Photo: Paul ZimmerVenus Williams (USA)
Venus Williams rolled back the years on the opening day of the 2013 US Open with a performance that could have been taken from the highlights reel of one of her two title wins in New York over a decade ago.
Twice a champion at Flushing Meadows, in 2000 and 2001, the 33-year-old American convincingly defeated Kirsten Flipkens, who had won their Rogers Cup encounter in Toronto a few weeks ago, 61 62 in the second match in Arthur Ashe stadium.
“My serve was a lot better [today],” said Williams when asked what had made the difference against Flipkens this time out. “In Toronto I wasn't really feeling that great about my serve. Just coming back I've had to do a lot of work on my serve.”
Meanwhile, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal opened their US Open campaign’s without so much as a whiff of trouble on an otherwise eventful opening day’s play in New York.
As first day’s go, this one had it all – a retirement, a significant upset, wins for champions old and new and even a rain delay – but there was no such drama for top seed Williams and world No. 2 Nadal, who both strolled into round two.
Defending champion Williams had been handed a tricky opening test in former Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone but the world No. 1 proved ruthless, rolling over the Italian for the loss of just one game in an hour flat. Perhaps most remarkably for the powerful 32-year-old, Williams conceded just a single game in the match without hitting a single ace.
“She's a great competitor,” said Williams despite the ease of her win. “I think she played really well. I think the scoreline had nothing to do with the match. I mean, I just was able to win some key points.
“But I tell you, it wasn't very easy out there. We were both grunting and running and fighting.”
The story of day one in the men’s event was the retirement of former world No. 4 James Blake, who announced he will hang up his racket for good after this year’s US Open.
“I have had 14 pretty darn good years on tour, loved every minute of it, and I definitely couldn't have asked for a better career,” said Blake. “For me to think of matches I should have won and to make those as regrets for me has always just seemed greedy.”
Rafael Nadal, who secured a comfortable 64 62 62 first round win over Ryan Harisson, also paid tribute to Blake.
“James was one of the more charismatic players on tour. His style of game was spectacular a lot of days. He was able to play winners on the return with great first serves, and his forehand was one of the best on tour, no? Without no one doubt, he was able to hit very hard. His image was great.
“He's a good example for the kids and a good example for the tour. He's a really good person.”
Back on the court, Great Britain’s Dan Evans provided the upset of the day, stunning No. 11 seed Kei Nishikori 64 64 62.
“He's pretty famous and I have seen him play a lot, so I knew quite a lot about him,” said Evans. “To be aggressive was good for me, that was my plan.”
Meanwhile, Federer will have to wait until Tuesday to open his campaign for a sixth US Open crown after his match against Grega Zemlja was washed out due to rain.