US Open Day 2: Rafael Nadal stutters; Swiatek, Alcaraz coast; Raducanu and Osaka collapse
Rafael Nadal made his long-awaited return to Flushing Meadows on Tuesday. The Spaniard, a four-time US Open champion, hasn’t played the last Major of the year since his triumph in 2019 and this year he started his campaign successfully against Australian Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
The Spaniard emerged from the night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium in rusty fashion, as you would expect from the 36-year-old who has played one game since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semi-final due to a an injury to the abdomen. After a poor serve performance that saw him give up the first set, the Spaniard reset to take the next three. His serve and forehand both find their marks.
Next up is a tricky task against Italian Fabio Fognini, the only player to beat Nadal in straight sets, which he did at the 2015 US Open himself. Fognini may not be the same strength he was a few years ago, but after overtaking Aslan Karatsev in five years, he would be very confident.
Swiatek and Alcaraz regularly win
After Simona Halep’s shock loss on Monday, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek emerged as the main contender for the title in New York. And the Pole did not disappoint when she opened her campaign with a stellar 6-3, 6-0 win over Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.
Swiatek didn’t need to be at her best to put on a dominant display, in the kind of result she needs to be able to put herself in shape in the opening rounds of the Open. The Pole enjoyed a remarkable 37-game winning streak this summer, but has since fallen to 6-4. The title race in New York is on and she needs to get up to speed to have a chance. Next up: 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
Elsewhere, teenage sensation and third seed Carlos Alcaraz got his US Open campaign off to a good start, navigating a tricky mission against Argentina’s Sebastian Baez. Baez went toe to toe with Alcaraz for the opening two sets, and the Spaniard had to produce some of his defining reel-worthy moments to pull off the opening two sets. 5-7, 5-7, 0-2 down, after which Baez was stopped with a cramp and had to retire.
The Spaniard proved himself on the big stage at this event last year, reaching the quarter-finals. He will be looking to take a few more steps this time around.
Former champion eliminated in the first hurdle
2021 champion Emma Raducanu and 2020 champion Naomi Osaka both lost their first-round encounters after anticipation built on their chances this year. A year ago, Raducanu pulled off the greatest fairy tale run in the sport’s history, winning the US Open in the first qualifying round. But since then, she has struggled with physical issues and the pressure that came upon her as she was in her first full year on tour.
Despite a decent build-up, the Brit was blown away by France’s Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-3. The match was played on Cornet’s racquet, for the most part, his variety allowing him to dictate the pace, and disrupt Raducanu from the baseline. Despite an early break in the second, Raducanu, who will now drop to at least 80th in the world and have to start his tour again, was no match for it.
During the late session on Arthur Ashe, Osaka was beaten by Australian Open finalist and heavy hitter Danielle Collins 7-6, 6-3. Osaka was once the most dominant player on the tour, but since her hiatus last year, injuries and her low ranking have created problems. The Japanese were handed a terrible first-round draw to Collins, whose power and suitability for fast-paced New York conditions proved too much for Osaka.
The 24-year-old will now go a full season without a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2017.
Other notable results
– Alison van Uytvanck beats. Venus Williams 6-1, 7-6
While Serena may take all the high-profile adulation this week, older sister Venus may also be in the final Majors of her career, making her first-round defeat significant. Venus has struggled to put together results on tour this year, and the doubles with her sister may just be where she’s had the most success.
– Jannik Sinner won. Daniel Altmaier 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1
Sinner was expected to be one of the young players to take over from the ‘Big 3’, but his results have been murky lately. The Italian really struggled to pass Altmaier, but if he stays fit he got the kind of result that might just spur him into action.
– Clara Burel def. Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-4.
Rybakina explained that she did not receive enough credit for winning Wimbledon, especially without seeding privileges. A low-key first-round outing, full of unforced errors and poor decisions, during the day session on Court 12 will add insult to injury.