It has been a strange feeling for tennis fans watching the beginning of the U.S. Open with the stands inside the Billie Jean King Tennis Center empty.
But despite the absence of some of the rowdiest fans in tennis, and a few of the top players in the men’s and women’s draws, it has been an exciting start to the tournament. The best is yet to come from Queens, but here are some of the highlights from the first round of the U.S. Open, From six hour matches to dominant performances from top seeds.
Nine of Top Ten Men Advance to Second Round:
In a year where several of the top men in the world, including Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, opted out of traveling to America for the U.S. Open, it was expected that there could be more upsets than usual in the early rounds. This has not been the case thus far. The only top ten seed that lost in the first round was Diego Shwartzman, who lost to Cameron Norrie in five sets.
The three consensus favorites to win the tournament, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev did not lose a single set between them in their first round contests. The frontrunners will certainly face tougher challenges in the following rounds, but most of them avoided disaster in the first days of competition.
Murray rallies back from two sets down to win
If you thought that Andy Murray’s days of pulling off the unbelievable were over, think again. He has certainly not been in peak form since his hip surgery in 2018, but when he is on, he is capable of looking like a top 10 player. We saw this once again in his first round match on Tuesday against Yoshihito Nishioka.
After falling down two sets to none quickly, an often insurmountable deficit, it looked like it was going to be another disappointing major for the British star. Yet out of nowhere, Murray flipped the switch and put on the marquee performance of the first round. He won the next two sets in tiebreakers, coming up with timely points in seemingly every big moment.
After seizing the momentum, his 6-4 fifth set win seemed almost inevitable. It wasn’t a perfect set, but once again he came through in the biggest moments, converting on both of his breakpoint chances in the set. The match lasted nearly five hours, and tested Murray’s stamina like it hadn’t been in years. This could certainly handicap him in his second round against Felix Auger-Aliassime, but this match should also be a huge confidence builder for him going forward.
American Women Impress Early
Since the Williams sisters were at the height of their powers, there has been a bit of a drop off in terms of elite American talent in women’s tennis. With many more top women in the world opting out of the U.S. Open than men this year, Americans have a chance to return to the top of the field. This possibility definitely showed itself to be true in the first round.
32 U.S. women qualified for the open, and 16 of them moved on to the second round. These advancers include Madison Keys, Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens, and many others that have a chance to make a real shot at the title. Naomi Osaka of Japan is still probably the frontrunner to take home the hardware, but several of the Americans are capable of taking her down.
The Emergence of the Canadian Men
Canada is not a country many think of as a Tennis powerhouse on the international stage. But the crop that they have put together this year is the best they have had in years. They only qualified four players for the U.S. Open, but all of them won their first round matchups, and looked impressive doing so.
Dennis Shapovalov, the 12th seed, took care of American Sebastian Korda in four sets, and could make a deep run into the tournament. Milos Raonic won his first match against Leanardo Mayer of Argentina, and after giving Djokovic a run for his money in the Western and Southern Open final last week, looks a whole lot more dangerous than his 25 seed suggests. He will face his countryman in the second round, Vasek Pospisil, who also won his match in straight sets in the first round. He is probably the least likely to advance of the group, especially the way Raonic is playing, but is a player to look out for on the tour.
The last Canadian here in New York is the youngest, but could be the best, and has superstar potential. Felix Auger-Aliassime is barely 20 years old, but is a smooth, quick, exciting talent to watch who vaulted himself to a 21st world ranking, and a 15th seed in the U.S. Open. He won his first round match against Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, and Will See Andy Murray in the second round. This gives Canada three legitimate chances to reach the semi-finals, or even the finals, something that rarely happens for the country.