- Former champions Nadal and Djokovic have first-round wins
- Fourth-seeded Nishikori loses in five sets on first day
Serena Williams spent only a half-hour on the tennis court as her quest to complete a single-season Grand Slam began on the first day of the U.S. Open.
The three-time defending women’s champion lost just five points and led 6-0, 2-0 when her opening-round opponent, Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko, retired with a leg injury. Williams said she was encouraged by the passion of the crowd, even though it was a short day’s work.
“It’s kind of awesome that this is the last Grand Slam of the year,” said Williams, who also won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. “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. It’s really fun, and I’m literally enjoying the moment.”
Former men’s champions Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won their opening-round matches at the National Tennis Center in New York.
Serbia’s Djokovic dropped a total of three games against Joao Souza of Brazil, who fell to 0-7 in Grand Slam tournaments, while Nadal avenged a loss to 18-year-old Croatian Borna Coric in their only previous meeting. Nadal won 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the final featured match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It’s a very happy moment for me. Last year was very hard,” said Nadal, who missed last year’s U.S. Open due to a right wrist injury. “I missed this crowd in New York that gave me unbelievable support and energy.”
Kei Nishikori was the first major upset loser of the tournament. The fourth seed on the men’s side lost in five sets to Benoit Paire a year after reaching the U.S. Open final. Nishikori wasted two match points during a fourth-set tiebreaker as Paire, a 26-year-old Frenchman who is ranked 41st on the ATP Tour, pulled out a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 win at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“Tiebreakers can go both ways so maybe I lost a little bit of concentration,” said Japan’s Nishikori, who lost the 2014 U.S. Open final to Marin Cilic.
The last U.S. Open runner-up to lose in the opening round the following year was Andre Agassi, who fell to Aaron Krickstein in 1991, a year after dropping the final to Pete Sampras.
Cilic, seeded ninth this year, advanced in straight sets over qualifier Guido Pella of Argentina, winning 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-3).
Gael Monfils of France, the 16th seed, withdrew from his match against Illya Marchenko of Ukraine due to a back injury. Tenth seed Milos Raonic of Canada won in straight sets while American Mardy Fish and No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain had four-set wins.
The highest seed on the women’s side to lose Monday was No. 7 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. The 2008 French Open winner fell 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the first match in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Coco Vandeweghe upset 29th-seeded Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3, improving to 3-0 against the fellow American on hard-court surfaces.
Venus Williams, the two-time U.S. Open champion who is making her 17th appearance in the tournament, beat Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 6-3. Williams is the No. 23 seed. American women Madison Keys, Irina Falconi, Jessica Pegula, Anna Tatishvili, Madison Brengle and Lauren Davis also advanced to the second round.