Ready. Steady. Go! The 2018 US Open is underway as the top half of the women’s draw opened proceedings on a balmy day 1. It was a crazy start as the number one seed was gone within the first two hours! For a preview of day 2 at the US Open with my three to see from the bottom half, click here. Read on for 10 stories in Monday’s Set Points post from New York.
Kanepi stuns Halep, 1st top 10 win since 2014
The first ever match on the new Louis Armstrong stadium produced a huge upset as Kaia Kanepi beat the world number one, Simona Halep, 6-2 6-4. I think many people had circled this match as a tough opener for Halep because of Kanepi’s Slam credentials. Basically she can hittt the ball. Still, this will go down as a big shock and it’s the first time that a number one seed has lost in the first round at the US Open (via WTA Insider).
Kanepi was absolutely thumping the ball and really going after Halep’s second serve. The court seemed quick and Kanepi’s balls were skidding through the court. Halep was very passive for much of the match and was pushed wayyy back behind the baseline by Kanepi. Halep thwacked her racquet into the ground at the start of the second set, actually breaking it.
Up a set and a double break in the second set, Kanepi messed up an overhead which set off a string of errors and gave Halep a crucial foothold in the match. Despite getting back onto level terms, Halep was very defensive and seemed to lose her focus and nerve, leading *4-4 *40-15 in the second set. Kanepi broke and then, rather surprisingly, served out to 15. Kanepi has shown some nerves in a winning position before and is well known for tightening up. The world number 44 played a fearless point at *30-15 and convincingly served out her first top ten win since 2014 when she beat Jelena Jankovic (!) at Wimbledon (via Tennis Abstract). Obviously a very disappointing result for Halep and an opportunity missed to build rankings points as she lost in the first round last year. No doubt she’ll bounce back…
I loved the atmosphere in Armstrong and the crowd really got behind Simona in the second set. The camera angle though is TRAGIC. It’s even worse than the new one for Cincy’s top court. I think I will end up avoiding Armstrong matches unless it’s a match that I really want to see.
Svitolina avoids the upset train
Elina Svitolina needed three sets to see off Sachia Vickery, 6-3 1-6 6-1. I was surprised that Svitolina lost a set but Vickery played well and at a higher level than her recent matches during the summer hard court season. Svitolina looked pretty calm and was never really troubled in the decider. The match was lacking atmosphere with a very poor turnout on Grandstand.
Another battling display from Mertens
Elise Mertens battled back from 2-4 down in the third set to beat an aggressive, Kurumi Nara, 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5. Mertens, who had her right forearm taped up again, missed a trio of match points in the second set and looked to be struggling in the decider as she took a medical time-out at 2-3* for what looked like a neck injury.
Nara was often the more positive of the pair in the decider with Mertens resorting to defence. However, Mertens proved herself again as one of the best competitors on tour as she saved a break point at 5-5 in the decider and then broke for the win. The first serve was a key difference between the pair – Mertens won 72% of first serve points compared to just 58% for Nara. A good win in the end for Mertens and her 12th three set win of the year.
Barty eases past Jabeur
Ash Barty enjoyed a comfortable first round win over Ons Jabeur, 6-1 6-3. I caught parts of the second set where the serve and forehand both looked potent for Barty. I remember reading an interview with Barty earlier in the year where she said she liked the heat and was used to it back home so that could favour her in New York where it’s supposed to get even hotter over the next few days.
Venus resets, beats Sveta in gruelling first rounder
In an entertaining encounter lasting just five minutes shy of the three hour mark, Venus Williams reset after missing match points in the second set to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3 5-7 6-3.
It was a close match but Venus was generally the better player and the more positive of the pair. The American looked in control as she went up a set and a double break. Williams was decisive with the forehand and was constantly looking to finish at the net. Williams won all the big points – of the first seven games to go to deuce, Williams won them all.
Kuznetsova FINALLY managed to win a deuce game midway through the second set to get one of the breaks back. Like London buses… Kuznetsova won the final four deuce games of the set as she increasingly grew in confidence, particularly on return, with Williams fading towards the end of the set including a double fault on set point.
After a ten minute heat break, Williams reset and came out refocused and reenergised. It wasn’t a straightforward set, much like the two previous, but Williams remained intent to get to the net and be aggressive. All in all, I think this was one of Venus’s best displays of the year. The draw doesn’t get any easier in the second round with Camila Giorgi.
My highlight of watching the match – the commentator, Virginia Wade continually calling Kuznetsova, Kuzzy 🤣
Sevastova’s best win at a Slam in 2018
Anastasija Sevastova held off a second set charge from Donna Vekic to win her first match at a Slam since the Australian Open. Sevastova won, 6-2 2-6 6-3 out on Court 17. The Latvian player was teasing Vekic in the first set with multiple drop shot-lob combos. Vekic did well to come back and win the second set but Sevastova got the crucial first break of the decider and rode it home. Sevastova has reached the quarter-finals at the US Open for the last two years and this win, against a very dangerous opponent, should give her confidence going forward.
Safarova opens with a win!
Just before I called it a night, I watched Lucie Safarova win the first set against Petra Martic as she served out a long deuce game. Thrilled to see Lucie came through in straights, 6-4 6-4. Tricky opponent and impressive to get a straight sets win. My stream was pretty poor but Lucie looked sharp?! Ash vs. Lucie in the second round is a tough one. Very fond of both!
While I was sleeping…
Nothing crazy happened! Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka both won their openers in straight sets. Daria Gavrilova scored a double bagel win (!!!) over Sara Sorribes Tormo, while Julia Goerges needed three sets to get past Anna Kalinskaya.
Amazon Prime – First thoughts
For everyone in the UK and Ireland, Amazon Prime have exclusive rights to the US Open. I knew it was the case but i’m very disappointed that they have only four courts covered (Ashe, Armstrong, Grandstand and best of the outside courts). They couldn’t even show most of the Watson-Makarova match because the outside court stream was on Edmund-Lorenzi. The coverage and streaming quality was OK for me and it was quick and easy to bring up a stream on the Amazon Prime video site on the TV and the iPad. I had a few issues with poor quality but that was my internet. It will be perfect from the weekend when most of the matches are on the top three courts. However, it’s a big fail if you can’t stream all the courts and provide what was previously provided by Eurosport Player.
This has resorted me to using betting streams again. At least I can watch every match but it’s pretty miserable. I never enjoy watching matches on the betting streams because they are very unstable and the screen is so small. The jigsaw nature of tennis coverage is appalling and it’s so sad for the sport. People must be switching off and not bothering. Why should we have to fork out all this money for various subscriptions?
Day 2 Preview
A preview of day 2 at the US Open is up on the blog featuring Garcia vs. Konta, Ostapenko vs. Petkovic and Wozniacki vs. Stosur.