blast past titleholders Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in successive years at Wimbledon.
Raonic is “only” 196cm and the closest thing to an ace machine tennis has seen in recent years, leaving de Minaur with a daunting draw in his quest to match his run to the last 16 in 2019.
Fellow Australian John Millman, a quarter-finalist in 2018, opens against 22nd seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, a tough assignment but significantly easier than Rafael Nadal, his first-round opponent last year.
Millman’s Davis Cup teammate Jordan Thompson takes on Stefano Travaglia, with James Duckworth also drawing an Italian in Salvatore Caruso.
Main-draw debutant Marc Polmans faces unseeded American Marcos Giron with Sydneysider Chris O’Connell taking on Serbia’s Laslo Djere.
With world No.1 Ashleigh Barty and former Flushing Meadows champion and new mum Samantha Stosur both opting out, Ajla Tomljanovic will lead Australia’s women’s assault.
But Tomljanovic faces a huge test to reach the second round after being drawn against former world No.1 and ex-US Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber.
Astra Sharma plays 19th seed Dayana Yastremska, Lizette Cabrera meets Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic and Maddison Inglis is up against Polish 24th seed Magda Linette.
WHO THE AUSSIES FACE IN THE US OPEN FIRST ROUND (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):
21-Alex de Minaur v Andrej Martin (SVK)
John Millman v 22-Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO)
Jordan Thompson v Stefano Travaglia (ITA)
James Duckworth v Salvatore Caruso (ITA)
Marc Polmans v Marcos Giron (USA)
Chris O’Connell v Laslo Djere (SRB)
Ajla Tomljanovic v 17-Angelique Kerber (GER)
Astra Sharma v 19-Dayana Yastremska (UKR)
Lizette Cabrera v Danka Kovinic (MNE)
Maddison Inglis v 24-Magda Linette (POL)