Last year’s finalist Kei Nishikori crashed out of this year’s tournament on Day 1, the fourth seed squandering a pair of match points before succumbing to the enigmatic Frenchman Benoit Paire in 5 sets.
Day 1 Recap
One of the dark horses for the title coming into the tournament, Nishikori was unable to clear the first hurdle as Paire showcased his undoubted talent and rode his luck to secure victory. There was no such trouble for top seed Novak Djokovic, who dropped just three games in progressing to the second round. He was joined by two-time champion Rafael Nadal, a winner in 4 sets over Borna Coric, defending champion Marin Cilic and former semi-finalist David Ferrer.
Gael Monfils was forced to retire with an apparent elbow injury on Day 1, but there was better news for fellow seeds Chardy, Dimitrov, Raonic and Tsonga, all of whom advanced to round 2. Veteran Mardy Fish, competing in his final US Open, scored an opening round win, as did Fernando Verdasco, who outlasted another veteran in Tommy Haas in 5 sets.
In the women’s tournament, Serena Williams is now just six wins away from completing the calendar Grand Slam after her first round opponent Vitalia Diatchenko retired midway through their match. Serena’s sister Venus also advanced, albeit in far tougher fashion, overcoming a stubborn Monica Puig in 3 sets. Former world number one Ana Ivanovic was the highest-profile women’s casualty on Day 1, going down to former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in 3 sets.
Ivanovic was joined on the sidelines by fellow seeds Pliskova, Jankovic, Suarez Navarro and Kuznetsova. Amongst the seeds to avoid defeat on Day 1 were rising stars Belinda Bencic and Madison Keys, Eugenie Bouchard (who secured a much-needed confidence boost with her opening round win) and former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska.
Matches of the Day – Day 2
1. Andy Murray vs. Nick Kyrgios
This much-hyped match between former champion and third seed Andy Murray and Australia’s brash young talent, Nick Kyrgios, has been duly given top billing on Day 2, scheduled for the prime 7pm evening slot on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Kyrgios is unquestionably a huge talent, as his wins over Federer and Nadal highlight, but it remains to be seen whether he can keep his emotions in check and ultimately fulfil his potential.
In three previous meetings with Kyrgios, including clashes at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros earlier this year, Murray has yet to drop a set. I expect Kyrgios to do marginally better on this occasion, perhaps pinching a set off the Scot, but the reality is that Murray’s tremendous defensive abilities usually leave Kyrgios at a complete loss when it comes to finishing off points. Murray in 4.
2. Roger Federer vs. Leonardo Mayer
Narrowly missing out on a seeding and having squandered five match points against Federer in Shanghai last year, Mayer is certainly no pushover for the Swiss star as he commences his quest for a sixth US Open title. Federer was in stunning form in claiming a seventh title in Cincinnati just over a week ago, serving and returning extremely well, hitting his volleys with precision and exhibiting plenty of confidence off his preferred forehand wing.
Mayer has nothing to lose in this one, and his efforts against Federer in Shanghai last year will give him confidence going into this clash. But no one is as clinical in the opening rounds of Grand Slams as Federer, and I think he’ll pull away with relative ease after a tight first set. Federer in 3.
3. Gilles Simon vs. Donald Young
Eleventh seed Gilles Simon will be battling Donald Young and a parochial New York crowd in the opening round today. Young made it through to the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows in 2011, but the American hasn’t had much joy at the venue since, winning just one match since that run to the fourth round.
Simon, to my mind, will simply be too solid, too crafty and too quick for the somewhat erratic Young in this encounter. The Frenchman did well to make it through to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon earlier this year, and I think he has the ability to make it through to the second week of action in New York this year. Simon in 4.
4. Viktor Troicki vs. Frances Tiafoe
The eyes of many astute tennis observers will be focused on Court 11 when this match gets underway. Serbian seed Viktor Troicki is up against American teenager Frances Tiafoe who, at 15, was the youngest ever boys’ singles champion at the prestigious Orange Bowl. Tiafoe’s rags to near-riches story involves his parents leaving Sierra Leone for America and his father then working at a tennis centre in Maryland where a young Frances was able to hone his talents.
Whilst Tiafoe gained Grand Slam main draw experience in Paris earlier this year, and notched his first ATP Tour win at the Winston-Salem Open last month, I don’t expect the 17 year old to have the nous to be able to truly challenge an experienced professional such as Troicki just yet. That said, Tiafoe has an abundance of talent, and it will be fascinating to see how the teenager fares today. Troicki in 3.
5. Jack Sock vs. Victor Estrella Burgos
The Dominican Republic has little tennis history to speak of, but Victor Estrella Burgos has put the tiny nation on the tennis map in recent times, making it through to the round of 32 in New York last year and becoming the first male from his country to be ranked in the world’s top 100. The 35 year old won his first title in Quito earlier this year, and will be looking to make another solid run at Flushing Meadows this year.
Rising star Sock has the benefit of a seeding at this year’s US Open, and the American will be looking to improve on his impressive fourth round showing in Paris earlier this year. Sock is at a career-high 28 in the world rankings at present and, with the home crowd cheering him on, I think he can do well in New York this year. Sock in 5.
Put your house on: Tomas Berdych. The sixth seed and former Wimbledon finalist will be far too good for US Open debutant Bjorn Fratangelo today.
Upset alert: There are a few upsets looming today, in my view. Look for Kokkinakis to trouble Gasquet and for Tipsarevic to cause problems for Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Rising star Alexander Zverev could oust his German compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber, whilst I’m backing Julia Goerges to upset Slovakian seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
Likely to go the distance: Pencil in a grueling 5-setter in the all-American clash between veteran Rajeev Ram, who won the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the second time earlier this year, and former prodigy Ryan Harrison.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.