2021 US Open, Day 1 Highlights: Stephens & Kerber prevail in third set tiebreaks

It was a frenetic start to the 2021 US Open with arguably three of the most high profile first rounders underway within the first hour of the tournament. It was a very enjoyable opening day with some great matches and two of the three that I watched being decided in a third set tiebreak. And then of course Murray-Tsitsipas which was a thriller. 16 seeds in action and just one lost which naturally involved the ultimate seed-slayer, Kaia Kanepi. Surely that has to be some kind of record?! Read on for Monday’s diary…

Day 1️⃣ Highlights

(12) Simona Halep d. Camila Giorgi, 6-4 7-6(3)

Considering Halep’s recent form at the US Open and recent luck with injuries, this actually felt like an upset. I was surprised how well Halep played. Halep won 83% (!) of first serve points with the serve out wide a particularly effective tool against Giorgi. I think the strong serving was also linked to the speed of the courts which appear to be lightning fast this year.

From midway in the first set, Giorgi’s radar on the forehand went completely AWOL. When you think of fast courts, you think Giorgi is going to be great but it didn’t work out like that and in fact the fast courts almost seemed to favour Halep. There were just too many errors and one-dimensional play from Giorgi who ultimately lacked patience in the rallies.

Giorgi’s cross-court forehand began to lock in at the end and she took some swipes on second serves to twice break Halep when serving for the match. The errors were never too far away for Giorgi as Halep prevailed in the second set tiebreak. There were eerie vibes with this match being up first, just like Halep-Kanepi in 2018. I can’t emphasise enough what a huge win this was for Simona.

Sloane Stephens d. Madison Keys, 6-3 1-6 7-6(7)

Sloane vs. Madison is always a spectacle, even more so at the US where they played the final in 2017. I have to admit though that i’ve never enjoyed this match-up. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised with this encounter because the third set was really, really good. I was left feeling frustrated that they had to meet in the first round. Sadly both of their rankings had fallen. In fact… STAT ALERT… this was the first time since the 2015 Australian Open that Keys has been unseeded at a Slam.

Keys was superb through the final two sets and produced some thunderous forehands. It was vintage Keys which felt like a thing because the last few years have been pretty rough. It felt like Stephens was hanging on at the start of the third set. Sloane did hang on. Towards the end of the third set, it was Sloane who had all the chances and Madison was clutch on many break points.

A tiebreak felt both a fair way to decide the match because it was so close and equally cruel as the two hour and ten minute contest came down to just a few points. In the end, I hate to say it, but it was a string of rash errors from Keys (interspersed with a fearless forehand winner to save the first match point) that was ultimately the difference between the pair.

(16) Angelique Kerber d. Dayana Yastremska, 3-6 6-4 7-6(3)

Kerber rallied from 3-5 down in the third set to survive an opening day thriller against Dayana Yastremska. The third set was a ball and the crowd were hooked by the end. It really makes such a difference to have some noise!

Kerber hit six (!) winners in three sets. As you can guess from those stats, Yastremska controlled the match and was ultra-aggressive (even more so than usual?) as she hit some outrageous winners, mostly off the forehand and on the run. It was an all-round outrageous display from Yastremska. Hit-or-miss would be an accurate description 😂. Yastremska served for the match at *5-4 and was absolutely reckless with some pretty huge misses. Yastremska has so much talent… but my goodness she has to find some kind of balance and rein it in a tad. Kerber’s first serve was probably the difference in the end as Yastremska missed so many returns. Since her return to the tour, Yastremska is 0-5 in the third sets.

Don’t forget this result in a hurry. A battling first round display like this from Kerber makes her one to watch in the draw. What a few month it has been for Angie! Next up is Anhelina Kalinina who won their most recent encounter at the French Open.

Farewell 👋

The Carla farewell tour in singles came to an end on Monday as she lost out in straight sets to Danielle Collins. Danielle wished Carla luck in the doubles at the net. I hadn’t realised Carla is playing doubles with Sara Errani at this tournament so it’s not quite the end.

