NEW YORK – Roger Federer showed that time was still on his side as the Swiss master rang the closing bell on Monday’s opening day at the U.S. Open tennis championship with a quick victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Third seed Federer, who turned 30 earlier this month, completed a clockwork 6-4 6-3 6-2 win over 56th-ranked Colombian Santiago Giraldo, 24, to the delight of the Flushing Meadows night crowd.
The 106-minute sweep was the first step in Federer’s quest to add to his grand slam record of 16 men’s singles titles with a sixth U.S. Open crown.
A sixth title in New York would also break his tie with Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras for most since tennis turned professional in 1968.
Federer next plays Israeli Dudi Sela, who battled back from two sets down to beat Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil.
Maria Sharapova survived an early scare after Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was knocked out of the year’s final grand slam, which began on time and under perfect conditions after a week of wild weather.
It was business as usual at the National Tennis Center in New York as the earthquake that rattled the U.S. East Coast last week and the deadly hurricane that killed at least 21 people were instantly forgotten.
Thousands of spectators streamed the gates at Flushing Meadows on a glorious summer day under blue skies while players who spent most of the weekend in their Manhattan hotels bounded on to the courts to weather their own storms.
As a former champion and a sweetheart of the New York crowds, Sharapova was given the honour of being one of the first players on Arthur Ashe centre court and, as expected, the Russian made it safely through to the next round.
But her 3-6 7-5 6-3 win over British teenager Heather Watson was an unconvincing performance from the former world number one, who won last week’s lead-up event in Cincinnati.
Watson won the junior title two years ago and was making her first appearance in the senior draw but she was able to frustrate and torment the more experienced Sharapova for more than two and a half hours before she finally succumbed.
“I knew that I wasn’t playing my best tennis,” Sharapova said. “The best thing about this match is I gave myself a chance to play another one.”
Czech Kvitova, the fifth seed, left the Louis Armstrong court almost sobbing after falling 7-6 6-3 to unseeded Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru.
Kvitova has been a marked woman since her surprising win at Wimbledon in July but this time she was the architect of her own downfall, making a whopping 52 unforced errors.
Her early exit has further opened up a women’s draw which was already looming as one of the most unpredictable in years.
Kim Clijsters, the champion in each of the past two years, is missing because of injury and there are plenty of unanswered questions about the older brigade.
Sharapova has not won a grand slam since 2008. Serena Williams is back at the U.S. Open for the first time in two years and her older sister Venus is not seeded.
But they have been installed as favourites, mostly because younger rivals have yet to win a grand slam, including current world number one Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva, the number two from Russia.
Both have had come close. Zvonareva was a finalist at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year and made a bright start to her latest campaign at Flushing Meadows when she thumped Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France 6-3 6-0. Venus beat Vesna Dolonts of Russia 6-4 6-3 in the first night match.
Switzerland’s five-time champion Roger Federer, the third seed, was due to play in the final match on Monday after an official opening ceremony attended by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“On Tuesday we had an earthquake. Who knew we lived near a fault? Luckily it wasn’t a double fault,” Bloomberg quipped.
Jon Vegosen, the chairman of the U.S. Tennis Association, also made reference to New York’s wild week.
“Small things like earthquakes and hurricanes aren’t going to stop us. The Open is open!” he said. (Reuters)