The toughest of Monday’s opening games at the US Open went in the direction of 12th-seeded Simona Halep. She recorded a 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory over Camila Giorgi at the Tribune.
Halep, a two-time Grand Slam tournament champion, had not won a match since May after tore a left calf muscle at the Italian Open in Rome. She then missed the French Open and her title defense at Wimbledon. She returned to the Montreal tour this month but lost her first match there to Danielle Collins and then withdrew from the Cincinnati Masters event for her second round match against Jessica Pegula.
Giorgi’s recent form made her one of the least desirable opening round draws among unseeded players.
Giorgi has been known for her strength for years – she stunned sixth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the third round of the 2013 US Open – but for most of her career there have been as many misses as there have been hits. This summer, however, she won the WTA 1000 event in Montreal with a run through a packed field. All six of her Montreal opponents – Elise Mertens, Nadia Podoroska, Petra Kvitova, Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and Karolina Pliskova – have reached at least the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam in the past year.
Giorgi surprisingly had an advantage in longer rallies against Halep’s counterpunch, winning 20 of the 35 exchanges that lasted five or more shots. But a series of unforced errors in the last three points derailed Giorgi’s chances and sent Halep into the second round.
Another two-time Grand Slam champion, Garbiñe Muguruza, won an opening match against Armstrong on Monday afternoon. Ninth seed Muguruza defeated Donna Vekic 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). Vekic is coached by Muguruza’s former coach Sam Sumyk.
The first seeded player to be knocked out of the US Open was 31st seeded Yulia Putintseva, a quarterfinalist here last year, who fell 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 to Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi.
Kanepi, 36, has reached six Grand Slam quarterfinals in her career.
Fans entering the US Open grounds faced long lines and severe delays in the opening hour of the tournament.
The tournament kicked off at 11 a.m. on Monday, with fans lining up from the moment they stepped out of the Willets Point subway station. Some said they had been in line for two hours.
Betty Gruber, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, sat at the back of the line and said she had waited 35 minutes with a long way to go before reaching the checkpoints.
“And then they let hundreds of people pass us,” she said. ‘I’m 82 and there are children here and people who need to go to the toilet. It is very badly organised.”
Part of the delay may be due to the extra time it takes to verify evidence of coronavirus vaccinations. Tournament officials had only made that mandatory on Friday, but fans like Gruber said they had been vaccinated and had their cards with them anyway.
Fans queuing at the south entrance said they had stood behind the giant globe monument in Flushing Meadows Park more than an hour earlier. By 1:30 p.m. the bottleneck was resolved.
United States Tennis Association issued a statement saying that delays were largely caused by crowds arriving later than in the past, and that the delay was concentrated in the area of baggage control.
“Beneficiaries have brought an inordinate number of bags this year, all of which have to be searched. This will be the main bottleneck for entry,” the USTA statement said.
Looking for some good games on Monday, the first day of the US Open? Naomi Osaka will open the defense of her women’s title to open the night session, and Andy Murray, the 2012 US Open champion, will play third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in an afternoon match.
Here are previews of those matches and a few others to keep an eye out for (all times are oriental and approximate, except for Halep and Osaka).
Grandstand | 11 hours
Simona Halep vs. Camila Giorgic
Simona Halep, the 12th seed, withdrew from the Western & Southern Open this month, citing a tear in her right kidnapper. Halep, a two-time Grand Champion, is a tough competitor when healthy, but multiple injuries kept her out of the French Open and Wimbledon this year.
Camila Giorgi, ranked 36th, is on the rise, winning her first Masters 1000 event at the National Bank Open in August. Giorgi has an aggressive base game that will put Halep in a defensive position, and for both players it will be a good test of their ability to make a deep run at the US Open.
ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM | 2:00 p.m.
Andy Murray vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Andy Murray, who won the US Open in 2012, has been battling injuries since 2018 and plays intermittently on the tour in between surgeries. Still, Murray has been able to compete well enough and reached the third round at Wimbledon in July.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the third seed, crashed out of Wimbledon in the first round after attacking the final at the French Open. His consistency is often challenged by veteran players, and in their first meeting he will play a grueling match against a three-time champion of a major tournament.
ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM | 7 p.m.
Naomi Osaka vs. Marie Bouzkova
Naomi Osaka, the third seed, won the US Open in 2018 and 2020 and will start her title defense with a convincing first-round win. Osaka lost in the third round of the Olympics to eventual silver medalist, Marketa Vondrousova. The disappointing result in Tokyo can certainly be put behind her when she returns before New York’s adoring crowds.
Marie Bouzkova reached her second WTA final in February on the Melbourne hard courts ahead of the Australian Open. As a 23-year-old Czech, she won the US Open girls’ title in 2014, but she has not replicated that success on the pro tour. An upset against Osaka would be her biggest win.
ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM | 9 o’clock in the evening
Daniel Medvedev vs. Richard Gasquet
Daniil Medvedev, the second seed, takes on Richard Gasquet, an ATP Tour veteran, to close the night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Medvedev won the National Bank Open this month and is favorite to reach the final on September 12. Gasquet has not progressed beyond the third round of a major tournament since 2016, and disruption seems unlikely as Medvedev will try to repeat or better run his final from 2019.
The first game at Arthur Ashe Stadium at this year’s US Open is a star-studded rematch of the women’s singles final from four years ago. It is also a match between two unseeded players.
Sloane Stephens, the 2017 women’s singles champion, will face 2017 runner-up Madison Keys at noon on Monday.
Stephens won that 2017 final 6-3, 6-0 and greeted Keys with a firm hug. Keys took part in Stephens’ celebration in Manhattan later that evening. Stephens’ steady counterpunch choked Keys, leaving her with only six unforced fouls in the game. In her press conference afterward, Stephens joked that Keys would handle the loss well.
‘She was also in the final, what do you mean? Did you see the check she’s about to get?’ Stephens said with a laugh. “I’m sure she’s fine.”
Stephens again won a meeting between the two Americans in the semifinals of the 2018 French Open. Keys has won two of their last three matches, scoring her first win over Stephens en route to a 2019 Charleston title. That meeting came then. both were in the top 20; now neither is in the top 40.
Stephens is the lowest of the two at number 64, but shows better form. She had a run to the fourth round of the French Open in June, where a lopsided loss to Barbora Krejcikova was less draining when Krejcikova won the event.
Keys, ranked 41st, dropped out of the top 30 this month for the first time in more than six years after losing the ranking points she held from her title at the Western & Southern Open near Cincinnati two years ago. This is the first time she has gone unseeded at a Grand Slam event since she made her breakthrough to the Australian Open semi-finals in 2015.
While the North American hard courts have been a happy hunting ground for Keys, this summer she lost her first games in San Jose, Montreal and Mason, Ohio, all in straight sets.
Surprisingly, given their shared ability on hard courts, the last four encounters between the two have been on clay, including two this year. Stephens defeated Keys in Charleston in April, while Keys came back from a set-down to beat Stephens in Rome.