Taiwanese No. 1 Lu Yen-hsun crashed out in the first round of the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York on Monday, an injury forcing him to retire in the third set of his men’s singles opener.
World No. 97 Lu was trailing 6-3, 6-3, 3-0 to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan when he was forced to retire after 1 hour, 14 minutes of their match on Court 9.
Lu mixed six aces with three double faults, but failed to create a single break point as his 56th-ranked opponent converted five of seven, winning 70 of the 135 points contested to take the upper hand before the Taiwanese had to throw in the towel.
Taiwanese hopes at the final Grand Slam of the season are now focused on the women’s and mixed doubles competitions, with sisters Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan seeded ninth in the women’s doubles, while fellow Taiwanese Hsieh Su-wei and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia are seeded 10th.
Also featuring are Taiwan’s Chuang Chia-jung, who is teaming up with Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, and Taiwanese-Croatian duo Chan Chin-wei and Darija Jurak, who face a tough first-round clash with second seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the US and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.
In the mixed doubles, Chan Yung-jan and Rohan Bopanna of India are seeded second, while Hsieh is competing alongside Henri Kontinen of Finland.
In other singles matches, world No. 1s Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic launched their title bids in ruthless style, while Kei Nishikori’s hopes of making another magical run to the final came to a shuddering halt.
Opening day at Flushing Meadows produced plenty of shock and awe as Djokovic delivered a jaw-dropping performance, speeding past Joao Souza of Brazil 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 as if the Serb had a taxi meter running outside the National Tennis Center.
Williams also played as if she had an appointment to keep as she began her final push toward a calendar-year Grand Slam by pounding Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0, 2-0, before the ailing Russian waved the white flag and retired injured.
Eighth seed Rafael Nadal, a two-time US Open champion, needed a bit more time to get the job done, the Spaniard taking nearly three hours to fight off a challenge from 18-year-old Croatian prospect Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Following a Broadway-style opening ceremony complete with orchestra and choir, Williams stepped onto Center Court under a spotlight to loud applause from an adoring New York crowd just seven matches from her quest to sweep this season’s Slams.
The six-time champion would exit Arthur Ashe Stadium just 30 minutes later to more applause and her target reduced to six more wins to join the exclusive club of calendar Grand Slam winners Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.
“It’s been really amazing, I can feel the support and the love on my journey for this milestone,” said Williams, who won the first of her 21 majors at Flushing Meadows 16 years ago. “I’m so ready. Whatever happens I’m here, I’m at home where it all began in 1999, so this is incredible for me to still be here and playing well. It’s kind of awesome that this is the last Grand Slam of the year, because if it were in a different country, I think I would still love it, but it’s not the same as being an American playing in New York, playing for that ultimate goal.”
Frenchman Benoit Paire provided the big shock of the day, grinding out a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 win over Nishikori, after the Japanese fourth seed squandered two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker.
Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in last year’s final, had no such opening day hiccups as the ninth-seeded Croat began the defense of his title with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/3) win over Argentine qualifier Guido Pella.
“It’s always very sad to lose in the first round, but I think he was playing good tennis,” Nishikori said. “I don’t think I played badly. Didn’t play great, but still, it’s never easy first match.”
The 25-year-old had plenty of company at the departure lounge following a string of shocks that included Serbian seventh seed and former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, eighth seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.
A hot, muggy day got off to an ominous start when world No. 50 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia dispatched Ivanovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Anna Tatishvili gave the home fans a reason to get excited as the 121st-ranked US qualifier destroyed Pliskova 6-2, 6-1, while Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin kept the upsets trending with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Jelena Jankovic, the 21st seed and 2008 US Open runner-up.
Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, one of just two players to beat Serena Williams this season, strolled past Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva to stay on track for a quarter-final showdown with the 33-year-old US star.
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