Photo: Ray GiubiloJo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
There was a real sense of drama present at Flushing Meadows as many of the top seeds were forced to work hard for their opening round victories.
Ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga began his US Open campaign against Argentina’s Juan Monaco. The two players split the opening two sets with Tsonga taking the first 63 and Monaco fighting back to take the second 64. The third set went to a tiebreak and it was Tsonga who claimed it, winning 7-2 before storming through the final set for a 63 46 76(2) 61 win.
“The first round of a Grand Slam is always difficult just because you come from another tournament, from different conditions," Tsonga said. “Every tournament is different. Every time when you have to change it takes time to play your best tennis on the surface.” Next up for Tsonga is Aleksandr Nedovyesov, who defeated qualifier James McGee, also in four sets.
Andy Murray, the No. 8 seed, had to fight not only his opponent but also his own body to come through his opening round match with Dutchman Robin Haase. Murray won the opening set and claimed the second set 8-6 in a tiebreak but, at the start of the third set, he started to cramp and Haase took full advantage, winning the set 61.
Murray managed to battle back in the fourth set, eventually winning through 63 76(6) 16 75. The Briton will face Matthias Bachinger in the second round following the German’s impressive 63 62 62 victory over Radek Stepanek.
In the women’s draw, Angelique Kerber, seeded six, was pushed all the way by Ksenia Pervak. Kerber claimed the opening set 62 but Pervak refused to give up and battled through the second set, taking it 63 to force a decider. Kerber proved too strong in the end, winning 62 36 75 and moving into a second round meeting with Alla Kudryavtseva.
Second seed Simona Halep also had a scare when she faced the relatively unknown American Danielle Rose Collins. Collins, a college player who will return to her studies on Tuesday, took the opening set 7-2 in a tiebreak to the delight of the New York fans.
Halep affected by nerves in the opening set, recovered well and won the next two sets convincingly to complete a 67(2) 61 62 victory. Speaking about the match, Halep said “After the first set I did very well. I played better than the first set. I started a little bit nervous, but it's normal.”
Not all of the seeds struggled on the opening day, however. Top seed in the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic, breezed through his first round match against Argentinian Diego Schwartzman 61 62 64 in a little over an hour and a half.
Djokovic has had an amazing summer, getting married and then becoming a father for the first time. He said that, after a few emotional weeks, he is finally ready to compete at the highest level once again, “Toronto and Cincinnati, were a bit tough emotionally for me. I wasn't finding my game. I wasn't able to feel comfortable on the court. I probably was not mentally ready to still compete at a high level. But now it's different. I feel emotionally recharged and ready to go.”
Maria Sharapova, No. 5 seed in the women’s draw, also came through her opening round match with little difficulty. Facing her compatriot Maria Kirilenko, the Russian won 10 games in a row from 2-4 down in the opening set to claim a 64 60 victory.
The two players know each other well but Sharapova explained that, when you step onto the court, all that has to be left behind you, “We certainly have a big history together. But when you go out on the court, of course you want to be the winner, you have to face that person as a competitor, not someone that you've known for years and developed a friendship with. It's always a tricky balance, I guess.”
Elsewhere in the men’s competition, Stan Wawrinka defeated Jiri Vesely 62 76(6) 76(3), Milos Raonic defeated Taro Daniel 63 62 76(1) and Nick Kyrgios caused yet another upset when he defeated No. 21 seed Mikhail Youzhny 75 76(4) 26 76(1).
In the women’s draw, Venus Williams defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm 26 63 63, Agnieszka Radwanska breezed past Sharon Fichman 61 60 and Sloane Stephens delighted the home fans with a 60 63 victory over Annika Beck.