NEW YORK, August 28, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
The U.S. Open began its 50th anniversary celebration by setting an all-time single-day attendance record of 67,832 on Monday. The day session featured the christening of the new Louis Armstrong Stadium in which women’s top seed Simona Halep was upset by unseeded Kaia Kanepi. It also included some highly enjoyable matches starring former U.S. Open champions Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and Venus Williams, and drew an Opening Day Session record of 40,541.
The night session attendance of 27,291 set a record for a single night session and included the return of six-time U.S. Open champion Serena Williams and defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal. With plenty of star power on Opening Day, the U.S. Open showed why it remains one of the most sought-after tickets in sports.
The daytime temperatures at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit and much of the day was played under hot and humid conditions. The fans didn’t seem to mind and the players did their best to adapt and stay hydrated.
— Michael Dickens (@michaelcdickens) 27. August 2018
Among the many Opening Day highlights, Andy Murray won his first U.S. Open match in two years by defeating James Duckworth, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3, that lasted three hours and 17 minutes on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Murray hit 31 winners and overcame 29 unforced errors. It was Murray’s first Grand Slam win since reaching the 2017 Wimbledon quarterfinals and his first Grand Slam appearance after missing the past four majors following hip surgery last January.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams battled past 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, to improve to 20-0 in first-round matches at Flushing Meadows. “I’m most pleased I won the match. I think I stayed pretty aggressive throughout the match, and that’s how I want to play the tournament,” the 16th-seeded Williams said in her post-match press conference.
Around the grounds
On the Grandstand, top-ranked American John Isner, seeded 11th, advanced over fellow American Bradley Klahn, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-4. On a hot afternoon, he kept his cool. “I’m very happy to win in straight sets,” Isner said after his win. “It’s pretty muggy out here. The conditions are not easy to play in.”
The weather conditions may have been to blame when young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire in the third set of his match against #NextGenATP star and fellow countryman Denis Shapovalov. After the Canadian teens split the first two sets, Shapovalov jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set before Auger-Aliassime, 18, received medical attention after he was seen holding his chest. He was unable to continue and the two shared an emotional hug at the end of their much-anticipated Grandstand match. As he walked off the court, Auger-Aliassime could be seen with tears running down his cheeks as he held his head in his hands.
Sometimes, the best moments happen on the “outer” courts in front of smaller but no less enthusiastic crowds. Such was the case out on Court 11 as afternoon turned into evening with a generational clash between 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded No. 15 and making his U.S. Open debut, and 36-year-old Tommy Roberto, who reached this year as a qualifier and was playing his 15th U.S. Open and 50th career U.S. Open match.
Tsitsipas won the highly entertaining contest, 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-4, and was mobbed by well-wishers as he left the court for the long walk back to the locker room.
Serena and Rafa feature Night Session
Meanwhile, as the Tsitsipas-Robredo match was reaching its exciting conclusion, the evening session’s main event was just getting started inside Arthur Ashe Stadium as Serena Williams made a triumphant return to the U.S. Open with a first-round victory over Magda Linette, 6-4, 6-0, in just 70 minutes. Williams fired six aces and hit 23 winners. “I’m on the road to getting better,” Williams said during her post-match press conference.
Finally, about 12 hours after the 2018 Opening Day began, the last match of the evening ended just after 11 p.m. when Nadal advanced to the second round leading 6-3, 3-4 against David Ferrer, who had to retire against the World No. 1 and his long-time friend due to a calf injury. Afterward, Nadal said Ferrer “deserved a better finish in his last Grand Slam, but I’m sure he will finish in the way that’s right for him.” He called Ferrer “a very good human person.”
It was Ferrer’s first retirement in 208 Grand Slam matches. He finished wth a 145-63 record in majors.
* Last year’s finalist, Kevin Anderson, improved to 13-10 in five-set matches as he beat Ryan Harrison, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, on Court 17 in a match that lasted four hours and 14 minutes. Anderson, who fought off cramps, improved to 3-2 in five-set matches this season and he’s played in at least one five-setter in each Grand Slam event.
* “It was fun to play first day on a brand-new stadium court. But there was a lot happening,” said 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens after she won her first-round match 6-1, 7-5 over Evgeniya Rodina.