It was a jam-packed opening round at Flushing Meadows. The highlight, without a doubt, being the Serena Williams show. The legendary player has hinted that this will be her last tournament as a professional, making her matches at the US Open even more of a hot ticket than they usually would be.
For us Aussies, we had several all-Australian match ups, including the Special K-off. But this Grand Slam is going to be all about Serena - so let’s get into it.
IT'S THE SERENA SHOW
Everything about the US Open in the buildup to the tournament has been about Serena Williams. And rightly so. Every time she steps out onto the court at this year’s US Open might be the last we see of the greatest women’s tennis player of all time.
The 23-time grand slam winner has won the US Open 6 times but hasn’t tasted victory in her home country since 2014. Every tennis fan in the entire world is hoping she can put together one last dream run and win the whole thing. The hype for this one was real with the crowd humming in anticipation as Spike Lee flipped the coin at the start of the match.
Her opponent was 27-year-old Montenegrin Danka Kovinić. A veteran of the circuit, curiously she had never faced Serena Williams before in her career. This was surely the first time a player ranked 605th played another player not ranked in the top 50 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in front of 23,000 fans.
Once the action started, it was anything but a smooth ride for Williams and the crowd. But like the superstar she is, Serena rode the minor bumps to record a straight sets 6-3,6-3 win and prolong her career by at least one more match.
The star-studded crowd was rapturous when Williams won the match, but it was cause for a few nerves early on. “When I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming,” Williams said post-match. “It was loud and I could feel it in my chest. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”
Next up in the Serena Show at Flushing Meadows is a clash with Estonian World Number 2, Anett Kontaveit.
Elsewhere in the Women’s Draw, defending champion Emma Raducanu fell at the first hurdle in her title defence. She lost 6-3, 6-3 to Alizé Cornet in Louis Armstrong Stadium. She wasn’t the only recent Grand Slam winner to falter in New York as 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina was eliminated in the first round as well. It was the same story for Venus Williams too, who lost to Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1,7-6. Naomi Osaka was another big name to fall out of the draw. The former US Open Champ lost to Danielle Collins in straight sets.
KYRGIOS vs KOKKINAKIS
For Aussie tennis fans, there was only one place to be if you were following the first round of the US Open. That was the clash between the 2022 Australian Open double champions Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis. The long-time friends were devastated to face each other in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament. Nick Kyrgios called it a nightmare draw and said the pair’s hearts sank when they saw the draw.
The match itself was a pretty straightforward result for Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios. He disposed of his doubles partner 6-3, 6-4, 6-6 (7-4) on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Kyrgios showed a polish that was just a notch above his doubles partner as he moved into the second round where he will take on Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.
“I thought I played a really good first couple of sets, got on top of the match early. When we both saw the draw it was a nightmare, honestly,” Kyrgios said in his post match interview.
He said, “We never want to play each other, and he probably beats 80 percent of the draw tonight, he’s been playing really good. I can’t wait to get out there and play doubles with him on the right side of the net. We’re going to play each other, hopefully, never again. We’re going to close that.”
Post-match the only thing on Kyrgios mind was dinner. “Very solid player, having a great season, I’m not even going to think about that, I’m going to go home, have some food and just chill out.” Nick said when he was asked about his round two opponent.
Nick’s second-round clash with Benjamin Bonzi will take place at 3am AEST on Thursday, September 1st.
The men’s draw was far less chaotic than the women’s draw. It wasn’t for lack of trying though, as Aussie world 198 Ricky Hijikata won the first set against the legendary Rafa Nadal. That was as good as it got for the Aussie. Nadal hit back to win the next three sets and the match to record a 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 3-6 victory.
Things otherwise went to script in the first round of the men's competition. Perhaps the biggest news from the men’s draw was the performance, or lack thereof, from Frenchman Benoit Paire. Paire surrendered the first and third sets in less than 40 minutes to opponent Cameron Norrie. Benoit Paire has faced accusations of simply not trying in the first round of the Grand Slam. It did not help any argument to the contrary that he packed his kitbag with the score at 0-5 in the third set.
John Millman lost to Emilio Nava 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 1-6
Alex de Minaur beat Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 6-2, 6-3
Ajla Tomljanovic beat Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
Daria Saville lost to Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 2-6, 4-6
Jordan Thompson beat Lorenzo Sonego 2-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4
Nick Kyrgios beat Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3, 6-4, 6-6 (7-4)
Ricky Hijikata lost to Rafa Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 3-6
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