NEW YORK – Even before Serena Williams set foot in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, her path through the U.S. Open to complete the Grand Slam became a lot easier thanks to losses by other top women.
And when it was the No. 1-seeded American’s turn to play her first-round match, she was not tested one bit by a woman who appeared overwhelmed by the opponent, the occasion and, to make matters worse, an injured left foot.
So Williams moved a step closer to tennis’ first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988 without much of a workout, reaching the second round when 86th-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia stopped playing while behind 6-0, 2-0. Williams was out there for only 27 minutes and took 32 of the 37 points that were played.
“I told her I was proud of her for even coming out and making this effort when she was injured,” Williams said.
The 33-year-old American told the crowd she appreciates the support she is receiving “on this journey and this milestone that I’m trying to take one match at a time.”
Next up for her is Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, who is ranked 110th, only once made it as far as the fourth round at any major tournament.
Nishikori out in five sets
A year after his run all the way to his first Grand Slam final, Kei Nishikori’s stay at the U.S. Open lasted only a few hours.
Fourth-seeded Nishikori had two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker against 41st-ranked Benoit Paire, but the Frenchman saved both of them then took control in the fifth for a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory.
It was the first win of his career against an opponent ranked in the top five.
Nishikori had withdrawn from the hard-court warmup at Cincinnati, citing a hip injury, but he said he was fine physically. Still, he looked sluggish late in the match.
Fish wins opener
This, Mardy Fish said afterward, is what ran through his mind during his first U.S. Open match in three years — and the first match of his last tournament as a tennis pro: “I’m going to be OK. Everything’s going to be OK. You’re going to be fine.”
Helped by medication and therapy, Fish has been dealing with severe anxiety disorder, a condition that led him to abandon his career. He returned to competition briefly this summer for a farewell tour of sorts, and his final visit to Flushing Meadows as a player began with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over 102nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy.
“A lot of sort of internal talk,” is the way Fish described his state of mind. “That comes from learning from every experience and episode that I have had, struggle that I have had, and what I have worked so hard to get myself to. Three years ago, that would have been really tough. I have come a long way.”
Andy Murray faces one of the top young players in the first round of the U.S. Open, a guy who just missed out on a seed.
The third-seeded Murray’s meeting with Nick Kyrgios was going to be intriguing based simply on talent, though that’s not why the 20-year-old has folks talking these days.
The last time Kyrgios played a two-time major champion, he earned himself thousands of dollars in fines. After he defeated Stan Wawrinka in Montreal on Aug. 12, a courtside microphone picked up Kyrgios saying that fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis had slept with a player who reportedly is now Wawrinka’s girlfriend.
Kyrgios upset Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year to reach the quarterfinals, and made it back to the quarters at this year’s Australian Open.
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