Andy Murray has one obvious thing in common with Leonardo Mayer, the Argentine he plays in his second-round match on Friday.
Both men were born on May 15, 1987. Beyond that, and a passing acquaintance with the handle of a racket, their lives have diverged dramatically. Where Murray's career prize-money will climb more than $30million if he wins today, Mayer has accumulated $1.6 million in a decade of professional tennis - still enough to enjoy life, but hardly a fortune when you consider the sums he would have forked out in travel, accommodation and coaching costs.
"He's a very talented player," said Murray on Wednesday night. "He's got big sort of long, looping strokes. I think he's had quite a few injuries the last couple of years and that's why he hasn't sort of got much higher in the rankings [Mayer is at No?81] but he's very tough."
Tennis etiquette demands that every opponent is talked up in advance. Yet, in all probability, Mayer will be easy meat against a man who has yet to drop a set in the first week of a grand slam this year. The only issue might be the venue: the match will probably be played on the Louis Armstrong court. Once the main venue here at Flushing Meadows, Armstrong has been relegated to second-string status since the construction of the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium in 1997.
It is also Murray's least favourite venue on the international circuit. His last three outings there all produced crisis moments - against Feliciano Lopez and Marin Cilic last summer, as well as Robin Haase in 2011. The year before that, he went down in four sets there to Stanislas Wawrinka. "It's not that I don't like the court," Murray has said, when asked about the claustrophobic feeling generated by Armstrong's short run-backs. "It has a lot of history and some great matches have been played there. But I've struggled on it in the past."
The order of play has already been an issue for Murray this year, after his opening match against Michael Llodra was held back until 9.55pm on Wednesday. That was almost 53 hours after Rafael Nadal had secured his own passage to the second round, and Murray was irritated enough to make a rare critical comment about the tournament organisers. "Playing at that time for your first round is not ideal," he said, after a match that had provided a noisy, well-lubricated crowd on Ashe with fine entertainment. "It means there are guys who have two more days off between matches." The real problem would have arisen if Murray and Llodra had been forced to come back yesterday - as looked plausible when persistent drizzle led to the postponement of 28 other matches.
Fortunately, they found a break in the weather. And it also helped that Llodra is a fidgety character who rushes through his service games and keeps the points as short as possible. The Frenchman is almost the last of a dying and romantic breed: the serve-volleyers. The statistics showed where the Frenchman's talents lie. From the back of the court, he is little more than club standard, as demonstrated by his winning ratio of barely one point in five. Yet, when he reaches the net, a kind of alchemy takes place. Llodra transforms into a gymnast, reaching the most improbable balls with a snarl of desperate effort.
"It was a fairly high-standard match," said Murray after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win, which occupied just 98 minutes. "Lots of reactions and drop shots, and definitely tested my movement today. I thought I moved well." Murray finished with a tally of 32 winners and just five unforced errors, which showed how well he has acclimatised to Ashe after a fortnight's practice on the court.
Meanwhile, Sara Errani, the No4 seed, became the highest-ranked player to go out of a US Open that has had its share of upsets. Ten of the 32 male seeds failed to reach the second round - the highest figure at a grand slam since the 2004 Australian Open - while Errani was the fifth to exit the women's draw. Errani was pushed up an extra place here because of the withdrawal of Maria Sharapova with shoulder trouble, and she clearly has not enjoyed the experience. "Some weeks I'm feeling too much pressure," said Errani, who lost 6-3, 6-1 to fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta on Louis Armstrong Stadium.