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US Open PIX: Serena, Muguruza, Thiem advance to Round 2; Venus exits

Last updated on: September 02, 2020 12:44 IST

Images from Day 2 of the 2020 US Open in New York

Serena continues bid for 24th Grand Slam title after round one victory

Serena Williams

IMAGE: Serena Williams serves during her first round match against Kristie Ahn. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

Serena Williams took her first step toward a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title on Tuesday by defeating Kristie Ahn 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the US Open.

The 38-year-old showed signs of nervousness early on, double faulting twice to hand her opponent the first game before going 2-0 down after a routine hold from Ahn.

 

But Williams fought back, winning three straight games before breaking Ahn’s serve to close out the first set.

Ahn broke the third seed’s serve to start the second but Williams quickly found her footing, firing off 13 aces and 28 winners during the match while harnessing her powerful return to keep her opponent on the run.

A final serve forced Ahn into an error as Williams claimed a record 102nd US Open match victory, her first straight-sets win since the sport returned from the COVID-19 shutdown.

Williams, who next faces Margarita Gasparyan of Russia, told reporters she struggled to find her rhythm at first as Ahn displayed impressive versatility.

“She really strikes the ball really hard. She mixes up a lot. She plays a lot of the different shots,” said Williams.

“You don’t really know what to expect.”

In typical fashion, Williams used her powerful serve to gain the advantage, winning 85% of her first-serve points with a fastest serve of 124 mph.

One of the most popular headliners at Flushing Meadows every year, she faced empty stands inside Arthur Ashe Stadium with spectators barred from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center due to concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

“The hardest is making sure you stay pumped,” Williams said, reflecting on the lack of fans. “For me it was clearly easy because I’m always overly passionate. I love being passionate. It’s what I’m best at.”

Williams, who reached the final of the US Open in her last two campaigns, is gunning for her first Grand Slam title since 2017 to equal Margaret Court’s record in a depleted field in which six of the top 10 players are not competing this year.

She had a frustrating stretch of performances leading up to the tournament, losing in the Top Seed Open quarter-finals before crashing out of the Western & Southern Open in the third round.

“I’ve been losing matches on literally one point that could swing a match a different way. I’ve been playing a ton of tight matches,” Williams said.

“I felt like, all right, I just wanted to be Serena focused from the first point to the last point no matter what happens.”

Muchova sends Venus to first opening-round loss

Karolina Muchova

IMAGE: Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova hits the ball against Venus Williams. Photograph: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Karolina Muchova took advantage of an error-prone Venus Williams to advance 6-3, 7-5 into the second round of the US Open and hand the two-time champion her first opening-round loss at the tournament.

Muchova broke Williams to start the match and deployed a wide variety of shotmaking including a pinpoint serve, a slice backhand and some well-timed trips to the net to frustrate the former world number one.

Williams was sharper at the outset of the second set and served at 5-4 with the chance to extend the match to a third, but a backhand sailed on break point and Muchova leveled at 5-5.

The 24-year-old Czech held at love the next game and sealed the win when Williams issued her third double fault on match point.

“From the start I tried to be relaxed and get to my game but it was tough to get into a rhythm because we were having very short rallies,” said Muchova, who hit 27 winners and saved six of her eight break points.

Murray marks Grand Slam return by clawing out five-set win against Nishioka

Andy Murray

IMAGE: Andy Murray of the United Kingdom serves. Photograph: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Former champion Andy Murray produced an astonishing fightback to outlast Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-4 in his long-awaited return to Grand Slam singles action in the US Open first round on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old Briton, contesting a singles match at a major for the first since the 2019 Australian Open, appeared to be heading for an early exit as a fearless Nishioka outplayed him for two sets on a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Yet as he has so often done throughout his career Murray simply refused to accept defeat.

Desperately trying to spark himself into life, Murray recovered from a break down in the third set and saved a match point late in the fourth.

At the start of the fifth set he required treatment on his battered toes and again slipped a break behind before dredging his tank to finally crush 49th-ranked Nishioka’s spirit and claim victory in four hours 38 minutes.

It was Murray’s 10th win from two sets down and showed that despite undergoing two hip surgeries, he remains one of the sport’s great warriors.

“I’m tired, my toes are the worst part, my big toes are pretty beat up,” Murray, whose emotional defeat in five sets against Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne in 2019 looked like ending his career, said on court.

“At the beginning I was apprehensive about playing a long match because I’ve not played one for a while and I was sort of pacing myself. But when I was two sets down I managed to put the afterburners on and managed to get through.”

Murray will have to recover quickly as his next opponent could be Canadian 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

He said his first job was to try and find an ice bath.

“They have one in the locker room but that’s supposed to be for an emergency. This is an emergency,” Murray said.

Murray, who claimed the first of his three Grand Slam titles in New York in 2012, opened the match with a delicious topspin lob, but for the next two sets was second best against the 24-year-old showing absolutely no respect for reputations.

Nishioka broke decisively at 3-3 in the opener and sprinted 4-0 ahead in the second as Murray briefly looked ready to fold.

Murray was a point away from falling 5-0 behind but clawed his way back only to break a string and balloon a forehand long on set point when returning at 4-5 down.

Nishioka led 3-1 in the third set but with his back to the wall Murray ratcheted up the power on his forehand and broke back. Murray saved more break points at 5-5 but eventually wrestled the set from Nishioka in the tiebreak.

Murray made a hash of a volley at 5-6 in the fourth and Nishioka reached match point, only to pump a forehand return out. Murray again prevailed in the tiebreak to set up a fifth.

