The US Open draw opened up for the Williams sisters, or at least one of the Williams sisters, when world No. 1 Simona Halep became the first top-seeded player to lose in the opening round of the US Open on Monday, falling 6-2, 6-4 to Estonian Kaia Kanepi.
“She has been playing really well in U.S. lately, so I thought I just have to be aggressive and try to stay calm. That’s what I should do,” Kanepi said after the match. “I remembered how I played her last time [in a three-setter four years ago]. I was just trying to do the same.”
Halep’s long summer run included the Canadian Open title and a runner-up effort at Cincinnati the following week. The No. 44-ranked Kanepi and Halep were playing in the very first match only the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, where Kanepi did not face a break point in the first set, and in the second set overpowered the Romanian.
“I didn’t play great, but she played really well,” Halep said. “I knew that she can play well here. She played quarterfinals last year. I didn’t find the balance today. I couldn’t play better, so that’s it. She started pretty well and pretty strong, so those first games were tough. Actually, I expected her to play like that without fear and hitting the balls really strong. I cannot say much about this match, just that I didn’t really feel the ball. But also, she played really strong and pushed me back, so it was tough.”
It was Kanepi’s second career win over a world No. 1, while it was Halep’s 12th first-round loss at a Slam.
Serena and Venus Williams are now one win away from facing each other in the third round, with the winner of that meeting no longer having Halep in their path.
Top 10 players safely into the second round were No. 3 Sloan Stephens who topped Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 7-5, No. 7 Elina Svitolina struggling past American Sachia Vickery 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, No. 8 Karolina Pliskova defeating Zarina Diyas 6-4, 7-6(4), and No. 9 Julia Goerges surviving Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2.
Lower-seeded winners on Monday were No. 12 Garbine Muguruza bageling China’s Shuai Zhang, No. 15 Elise Mertens, No. 16 Venus Williams, No. 17 Serena Williams bageling Poland’s Magda Linette, No. 18 Ashleigh Barty, No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova needing three sets to get by Croat Donna Vekic, No. 23 Barbora Strycova, No. 25 Daria Gavrilova who double-bageled Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, and No. 31 Maria Sakkari.
“I think I’m getting there,” Serena said after crushing the willowy Linette in the featured night match, wearing a designer motorcycle biker-like kit. “It’s not easy to get to any point in my career. The highs have been great, the lows have been, you know, like your normal lows. That’s kind of how it is. You have to get through all those moments to live the next.”
The 36-year-old Williams is one of seven mothers in the 2018 US Open field.
The No. 16 seed Venus Williams will next line up against Italian Camila Giorgi, who defeated American wild card Whitney Osuigwe 6-4, 6-1. The No. 25 Gavrilova’s second-round opponent will be former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka who beat Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3, 7-5.
“The first rounds are never easy, especially when you play someone you’ve never played before,” said Azarenka, playing her first US Open since the birth of her son. “[Kuzmova] didn’t give me many opportunities on the return, but I stayed tough, I stayed smart. I’m in the second round of the US Open.”
Two other seeded upsets on the day were Swede Rebecca Peterson coming from a set down to beat No. 27 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, and China’s Qiang Wang ousting No. 31 Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-2.
Tuesday’s highlights in Flushing Meadows are (2) Carolina Wozniacki vs. Sam Stosur, (10) Jelena Ostapenko vs. Andrea Petkovic, (22) Maria Sharapova vs. (Q) Patty Schnyder, (6) Caroline Garcia vs. Johanna Konta, (5) Petra Kvitova vs. Yanina Wickmayer, and the all-American 2017 US Open girls’ winner Amanda Anisimova vs. former world No. 1 junior Taylor Townsend.
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