11:28 pm - Wednesday August 21, 2019

Djokovic roars into the second round

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Former champions Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova sparkled under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights to end a steamy first day that proved more than a little stressful for several of the US Open favourites on Monday.

The 2011 champion treated his first-round match against unseeded 22-year-old Argentine Diego Schwartzman like a breezy workout, dominating in all phases with 24 winners including seven aces in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 rout.

His fast work followed a scintillating finish by French Open champion and 2006 winner Sharapova, as the fifth seed won 10 straight games to prevail 6-4, 6-0 after falling 2-4 behind against her Russian compatriot and old friend Maria Kirilenko.

“I’m very pleased,” Djokivic said in a courtside interview after his 97-minute win. “It’s never easy to start a US Open smoothly.”

Several of the favourites at Flushing Meadows could attest to his opinion.

Busy bees made life difficult for two grizzled veterans and a pair of favourites were forced to work overtime on a hot, steamy day at the U.S. National Tennis Centre that drew a combined 57,000 fans to the day and night sessions.

Eighth-seeded 2012 champion Andy Murray fought off cramps to beat Dutchman Robin Haase in four painful sets, while women’s second seed Simona Halep lost an early tiebreak to US debutant Danielle Collins before claiming victory.

Veterans’ battle

And in an intriguing match-up of 19th seed Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, the oldest players in the women’s draw, some pesky bees joined in and refused to leave them alone.

Murray appeared on course for an easy victory before he fell victim to cramps that left him stretching and straining to get comfortable before clinching a 6-3, 7-6(6), 1-6, 7-5 victory over Haase.

A less serious intrusion hit the irresistible women’s clash between seven-times Grand Slam singles winner Williams and Japan’s remarkable Date-Krumm, who were beset by bees.

First the 43-year-old Japanese player and later 34-year-old Venus dipped, ducked and danced away before ballgirls helped usher the stubborn swarm away from the baseline.

When finally left to play tennis on a sun-bathed Arthur Ashe Stadium court, Venus stung her opponent 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to advance.

In an upset on the men’s side, twice US Open semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, the 21st seed, fell to big-serving Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios 7-5, 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(1).

The 60th-ranked Kyrgios moved on to a second-round match against Italy’s Andreas Seppi.

Advancing with relative ease in straight sets were Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and fifth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic, a Wimbledon semifinalist.

The Swiss third seed beat Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic to set up a second-round test against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.


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