Kei Nishikori, who has struggled with hip problems this summer, made a quick exit from the US Open on Monday. The defending runner-up and No. 4 seed fell to France’s Benoit Paire 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4.
It was Paire’s first Top 10 win in nine tries.
“It’s always very sad to lose in the first round, but I think he was playing good tennis,” said Nishikori, who looked sluggish toward the end of the match. “I don’t think I played badly. Didn’t play great, but still, it’s never easy first match. He’s a good player. I will try to think about the next one, and I hope I can come back strong next year.”
The other lone upset winner Monday was the Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko who advanced when No. 16 Gael Monfils retired after a fall on court at 2-6, 6-4, 5-0.
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic had no opening-round jitters in steamrolling Brazil’s Joao Souza 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.
“I lost three games the entire match against a player I never played against before,” Djokovic said. “Can always be tricky because you’re approaching the match without really knowing how he’s going to react. First time playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The experience of playing in that stadium before many times has helped me to kind of step it up and execute my game plan and be aggressive. I think I’ve done great from the first to last point. Everything worked well.”
Other Top 10-seeded victors were No. 7 David Ferrer coming from a set down to beat Moldova’s Radu Albot 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-0; No. 8 Rafael Nadal beating Borna Coric in the late match 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4; No. 9 and defending champ Marin Cilic topping Argentine Guido Pella 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-6(3); and No. 10 Milos Raonic serving past American Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6(8), 6-1.
“Even before last year, in the past years I was always playing pretty well and reached few times quarterfinals [at the US Open],” Cilic said. “Even in those matches had some chances. Close to making it to the semis. Coming this year again is definitely very special moment for me in my whole career.”
Nadal had lost to Coric last year.
“I got a little bit tired, the conditions here were very humid,” Nadal said. “I was able to play great again in the fourth and serve well in the fourth.”
Lower-seeded winners into the second round were No. 14 David Goffin, No. 17 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 18 Feliciano Lopez, No. 19 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 25 Andreas Seppi, No. 26 Tommy Robredo, No. 27 Jeremy Chardy, and No. 32 Fabio Fognini.
Unseeded winners of note into the second round were Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco beating former world No. 2 Tommy Haas 6-1 in the fifth, and Mardy Fish in his last US Open defeating Italian Marco Cecchinato from a set down.
“You need is a lot of matches to get match fit, especially when you’ve been out for over a year again,” said Haas, who earlier said it might be his last US Open. “Certainly try to get that, but wasn’t too successful in the past two weeks of doing that. Then, yeah, lost a lot of gas there obviously. Mid, end of the fourth set showed unfortunately as well. Tough to compete that way.”
Carnage reigned on the women’s side of Day One at the US Open on Monday as three Top 10 seeds, of six seeds in all, made their exits, including two former No. 1s and a former world No. 2.
Top 10 seeds checking the outbound flights at LaGuardia were No. 7 Ana Ivanovic, outlasted 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 by Slovak Dominika Cibulkova; No. 8 Karolina Pliskova routed by American Anna Tatishvili 6-2, 6-1; and No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro defeated 6-1, 7-6(5) by unheralded Czech Denisa Allertova.
“Today, I knew my game was there and I just had to go out here and play,” said Cibulkova who had Achilles surgery earlier in the year. “You have many thoughts during the match and I just had to stay tough and I knew I’d have to do it — she wouldn’t give me one ball.”
Other seeded upsets included France’s Oceane Dodin coming from a set down to beat No. 21 Jelena Jankovic 2-6, 7-5, 6-3; American CoCo Vandeweghe overpowering fellow American and No. 29 seed Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3; and France’s Kristina Mladenovic downing No. 30 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 7-5.
Vandeweghe did not drop serve the entire match against Stephens.
“I thought I kept my intensity up really well,” Vandeweghe said. “I thought I was very focused through the whole match. I thought I kept the pressure on, and Sloane definitely made me play. My goal going into the match was to keep my intensity up and also keep my hustle up. Running down extra balls, making her play again, and actually making her worry that I was making her play that extra ball when I could.”
Out of the carnage comes the incredible opening of the draw for world No. 1 Serena Williams, even after the withdrawal of Maria Sharapova.
Williams on Monday routed injured Russian Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0, 2-0, ret., and saw a potential threat in Stephens removed from her path. Williams will next face Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
“Sloane played CoCo, who is a fire player, and that is not an easy match,” Serena said. “Yeah, that’s just not an easy match. I can’t say it’s surprising. CoCo, she’s a really good player. We’ve had a lot of tough matches together. When she’s on, she can really take out a lot of people.”
Every other Top 10 seed in action lost on Monday, but seeded winners joining Serena in the second round were No. 12 Belinda Bencic, No. 13 Ekaterina Makarova, No. 15 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 17 Elina Svitolina, No. 19 Madison Keys, No. 25 Eugenie Bouchard, No. 23 Venus Williams who beat Monica Puig in three, and No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“The first round, you don’t want to play your best tennis there, but you do want to play well,” Venus said after outlasting Puig. “I think by the time I got to the third set I was able to clean my game up a little bit. Give her a lot of credit, too. She had a lot of great shots at the right moments, so she’s a really good competitor.”
Highlights of Tuesday in Flushing Meadows include (4) Caroline Wozniacki vs. NCAA stud Jamie Loeb, (2) Roger Federer vs. Leonardo Mayer, (3) Andy Murray vs. bad boy Nick Kyrgios, (11) Gilles Simon vs. Donald Young, (22) Viktor Troicki vs. Frances Tiafoe, and (12) Richard Gasquet vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis.
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