Djokovic and Serena cruise to victory

Nadal needed nearly three hours to get past Coric; Safarova loses to Tsurenko.

World No.1s Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic launched their U.S. Open title bids in ruthless style on Monday.

The opening day at Flushing Meadows produced plenty of shock and awe as Djokovic delivered a jaw-dropping performance, speeding past Joao Souza of Brazil 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 as if the Serb had a taxi meter running outside the National Tennis Center.

Williams also played as if she had an appointment to keep as she began her final push towards a calendar year Grand Slam by pounding Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0, 2-0 before the ailing Russian waved the white flag and retired injured.

Eighth seed Rafael Nadal, a two-time U.S. Open champion, needed a bit more time to get the job done, the Spaniard taking nearly three hours to fight off a challenge from 18-year-old Croatian prospect Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Another seed falls

On Tuesday, Lucie Safarova joined the seeds’ casualty list when she lost in the first round. The sixth seed slipped to a 6-4, 6-1 defeat against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, the woman she defeated in the semifinals in New Haven just last week.

World No. 2 Simona Halep, however, reached the second round after her Kiwi opponent Marina Erakovic retired with a knee injury.

Halep was leading 6-2, 3-0 when her 99th-ranked rival called it quits, having received a medical time-out for treatment on her right knee at the end of the first set.

“I had a good start. I was aggressive and played my best tennis today,” said Halep, who is yet to go beyond the fourth round in New York.

Another early winner was German 11th seed Angelique Kerber, a 2011 semifinalist, who saw off Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru 6-3, 6-1.

Dramatic entry

On the opening day of the tournament, following a Broadway-style opening ceremony complete with orchestra and choir, Williams stepped onto centre court under a spotlight to loud applause from an adoring New York crowd just seven matches from her quest to sweep this season’s Slams.

The six-time champion would exit Arthur Ashe Stadium just 30 minutes later to more applause and her target reduced to six more wins to join the exclusive club of calendar Grand Slam winners Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.

“It’s been really amazing, I can feel the support and the love on my journey for this milestone,” said Williams, who won the first of her 21 Majors at Flushing Meadows 16 years ago.

“I’m so ready. Whatever happens I’m here, I’m at home where it all began in 1999, so this is incredible for me to still be here and playing well.

“It’s kind of awesome that this is the last Grand Slam of the year, because if it were in a different country, I think I would still love it but it’s not the same as being an American playing in New York, playing for that ultimate goal.”

Marin Cilic, who beat Kei Nishikori in last year’s final, had no such opening day hiccups as the ninth-seeded Croat began the defence of his title with a 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-6(3) win over Argentine qualifier Guido Pella.

In the women’s section, there was a string of shocks, including the eighth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova and 10th-seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

Anna Tatishvili gave the home fans a reason to cheer as the 121st-ranked American qualifier destroyed Pliskova 6-2, 6-1 while Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin kept the upsets trending with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Jelena Jankovic, the 21st seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up.

Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, one of just two players to beat Serena Williams this season, strolled past Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva to stay on track for a quarterfinal showdown with the 33-year-old American.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 11:45:21 PM |

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