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US Open PICS: Osaka, Halep, Rublev advance; Cilic retires

Last updated on: August 31, 2021 12:36 IST
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IMAGES from the US Open matches played on Day 1 at the Flushing Meadows in New York on Monday.

Osaka kicks off title defence with straight sets win

Japan's Naomi Osaka celebrates match point during her US Open first round match against Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova at USTA Billie King National Tennis Center

IMAGE: Japan's Naomi Osaka celebrates match point during her US Open first round match against Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova at USTA Billie King National Tennis Center. Photograph: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Naomi Osaka overcame a slow start to beat Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-1 on Monday as the world number three got her US Open title defence under way in front of a roaring capacity crowd.

 

Unseeded Bouzkova held her own through much of the first set but failed to convert on four break point opportunities against the Japanese four-time Grand Slam winner.

Osaka, who fired 21 winners but committed 13 unforced errors in the first set, broke Bouzkova's serve at 5-4 to win the opener and never looked back, winning the first five games of the second despite struggling with her first serve.

She closed out the match with a forehand winner, offering a smile and a wave to the stands that were empty a year ago.

"It feels kind of crazy to play in front of everyone again," said Osaka.

"Last year when we didn't have a crowd I know it felt quite lonely for me."

Japan's Naomi Osaka plays a return against Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova

IMAGE: Japan's Naomi Osaka plays a return against Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova. Photograph: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The evening marked a reassuring return to form for Osaka, who crashed out in the third round of the Tokyo Olympics and the Western & Southern Open.

She said she felt at home at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she won her first major title three years ago.

"I think it might be the court where I've played the most matches in my career," said Osaka.

"I'm just glad I won."

Medvedev makes strong start to title bid

Russia's Daniil Medvedev reacts after breaking the serve against Frenchman Richard Gasquet during their first round match

IMAGE: Russia's Daniil Medvedev reacts after breaking the serve against Frenchman Richard Gasquet during their first round match. Photograph: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev stayed solid from the baseline against Frenchman Richard Gasquet to advance to the second round of the US Open with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victory on Monday.

It was the 200th career win for the 25-year-old and his 160th on hard courts and the Russian showed why he is one of the top contenders for the title with a clinical display at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the final match of the opening day.

The 2019 US Open finalist, who also reached the title match of the Australian Open at the start of the year, broke Gasquet once in each of the first two sets before the veteran Frenchman seemed to start struggling physically.

Richard Gasquet in action against Daniil Medvedev 

IMAGE: Richard Gasquet in action against Daniil Medvedev. Photograph: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Gasquet, 10 years older than his opponent, started to move gingerly in the third set in the hot and humid conditions at Flushing Meadows as Medvedev broke him three times to close out the match in under two hours.

"I saw a lot of matches today, I had all the day to watch and all the matches were tough physically," Medvedev said in his on-court interview.

"Talking about our match the score might seem easy but we played two hours and first two sets were high intensity. Third set I was actually not that good physically also.

"I'm happy that I didn't stay out here for five hours and I can be ready for the next match."

An off-balance pick-up lob from Medvedev in the 10th game of the first set brought the crowd to their feet before the Russian produced another immaculate lob against an advancing Gasquet to win the opening set with his first break.

Gasquet advanced to the net regularly against Medvedev, who has won 11 of his 12 singles titles on hard courts, but the Russian had the weapons to dominate from behind the baseline.

Medvedev won six games in a row in the third set and converted his third matchpoint with a forehand winner to set up a second round meeting against Germany's Dominik Koepfer.

Flawless Rublev downs qualifier Karlovic

Russia's Andrey Rublev returns against Croatia's Ivo Karlovic

IMAGE: Russia's Andrey Rublev returns against Croatia's Ivo Karlovic. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

World No 7 Andrey Rublev made short work of veteran qualifier Ivo Karlovic in the US Open first round on Monday, beating the tricky Croatian 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-3 to set up a clash with Pedro Martinez.

The Russian came into the year's final Grand Slam having reached the Cincinnati title clash and made a blistering start on Grandstand, winning the opening three games of the match before taking the first set in style.

The 42-year-old Karlovic, the oldest US Open qualifier in the Open Era, launched his comeback in the second set but Rublev held his nerve in the tiebreak, which he claimed with a forehand winner, before shifting gears in the final set.

Ivo Karlovic reacts during his match against Andrey Rublev

IMAGE: Ivo Karlovic reacts during his match against Andrey Rublev. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

After racing to a 5-3 lead, the 23-year-old former Flushing Meadows quarter-finalist closed out the match on the back of his steady service game, forcing a backhand error from the towering Karlovic on match-point.

Rublev returned superbly throughout the match, effectively dealing with his 6-foot-11-inch opponent's fiery serve as he converted two breakpoints and fired 27 winners in a solid performance to begin his bid for a maiden Grand Slam title.

Up next for Rublev is Spaniard Martinez who was made to work hard by Australian James Duckworth before sealing a 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, 6-2 win.

Halep wins on grand slam return

Romania's Simona Halep returns a shot against Italy's Camila Giorgi during their women's singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows in New York City on Monday

IMAGE: Romania's Simona Halep returns a shot against Italy's Camila Giorgi during their women's singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows in New York City on Monday. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

Simona Halep, who missed three of the year's biggest events while recovering from a calf injury, delivered a statement win in her return to Grand Slam action as she beat Italian Camila Gorgi 6-4, 7-6(3) on Monday to reach the US Open second round.

The former world number one, who is seeded 12th in New York, relied on a solid serving game to get by in-form Gorgi, who won the biggest title of her career just two weeks ago in Montreal.

Halep missed the French Open, Wimbledon and Tokyo Olympics due to an injury suffered in Rome and then, in only her second tournament back, was forced to withdraw from a US Open tune-up event in Cincinnati due to a right thigh injury.

