Second seeded Rafael Nadal began his 2019 US Open campaign with a clinical first round win over John Millman but Alexander Zverev was taken to five sets in his opener.
Millman, who had stunned Roger Federer last year at Flushing Meadows, proved to be no match for Nadal who needed just under two overs to end his campaign, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to enter the second round.
Nadal will now take on another Australian in the form of Thanasi Kokkinakis, who overcame Ilya Ivashka in his first round encounter in four sets. Interestingly, this was Kokkinakis’ first win at a Grand Slam competition in four years.
And speaking of what he thinks of that second round match, Nadal said:
“Yeah, he’s young. He has a big forehand, big serve. He’s a dangerous opponent, of course. I need to go on court and to play well. If not, will be a very difficult match. So let’s see. I think I had more or less positive feelings tonight. I need to keep improving every single day.”
Nadal’s route to the final has been made easier by the early demise of Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov but he still has Alexander Zverev to contend with. However, the sixth seeded Zverev made a slow start to the tournament as he was stretched to five sets by Radu Albot in his opening match.
Zverev took an early, two sets to love lead over Albot, but then fell away considerably in the next two sets as the Moldovan levelled the match. It was only in the final set then that the German finally managed to stamp his authority to close out the match.
He will now take on Frances Tiafoe in round two after his opponent Ivo Karlovic retired in the third set of their opening match. Tiafoe was up by two sets at that stage.
In the women’s side of the draw, Simona Halep traded early breaks of serve and then lost the second set in her first round match against Nicole Gibbs. However, the Wimbledon champion and fourth seed came through in three sets, beating the American 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to set up a second round match against another American, qualifier Taylor Townsend.
Ninth seeded Aryna Sabalenka overcame Victoria Azarenka in an all-Belarusian battle, while Caroline Wozniacki came back from a set down to get past China’s Wang Yafan. And in one of the upsets of the tournament, 2017 winner Sloane Stephens went down in straight sets to Anna Kalinskaya, losing 6-3, 6-4.
Kalinskaya, a 20-year-old Russian qualifier, has had an excellent year so far, having also reached the semi-final at the Washington Open.
Frenchmen Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire advanced to round two, as did Belgium’s Elise Mertens and Diego Schwartzman and Donna Vekic.