Rafael Nadal opened his title defense with an easier-than-expected but unfortunate victory via retirement over countryman David Ferrer. In what will likely be his final Grand Slam match, the 36-year-old Ferrer retired for the first-time ever in a Slam down 6-3, 3-4 due to a lower leg/achilles issue.
A limping Ferrer tried to give it a go after calling for the trainer early in the second, but even though he was winning points, it wasn’t worth the risk.
“I knew that it was impossible finish the match. I tried two more games. Finally I decided to retire because it’s worse to play and break it, break everything,” Ferrer said. “Of course I’m sad because it’s my last Grand Slam. I was enjoying playing the match against Rafa. I was playing good. But anyway, I am proud with myself, with my career. It’s not a problem.”
The Spaniard who has three US Open titles, is in a good section of the draw. Next will be Canadian Vasek Pospisil on Wednesday.
Many of the big names got through on a very hot Monday. Juan Martin del Potro also cruised in the evening beating American Donald Young in straight sets.
Playing his his first 5-set match in over a year, Andy Murray overcame a set down to deny James Duckworth 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
“I actually felt like I could have moved better. I struggled a little bit with that earlier in the match,” Murray said. “The positive was that actually towards the end of the match, I made some quite good moves. Like the second to the last point of the match, I moved pretty quickly up to the drop volley and stuff and kind of maintained my serving speeds throughout the match, as well. So there was some good stuff, but I think I can get better.”
Murray could get del Potro on Friday. But before it will be Fernando Verdasco who he leads 13-1. Verdasco won in straight over countryman Feliciano Lopez.
Fellow former champion Stan Wawrinka also made a winning debut in his return to the US Open. The 2016 champion won his eighth straight match at the US Open beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. The Bulgarian tried to avoid a second straight loss in a Slam first round to the Swiss but was unable to serve out the third.
“Two years ago was something very special, of course, amazing memories after the final… So it was great to come back, that is for sure,” said Wawrinka.
Read & Watch: Stan’s Plan Again Stumps Dimitrov
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Raonic through in four sets
After missing last year’s US Open following two surgeries on his left knee, Stan Wawrinka returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time since lifting his third Grand Slam title in 2016.
And for the second consecutive major, Wawrinka defeated reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov in a mouthwatering championship opener. The 2016 titlist overcame the eighth seed 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 after two hours and 24 minutes to level his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against the Bulgarian at 4-4 and advance to the second round.
“Two years ago was something very special, of course, [I have] amazing memories after the final… So it was great to come back, that is for sure,” said Wawrinka.
Wawrinka hit 30 winners, including six aces, to emerge victorious and hand Dimitrov back-to-back first-round Grand Slam exits for the first time in over five years. Earlier this season at Wimbledon, the Swiss recovered from a set down to eliminate Dimitrov 1-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5), 6-4.
“For sure, it was a tough match,” said Wawrinka. “I knew it would be a difficult match. Playing the first round in a Grand Slam, you need to be ready for it. You need to play [your] best tennis from the first point.
“We played already in Wimbledon, so it was a surprise again to play each other. But I’m really happy, first with the victory, that is for sure, but with my level in general.”
The 33-year-old has won 39 of his 50 matches at Flushing Meadows, including each of his eight most recent encounters. Wawrinka has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of his four appearances at the event since 2013.
With three service breaks to none in the opening two sets, Wawrinka quickly established control of the match. The Western & Southern Open quarter-finalist showed signs of his best form, building on his strong performances at recent ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati.
“I have been playing some good tournaments, Cincinnati and Toronto, and keep improving there day-by-day,” he added.” I arrived here a week early to practise, get a lot of time on the court, and I’m happy with today’s match. I think it’s a great start.”
Surprise finalist Kevin Anderson had to fight hard to turn away Ryan Harrison in a 5-setter 7-6(4), 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The big South African had to overcome cramps and a 2-1 set hole to the feisty Harrison.
Dominic Thiem, Jack Sock, John Isner and Milos Raonic were also winners.
Among the young kids, Karen Khachanov advanced but countryman and 2017 quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev was bounced by Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Canadian finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas won his first US Open match unending veteran Tommy Robredo in three. And Taylor Fritz scored his first five set victory, and he did it by coming from two sets down against Mischa Zverev.
In one of the more intriguing matches, Canadian teens Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime clashed for a first time and Shapovalov took via the worst way, the Auger-Aliassime in tears after retiring down 7-5, 5-7, 4-1 due to an irregular heartbeat.
“It was definitely a tough way to win,” Shapovalov said. “First of all, it was a great match playing against Felix. The level was high at times. At first, I honestly think we were both very tight, and I don’t think the level was great. Then in the second set, I think it was a lot better from both of us. At the beginning, I was playing really good, then towards the end he picked it up. What happened in the third set, it’s tough to see a friend go down like that. It was tough. When I saw that he was struggling, I still had to keep trying to win, keep kind of pounding it on him. It wasn’t easy for me.
“Obviously it’s tough how it ended. But I think this match, it’s great for Canadian tennis, two young guys that are coming up that have grown up together playing against each other. It’s really good. I feel that’s the reason why so many Canadians are picking up tennis racquets.”
In addition to Ferrer, both Florian Mayer and Gilles Muller struck their finals balls at the US Open on Monday.
On a busy and an even warmer Tuesday, 5-time champ Roger Federer returns under the lights to meet Yoshihito Nishioka. Novak Djokovic is also back after missing 2017. Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and Nick Kyrgios also headline.
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