The 29-year-old Romanian was considered to be one of the more vulnerable seeds in New York but showed she was up for the task at hand in the day's first match on Grandstand.

Halep, a two-times Grand Slam champion whose best US Open finish came in 2015 when she reached the semi-finals, won 83% of her first-serve points, fired down six aces and faced just two break points during the 93-minute match.

Next up for Halep will be Slovakian lucky loser Kristina Kucova.

Kyrgios throws in the towel in first round loss

Australia's Nick Kyrgios argues with the chair umpire during his first round match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut

IMAGE: Australia's Nick Kyrgios argues with the chair umpire during his first round match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. Photograph: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Kyrgios spent more time battling chair umpire Carlos Bernardes than opponent Roberto Bautista Agut at the US Open on Monday as the truculent Australian slumped to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 first round exit.

The furthest Kyrgios has gone at Flushing Meadows was the third round but the bad boy of tennis proved once again he can still pack in a crowd in New York as fans piled into Louis Armstrong Stadium hoping to see some late night fireworks.

The contest did not produce the explosive outbursts Kyrgios has become known for but there was no shortage of profanity laced rants as the Australian became embroiled in a standoff with Bernardes over where towels could and could not be placed on the court.

Taking his time to towel off after each point, the delays soon irritated Bautista Agut and the Spaniard expressed his frustration to Bernardes, who warned Kyrgios.

"My job is to come out here and entertain the people," roared Kyrgios. "Not to walk back and forth for a towel.

"I should be able to put the towel where I want.

"I don’t want to walk back and forth, back and forth. How many extra steps is that?

"That’s so stupid."

After two bad-tempered sets Kyrgios appeared to throw in towel, losing the final set 6-0 and not even raising his racquet as Bautista Agut hit the match winner.

Isner sent packing in first round by Nakashima

USA's John Isner reacts after losing a point against compatriot Brandon Nakashima

IMAGE: USA's John Isner reacts after losing a point against compatriot Brandon Nakashima. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

Wildcard Brandon Nakashima toppled fellow American John Isner 7-6 (7), 7-6 (6), 6-3 in the first round of the US Open on Monday.

The 20-year-old tamed his 6'10" compatriot's fearsome serve, while Isner contributed to his own downfall with 28 unforced errors.

It was the second year in a row that Isner, the top-seeded American in the men's singles draw, exited in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

In their third meeting in 2021, world number 84 Nakashima knew what to expect and executed his game plan well to record his second win over Isner in five weeks.

Nakashima will next face a qualifier -- either Cem Ilkel of Turkey or Alex Molcan of Slovakia -- as he bids to reach the third round of a slam for the first time.

Former champion Stephens overcomes Keys in first-round thriller

USA's Sloane Stephens returns against compatriot Madison Keys

IMAGE: USA's Sloane Stephens returns against compatriot Madison Keys. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

Former champion Sloane Stephens overcame best friend Madison Keys's aggressive play to secure a 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7) win in the first round of the US Open on Monday.

The 2017 winner quickly took control of the first set on Arthur Ashe Stadium, putting up a strong defensive performance to fend off three break points as Keys committed 15 unforced errors.

But Keys roared back in the second, winning all of her first-serve points and firing off 11 winners compared to just three from Stephens, who struggled to find her power.

After trading breaks in the third set, they headed into a tiebreak, where Keys's unforced errors proved to be her undoing. After fending off two match points, she shouted in frustration as she whacked the ball into the net to set up a third.

It was the first time the pair had met on Ashe since Stephens defeated Keys in the final four years ago for her first - and thus far only - major title.

"We're both looking to get back that form we had in 2017. Maddy is my best friend on tour and it is always difficult for us but we're always able to separate the match and come out and compete," said Stephens.

"I thought today we played a really solid match."

Stephens said she was thrilled to compete in front of a packed New York crowd -- including her mother -- a year after she played to empty stands due to the pandemic.

"Being an American playing at the US Open is incredible," said Stephens.

"I think this atmosphere, out of all the slams, is pretty unmatched. I think this is like the peak of the peak."

Stephens faces fellow American Coco Gauff in the second round of the US Open.

Cilic retires from US Open, first time in more than 800 matches

Croatia's Marin Cilic reacts during his match against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 

IMAGE: Croatia's Marin Cilic reacts during his match against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber. Photograph: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Former champion Marin Cilic of Croatia retired from his first-round match against German Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday with an apparent injury, his earliest exit from the US Open in 13 attempts.

The 2014 winner had been up two sets but bowed out of the match early on in the fifth with Kohlschreiber leading 2-0, after struggling with his serve.

It was Cilic's first retirement in more than 800 career matches and the first time he had failed to make it past the opening round at Flushing Meadows, as he joined American John Isner as one of the higher-profile players to exit the tournament on Monday.

Kohlschreiber next faces Spain's Pablo Andujar in the second round of the US Open.

Anderson belts down 49 aces in first-round win

South Africa's Kevin Anderson celebrates match point against Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic

IMAGE: South Africa's Kevin Anderson celebrates match point against Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely. Photograph: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Former finalist Kevin Anderson fired down 49 aces to defeat Czech Jiri Vesely 7-6 (1), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6(4) in the first round on Monday, stunning spectators at the US Open.

The 6'8" power server rattled off 17 aces in the final set alone, the last one coming on match point. The South African broke into wide grin in his moment of triumph before hoisting his arms aloft.

While his ace tally was well short of John Isner's record of 113, which he achieved during his 11-hour five-minute first-round win at Wimbledon in 2010, it nonetheless earned a standing ovation from the crowd packed into one of Flushing Meadows' outside courts.

Anderson, the runner-up in 2017, faces 11th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in the second round.

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