New York, NY – August 27, 2018: Serena Williams of USA returns ball during US Open 2018 1st round match against Magda Linette if Poland at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (Photo: Lev Radin/Gildshire)
If someone told you they were going to Flushing Meadows this week to see some hot tennis action you would have said, “Great!” If someone told you they were going to Flushing Meadows to endure record-breaking heat, you would have said, “Why?” Both exhibitions of “hot” were on display this week as Rounds One and Two were put in the books for this, the 137th playing of the oldest tennis tournament in the sport’s history.
First the weatherman business. Temperatures soared into the mid-90’s for the start of the two-week tennis get-together. Such heat, uncomfortable at least and dangerous at most, necessitated a rule-change that was a first in tourney history. Officials of the United States Tennis Association put the new rules in place when six competitors had to retire from their matches on Tuesday. The USTA announced later that five of the six withdrawals were “heat-related.” The only other withdrawal was due to an ankle injury suffered by Australian Jason Kubler during his match with American Taylor Fritz. The new rules involve an optional break between sets 2-3 for the women and set 4-5 for the men if any competitor requests a break.
Heat aside, though, the first two rounds provided some of the exciting action the crowd gathered for at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center complex. Let’s recap some of the highlights.
Unfortunately, one of the victims of the heat was David Ferrer, who was giving top-seed Rafael Nadal all he wanted in an opening round test. Down a set, but leading 4-3 in the second Ferrer retired, moving Nadal into the Round of 64. A combination of the hot weather and leg miseries stopped Ferrer.
That same day, Serena Williams, seeded 17th, cruised to a first-round win in just over an hour. Magda Linette, a 26-year old player from Poland was Williams’ victim, as Serena looked composed and relaxed continuing her comeback to what she hopes will be another round of tennis world dominance.
In the first two rounds, Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios did what needed to be done in order to have their highly anticipated third round meetup. Federer defeated Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in Round One and Frenchman Benoit Paire 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round. Kyrgios had a harder time of it, bitterly complaining about heat and injury in both of his matches. However, the passionate Aussie won both matches, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-0 against Pierre Hugues-Herbert, and 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 over Radu Albot. Federer is the cool customer, and Kyrgios the hot-blooded one and they will meet in a clash of styles.
In other second-round action, popular Englishman Andy Murray saw his comeback effort at the U.S. Open end after a mere two rounds.
Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open champ was bested this week by the 31st seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Verdasco will face another past champion when he goes up against the 2009 champion, and third-seeded Juan
Martin del Potro in the third round. Del Potro will be considered the favorite in that match, but Verdasco is playing with a ton of confidence right now.
As for Andy Murray, he missed last year’s U.S. Open with a nagging hip injury. Due to a lack of solid preparation, he did not consider himself a contender for this year’s title. Look for a better outcome next season for Mr. Murray.
Meanwhile, Swiss sharpshooter Stan Wawrinka ran through his first two matches, the first in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 over Grigor Dimitrov, and a four-set winner in Round Two, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 over Ugo Humbert. Wawrinka will face off against Canadian Milos Raonic in the third round of the tournament.
Other marquee third round matches will feature Number Six seed Novak Djokovic against French matinee idol Richard Gasquet, seeded 26th, and 10th seeded Jelena Ostapenko against 22nd seed Maria Sharapova, who is continuing her long road back to international tennis prominence.
Of course, the major spotlight in the third round will be on Serena and Venus Williams who will take the court across the net from each other at approximately 7 pm EDT, Friday night. Gildshire’s Lev Radin will be present for all of the big matches in the 2018 U.S. Open. Watch this space for the best coverage.