Sisters Serena and Venus Williams lost a total of four games in rolling to first-round wins at the U.S. Open tennis championship, where rain pushed five-time champion Roger Federer’s opening match back a day.
The season’s final Grand Slam tournament started with long delays for some fans because of tightened security measures at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. After wins by the Williams sisters and No. 2 men’s seed Rafael Nadal, the first day ended with an intensifying rain that prevented Federer from taking the court for the final featured night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The suspension comes two weeks after the U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, announced plans to build a retractable roof over Ashe -- the largest tennis venue in the world with 22,000 seats -- that could be in place by the 2016 tournament. Federer, seeded seventh in the men’s draw this year, will return to the stadium this afternoon for his first-round match against Grega Zemlja of Slovenia.
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia is in action tonight, facing Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, while No. 5 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, No. 10 Milos Raonic of Canada and No. 13 John Isner of the U.S. are among the other top men’s seeds scheduled to play opening-round matches.
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, the women’s No. 6 seed, and No. 7 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic will play in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the day session, while second-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is scheduled to play tonight’s final match on the main court.
Serena Williams, the women’s top seed and defending champion, won the first 10 games of her match and eased to a 6-0, 6-1 victory against Francesca Schiavone of Italy, a former French Open champion. Williams, 31, a 16-time Grand Slam singles winner, also won the U.S. Open in 1999, 2002 and 2008, and beat Azarenka for the title a year ago.
Two-time champion Venus Williams, who is not seeded this year after falling to No. 60 in the world rankings, began her 60th Grand Slam tournament with a 6-1, 6-2 upset of No. 12 seed Kirsten Flipkens. Serena Williams said she was just as pleased about her sister’s victory as her own.
“I definitely was happy to see Venus win,” said Williams, who finished her 60-minute match just as raindrops began to fall last night. “I know she’s been working hard. For her to come through was just awesome.”
Sloane Stephens, at No. 15 the second-highest American women’s seed, was forced into a third-set tiebreaker before defeating Mandy Minella of Luxembourg 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
“I got off to a really slow start, was nervous, tight, hands were shaking,” Stephens said. “I managed to play some good points and, kind of like, get loose.”
Another American woman, 18-year-old Madison Keys, failed to make it out of the first round, losing 6-3, 6-4 to ninth-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.
Nadal, the 2010 U.S. Open winner from Spain, improved to 16-0 in hard-court matches this season with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over American Ryan Harrison. Nadal missed the tournament a year ago because of a knee injury.
Nadal’s day match was halted for a few minutes by a light shower that made the court slick, though heavier rain didn’t move into the area until about 9:30 p.m. local time. With the National Weather Service forecasting several hours of rain and possible thunderstorms, tournament officials suspended play for the night before Federer’s match began.
Two men’s matches on secondary courts between unseeded players were both in the fourth set when play was halted.
The USTA said on Aug. 15 that it will have roofs over its two biggest stadiums within five years, bringing the U.S. Open in line with the sport’s other three major championships, which all have covered stadiums or plans to build them.
A retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is the central element of a $550 million renovation plan that comes after bad weather caused scheduling delays at the tournament the past five years. A new 15,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium also will have a roof by 2018 at the latest, the USTA said.
Before play began yesterday, one of the entry lines stretched the length of the boardwalk that separates the tennis center from the New York Mets’ Citi Field and the No. 7 line subway station, about a quarter mile (0.4 kilometer).
The long wait was a result of enhanced security measures this year that include metal detectors. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said organizers hope to expedite tennis fans’ entry in coming days and lines were considerably shorter for yesterday’s night session.
Widmaier said the USTA was examining tighter security measures even before the bombings at April’s Boston Marathon, which left three spectators dead. He said the gates would open a half-hour earlier today at 9:30 a.m.
Third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and No. 5 seed Li Na of China also won opening-round women’s matches yesterday. Men’s No. 4 seed David Ferrer of Spain and eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France advanced in straight sets, while Daniel Evans of Britain, who reached the main draw through the qualifying rounds, upset 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
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