It wasn’t the ideal start for Novak Djokovic as by his very high standards he put in a pretty lacklustre performance against Holger Rune, the 18-year-old from Copenhagen. The scoreline looks relatively convincing after a dip in the second set in his 6/2 6/7 6/2 6/1 victory but Rune was physically struggling in sets three and four. The former junior world number one and former French Open junior champion had a problem with his left hamstring. Something that Nole acknowledged. It will need to be much-improved round on round here but the bottom line is he is through and you would expect improvement with each match. He won’t have to face the unpredictability of Jan Lennard Struff next after the German lost out to Tallon Griekspoor.
There were also straight sets wins for Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini against Sam Querrey and Jeremy Chardy respectively. Zverev didn’t face a breakpoint against Querrey and will be pleased to get this done so quickly, in truth as soon as they were in a rally the American’s chances were reduced significantly. Berrettini had a few more issues to deal with against Chardy but the Frenchman faltered when he should have won the second set and the Italian got the sole break in the third to see it out. Denis Shapovalov also cruised through against Federico Delbonis, dropping only four points on his first serve in the match and like Zverev, not facing a breakpoint. Delbonis is on a six-match losing streak in NYC and this was a nice match to get Shapo into the event. There were also wins for Hubert Hurkacz, Jannik Sinner and the birthday boy Gael Monfils, who racked up his 30th win at the Open.
There were six seeds to fall in the top half of the men’s with the highest-profile being one of my tips for the event in Pablo Carreno Busta, who led by two sets to love and had four match points against the American qualifier, Maxime Cressy. Very disappointing from my end but the American’s serve and volley game is proving very effective. Karen Khachanov also lost to Lloyd Harris in five sets, he was really struggling with the timing of his groundstrokes from reports and thus not being able to get big blows in from the forehand side. Harris doesn’t always look great on the eye but his results show otherwise. Like PCB, Fabio Fognini lost from two sets up against Vasek Pospisil, Lorenzo Sonego made a hash of it against Oscar Otte when he should have taken a two sets lead and blew up and David Goffin unsurprisingly lost to Mackenzie Mcdonald. Mcdonald was a pretty heavy favourite for this on the off (around 2/5). Taylor Fritz also beat Alex De Minaur, the fourteenth seed didn’t have the answers for the big-serving of Fritz and when he had his chances he didn’t take them. Finally, I see Zachary Svajda took out Marco Cecchinato in four sets. I saw him make his debut against Paolo Lorenzi a couple of years ago when in New York and was impressed with what I saw, still only 18-years-old.
World Number one Ash Barty always looked the have the beating of Vera Zvonareva, which doesn’t come as any great surprise but she did make hard work of the second set in her 6/1 7/6 over the former world number two. The bottom line was that whenever she needed to raise her level she did. She will play Clara Tauson next, the 18-year-old Dane. Fourth seed Karolina Pliskova came through in two against Cath McNally, the American did cause a few problems late on in the second here but Pliskova was always in control. Belinda Bencic was impressive in her 6/4 6/4 win against Arantxa Rus, there seems to be a newfound confidence from ‘The Swiss Miss’, since her Olympic Gold Medal. Iga Swiatek served really well and only lost ten points on serve in her win over Jamie Loeb. There were also wins for Petra Kvitova, who like Monfils won her 30th match of the Open, Maria Sakkari and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who took out Alison Riske.
It was good news for Emma Raducanu, Jennifer Brady had withdrawn from the event and Stefanie Voegele came in as a Lucky Loser and was well outplayed by the Brit. Everyone seems to say the same, that the return of serve and backhand are really good shots, it is just the serve (like many other players) that needs improving. She faces Shuai Zhang next with Raducanu being the slight favourite with the bookmakers at a top-priced 4/5(1.8). Katie Boulter was the other Brit playing after also getting through qualies with Raducanu, her draw wasn’t as kind though playing Ludmilla Samsonova whose hitting was too much for her as they went toe to toe.
Bianca Andreescu played her first match here since winning the title two years ago. It was quite a high-quality contest against Viktorija Golubic, which the former champion won in just under three hours. She is also playing her first event with new coach Sven Groeneveld (who has coached many players on the ATP/WTA tour). One of my outside tips to go well, Anastasia Sevastova lost to Katerina Siniakova and from reports was always second best, quite disappointing that from a player who generally goes quite deep in NYC! Paula Badosa was one of my tips to get through though and she played well against Alison Van Uytvanck. The Belgian didn’t return well enough and Badosa was all over her. There were two seeds to fall, but not really high profile, Veronika Kudermetova lost to the tricky Sorana Cirstea and Karolina Muchova who had come in with injury doubts was beaten by the ever-improving Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Al Davies (Andy Del Potro).