Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Djokovic, Sharapova shine as others toil in New York

BUSY BEES:A swarm of bees joined the scintillating clash between Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm, providing comedic relief as the two danced to avoid getting stung

Reuters, NEW YORK

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Monday returns to Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in their men’s singles first-round match on Day One of the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City.

Photo: AFP

Former champions Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova sparkled under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights to end a steamy first day that proved more than a little stressful for several US Open favorites on Monday.

Djokovic, who had won only two matches in the hard court runup to the season’s final Grand Slam after getting married days after his Wimbledon triumph, was back to his best once the center-court spotlight shone on him at Flushing Meadows in New York.

The 2011 champion treated his first-round match against unseeded 22-year-old Argentine Diego Schwartzman like a breezy workout, dominating in all phases with 24 winners — including seven aces — in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 rout.

His fast work followed a scintillating finish by French Open champion and 2006 winner Sharapova, as the fifth seed won 10 straight games to prevail 6-4, 6-0 after falling 2-4 behind against Russian compatriot and old friend Maria Kirilenko.

Despite the night program starting an hour later than scheduled due to ceremonies, Djokovic’s lightning-fast win enabled the New York night crowd to head to the exits shortly before the stroke of midnight.

“I’m very pleased,” the Serbian world No. 1 said in a courtside interview after his 97-minute win. “It’s never easy to start a US Open smoothly.”

Several of the favorites at Flushing Meadows could attest to his opinion:

Eighth-seeded 2012 champion Andy Murray fought off cramps to beat Dutchman Robin Haase in four painful sets, while women’s second seed Simona Halep lost an early tiebreak to US debutant Danielle Collins before claiming victory.

Murray appeared on course for an easy victory before he fell victim to cramps that left him stretching and straining to get comfortable before clinching a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-5 victory over Haase.

“I felt extremely good before the match and I did train very, very hard to get ready for the tournament,” Murray said, adding that he might consult a nutritionist before meeting his second-round opponent, Germany’s Matthias Bachinger.

A less serious intrusion hit the irresistible women’s clash between the oldest players in the women’s draw when some pesky bees joined seven-time Grand Slam singles winner Venus Williams of the US and Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm.

The 43-year-old Japanese player and 34-year-old 19th seed Williams dipped, ducked and danced away before ballgirls helped usher the stubborn swarm away.

When finally able to play undisturbed on an Arthur Ashe Stadium court, Williams stung her opponent 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to advance.

Asked who presented the peskier test in the two-hour match, two-time US Open winner Williams said: “The bee was a challenge, but easily the answer is Kimiko.”

In an upset on the men’s side, two-time US Open semi-finalist Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, the 21st seed, fell to big-serving Australian Nick Kyrgios 7-5, 7-6 (4), 2-6,7-6 (1).

The 19-year-old Kyrgios, who made a Wimbledon splash by ousting Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the fourth round to reach the quarter-finals, blasted 26 aces. The 60th-ranked Aussie moved on to a second-round match against Italy’s Andreas Seppi.

Advancing with relative ease in straight sets were Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and fifth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic, a Wimbledon semi-finalist.

The Swiss third seed beat Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic to set up a second-round test against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, while big-serving Raonic bested Japan’s Taro Daniel to face off against Peter Gojowczyk of Germany.

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