A scheduler’s dream and also for any manufacturer’s of popcorn, Maria Sharapova glisten and glittered into the second round after another three-set grinding battle with Simona Halep. You have to feel for the Romanian – she is, well was just five points adrift of the World No. 1 spot, and she took full advantage of a mid-match wobble by the former US Open champion to get right back in the match.
Sharapova’s reaction, to sink to her knees as if she was a 17-year-old winning her first Grand Slam showed how much she wanted that win, after her suspension from the tour. But getting one win at the one Slam who gave her a wildcard is one thing. Backing that up in the second round on paper should be the Russian’s all the way, but her comeback has been beset with injuries.
Top seed Rafael Nadal was a game away from losing the first set in this year’s US Open first round, before he steadied the ship and sprinted and bulled his way to an opening win over Dusan Lajovic. It was good enough, but it was not great by the World No. 1 who was not a happy camper at both the sound in the closed Arthur Ashe stadium, and the late withdrawal after a race against time to get fit by Andy Murray.
Speaking after his match: “Being honest, is a little bit too much (smiling). You know, I don’t know how to control that or the umpire have to control that, because, yeah, at the same time is not fair only say that. The real thing is here, the energy and support of the crowd is massive. I enjoy it and I have unforgettable memories from this tournament and this court, because the energy is different from in other places.
“But at the same time is true that today, under the roof, was too much (smiling). Too much noise, no? I was not able to hear the ball when you are hitting, no?”
Nadal, who himself withdrew in 2009 from Wimbledon after the draw had been made, was surprised at Murray’s withdrawal announcement at the pre-tournament press conference, on the Saturday. The draw had been made the day before, and as a consequence of the draw, Roger Federer remained in Nadal’s section for a potential semi-final clash, and not moved to No. 2 seed for a potential final.
He said: “I saw him when I arrived here, and I was just saying hi to him. But I always thought that he gonna be playing if he was here practicing, no? Was a little bit strange that he retired just the morning after the draw was made.
“Injuries are bad for everybody. I know better than all of them (smiling). So I wish him fast and good recovery. That’s the most important thing.”
He further clarified: “Because normally when you retire on — was Saturday morning? And the draw was made Friday? Normally you want to keep practicing, keep trying until the last moment. You don’t retire Saturday morning. You retire Monday morning or Sunday afternoon, not Saturday morning.
“If not, you can do it before the draw. That’s why I say it’s strange. But of course he has his reason, and for sure the negative — the only news and the negative news was that he will not be playing here.”
Still – his shake was not as severe as Federer, who was taken to five sets by US talent Frances Tiafoe. Again the noise in the closed behemoth of a stadium seemed to unsettle the elder statesman, as Tiafoe pumped himself up to take the first set. Normal service looked to have resumed as Federer lost just three games on the next two sets, before Tiafoe started serving a bit better, turning the tables on Federer to force a decider.
There is such a thing as being too pumped though and although Federer broke for an early lead in the fifth set, Tiafoe broke him as he served for the match, saving a match point in the process. Federer cleaned up the match on his third try, breaking the teenager.
Things did not start well for the British contingent – Heather Watson bowed out to Alizé Cornet in straight sets, before No. 7 seed Johanna Konta was outlasted by gritty Aleksandra Kuznetsova. Ever the queen of rational after a match, she told BBC Sport:
“I think not to catastrophise is important. It is a tennis match. It’s a sport. I think to have a healthy perspective on that, in general, goes a long way. I don’t think I necessarily played my best tennis, but my opponent also had something to say about that,” she continued.
“She played very freely, I felt, and she moved incredibly well. She made it very tough for me to be able to get any easier points. I don’t take anything for granted. I think it would be quite obnoxious of me to come in here expecting I have a right to be in the second week.”
Aljaz Bedene played his rain-delayed round one match on Whacky Wednesday, to no avail with a meek three set defeat at the hands of Andrey Rublev.
With Sharapova dispatching No. 2 seed Halep on the first night, next up on the shock-block was defending champion Angelique Kerber, who had no answer for the youthful power of Naomi Osaka.
There has been a lot of time (and occasions) for soul searching for the German, but she vowed that she would return.
She said, after her exit: “At the end, I know that I’m strong and I know that I will come back stronger, for sure. I know that I will not giving up like this.”
Scattered Seeds Round Up
Simona Halep 
Angelique Kerber 
Johanna Konta 
Kristina Mladenovic 
Ana Konjuh 
Kiki Bertens 
Lesia Tsurenko 
Lauren Davis 
Jack Sock 
Nick Kyrgios 
David Ferrer 
Fabio Fognini 
Karen Khachanov 
Richard Gasquet 
Pablo Cuevas 
Robin Haase 
Round Two at the US Open will conclude on Thursday.
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