I will never forget Carla’s send-off at Wimbledon against Ash Barty which is one of my favourite moments of the entire year. I’m so glad that Carla has been able to finish her career on her own terms.

While I was sleeping… 😴

There was lots going on! Naomi Osaka got off to a good start with a 6-4 6-1 win over Marie Bouzkova, while Aryna Sabalenka needed three sets to get past Nina Stojanovic. Elise Mertens and Rebeka Masarova both saved match points and contested two of the longest matches in US Open history as they beat Rebecca Peterson and Ana Bogdan respectively. Perhaps that could be what Elise needed after a pretty wretched recent run in singles?

Under the radar 🚨

Muguruza’s fiery celebration after a hard fought 7-6(4) 7-6(5) victory over Donna Vekic said it all. This was a great win against an opponent who would not back down. Let’s keep an eye on Garbi…

H&H 🤗

A guaranteed H&H for day 1 at the 2021 US Open ❤.

Recommended media 📺

Since i’ve been on hiatus from the blog, I can’t go without mentioning that two of my favourite players have retired! We knew about Kiki Bertens who played her last matches at the Olympics. I will remember Kiki most of all for just being a nice person. I enjoyed watching her resurgence in 2018 and will never forget the way that Kiki moved on a clay court.

And secondly, Timea Bacsinszky! During my fandom days, Bacsinszky was my second favourite player after Lucie. Again, like Kiki, I was drawn to Timea because she was such a nice person with such a warm personality. I will never forget that Timea was the first player I asked a question to in press at Eastbourne. I have the transcript of that press conference somewhere in my memories box 😂. I adored Bacsinszky’s backhand which was a thing of beauty and just the way she left her heart out on the court with every match.

Kiki and Timea will both be missed.

Recommended reading 📚

I’ve just bought Alizé Cornet’s book! As you would expect, Cornet is very honest doesn’t hold back. Even on the second page, she writes how she doesn’t like Azarenka 😂. I’ve only just started reading but will let you know how I get on.

Day 2 watchlist 📺

Thoughts about day 2 matches can be found on the separate page here.

(6) Bianca Andreescu vs. Viktorija Golubic

(22) Karolina Muchova vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo

(17) Maria Sakkari vs. Marta Kostyuk

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6 thoughts on “2021 US Open, Day 1 Highlights: Stephens & Kerber prevail in third set tiebreaks

  1. Thanks for the excellent description of all these matches. I was teaching all day and missed all those great first round matches. Sounds like Simona really served well or found a serve–the slider out wide–that Giorgi did not handle well on the faster courts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was also surprised regarding how Simona played as I thought that she would struggle with lack of match fitness against an in-form opponent but she played some good tennis and showed no outwards signs of injury. It’s great to see her back and I hope that she can go deep in this event.

    I wanted Simona to win and I also wanted Kerber to win especially after the very long bathroom break taken by Yastremska who I do not like. I think it was longer than the one that Andy Murray’s opponent took and that is saying something ! I think that there should be a set limit ( say 5 mins ) and the opposing player should start the next match with an advantage if it is longer.

    I did not see the Stephens/Keys match but I cannot watch them all. Alize Cornet is quite a character so I may read her book if I get a chance……might have to drop a few hints to my relatives about Xmas presents😁


    • Yeah Yastremska is a character 😂. Toilet break drama seems to be a thing for this tournament. Nothing new happening really, seems to have taken off with the fall-out from Murray-Tsitsipas.


  3. I’d like to read Alize’s book too; she’s quite a character. On the British girls; Emma Raducanu’s through but Heather Watson and Harriet Dart both went out in the first round. Katie Boulter’s still to play her first round match at the time of writing.

    I like Madi Keys so I was sorry that she had to meet Sloane (a former US Open champion) in the first round, even though it was clearly a good match.


    • Would definitely recommend, you should be able to find it on Amazon. Another great effort from Dart but not quite enough. Raducanu was impressive again last night. I feel you with Keys, I like her too. Felt like one of her best matches of the year. Level was high during much of the second and third sets.


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