Nishioka looked crestfallen but quickly regrouped to engineer at break at 2-2 with a dipping forehand. Murray responded immediately, breaking back with an exquisite topspin lob.

Yelling to himself and at his coach Jamie Delgado, and grimacing in pain from his toe, Murray soaked up everything the gallant Nishioka threw at him and pounced in the 10th game to claim a remarkable victory, again a topspin lob doing the trick.

Muguruza shakes off rust to reach second round

Garbine Muguruza

IMAGE: Garbine Muguruza returns the ball during her singles first round match against Nao Hibino of Japan on Day 2 of the 2020 US Open in New York, on Tuesday. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

Spain's Garbine Muguruza looked determined to overcome her US Open jinx, overcoming a sluggish start to collect a snappy 6-4, 6-4 first round win over Japan's Nao Hibino.

The US Open has been a black hole for the former French Open and Wimbledon champion, who this year nearly added to her collection of Grand Slam trophies reaching the final in Australia.

In stark contrast to her success at the other slams, Muguruza has struggled to make an impact on the New York hardcourts. She has made it past the second round just once in seven previous visits to Flushing Meadows.

The US Open is the only Grand Slam where the 26-year-old has yet to at least reach the last eight.

"I was anxious a little bit because I did not play in the last six months and did not have a chance to play before the U.S. Open to get ready for here," said Muguruza. "I am happy with my performance I was expecting a tough match and it was.

"I miss a little bit the competition."

Garbine Muguruza

IMAGE: Even when Garbine Muguruza had the match in control, there were concerning signs about her lack of fitness. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

Falling behind 4-1 in the opening set, the 10th seed Spaniard looked nothing like the player who had reached the quarter-finals or better in all five events she had entered before the COVID-19 shutdown.

Having not played a competitive match since February, there was plenty of rust to shake off but Muguruza did that in a hurry. She won seven straight games from her 78th ranked opponent to take the opening set and a 2-0 lead in the second.

Even when Muguruza had the match in control, there were concerning signs about her lack of fitness. A long exchange on match point left the Spaniard gasping for breath as she slumped into her seat.

"I think she was playing very good at the beginning and I started a little bit slow for how well she was playing," said Muguruza.

"I started to feel better, my game came with the flow and rhythm of the match and I managed to play at the end pretty good."

Thiem through to second round after Munar retires

Dominic Thiem

IMAGE: Dominic Thiem advanced to the second round when his opponent Spaniard Jaume Munar retired after dropping the first two sets. Photograph: US Open/Twitter

Austrian second seed Dominic Thiem advanced to the second round of the US Open on Tuesday when Spaniard Jaume Munar retired after dropping the first two sets.

Thiem, who reached his third Grand Slam final at this year’s Australian Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic, was leading 7-6(6), 6-3 when Munar ended the match.

Munar came back from 5-3 down in the opener to pull ahead but Thiem held to love to force a tiebreak which he went on to secure on his second set point when he fired down an ace.

After Munar held serve to level the second set at 3-3, Thiem stepped up his game and won 12 of the next 16 points to seize control before the Spaniard retired after one hour, 55 minutes.

Up next for Thiem will be India’s Sumit Nagal, who beat Bradley Klahn 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Mertens cruises into Round 2

Elise Mertens

IMAGE: Belgium's Elise Mertens put in a clinical display to beat German Laura Siegemund in straight sets in her first round match. Photograph: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Belgium's 16th seeded Elise Mertens converted all her four break point opportunities in a clinical display to beat German Laura Siegemund 6-2, 6-2.

American Amanda Anisimova, who reached the French Open semi-finals last year, also eased into the second round with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova.

Sloane Stephens eases into second round

Sloane Stephens

Photograph: Kind courtesy US Open/Twitter

Sloane Stephens delivered an efficient 6-3, 6-3 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu to advance to the second round of the US Open.

The 2017 champion, seeded 26th this year, smacked a backhand winner on match point to see off the Romanian after an hour and 16 minutes.

Buzarnescu contributed to her own downfall with seven double faults on a humid night on Court 17.

Next up for Stephens is Olga Govortsova, who the American has defeated in both of their career meetings, with Serena Williams looming as a possible opponent in the third round.

Madison Keys makes quick work of Babos to advance

Madison Keys needed just 55 minutes to beat Timea Babos 6-1, 6-1 and advance to the second round of the US Open as the 2017 finalist looks to claim her elusive first Grand Slam title.

The hard-hitting American won 92 per cent of her first serve points and never faced a break point while playing smothering defense against the overmatched Hungarian.

The 25-year-old Keys, who drew comparisons to 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams when she joined the tour in 2009, has been consistently ranked in the top 25 and won five titles.

But the lack of a Grand Slam title has cast a shadow over her career.

She fell to fellow American and friend Sloane Stephens in the final at Flushing Meadows three years ago, her closest brush with Grand Slam glory.

The absence of six of the top 10 women's players at this year's tournament could open the door for the seventh seeded Keys, who will face either Jil Teichmann of Switzerland or Aliona Bolsova of Spain in the second round.

Home favourite Kenin eases into second round

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin produced a dominant display to dispatch Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round of the US Open.

American Kenin, who has lifted two titles in 2020 including her maiden Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne, broke her opponent in the first game to set the tone for the match before claiming the opening set in just 37 minutes.

The 21-year-old started the second set just like the first to take an early lead and went on to serve out the match in clinical fashion.

"I knew I could dominate her," Kenin said. "Today I felt like I couldn't miss a ball. I played really good tennis and I'm proud of myself."

Second seed Kenin will next face either Russian Vera Zvonareva or Canada's Leylah Fernandez.

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