The opening day of the US Open claimed its biggest upset victim so far in No. 4 seed Holger Rune.
Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, ranked 63rd, downed Rune 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, on Monday for his first-ever victory over a top-10 player. The 20-year-old Dane, Rune, who cracked the top 5 after reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open and Wimbledon, had complained before the match about being assigned to one of the outer courts, sarcastically tweeting a map of Flushing Meadows to help his fans find it.
“I just didn’t expect to play on that court,” Rune said afterwards. “That’s obviously disappointing but not going to blame the court on the loss.”
On the women’s side, No. 1-ranked defending champion Iga Swiatek needed just 58 minutes to beat Swede Rebecca Peterson 6-0, 6-1, 19th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia took out 2017 champion Sloane Stephens 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, and fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina, last year’s Wimbledon champion, defeated Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine 6-2, 6-1.
Spaniard Rebeka Masarova upset eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4, with the Greek complaining afterwards she was bothered by the smell of marijuana.
“The smell, oh my gosh,” Sakkari said to the chair umpire in the first set. “It was weed.”
Tenth-seeded American Frances Tiafoe, a 25-year-old from Maryland who reached the semifinal at last year’s US Open, had little trouble in a 6-2, 7-5, 6-1, victory over wild-card countryman Learner Tien.
Thiem downs Bublik
Dominic Thiem, the 2020 champion who is unseeded this year, downed 25th-seeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Thiem, an Austrian who had lost his previous seven Grand Slam matches, next faces American Ben Shelton, who defeated Argentine Pedro Cachin in four sets.
“It was a very good match basically from the first moment on. It’s a pretty special victory, because it’s the first since two-and-a-half years at Grand Slams,” said Thiem.
The 29-year-old’s career has nose-dived since his crowning moment in 2020, when Thiem came from two sets behind to beat Alexander Zverev in that year’s pandemic-affected US Open final held behind closed doors.
Once the world number three, Thiem’s ranking plummeted to 352 in June 2022 after a wrist injury sidelined him for nine months and prevented him from defending his US Open title.
He is now back inside the top 100, earlier this month reaching the final in Kitzbuehel -- his first championship match since the season-ending ATP Finals in 2020.
“It was a very good road for me,” Thiem said of his journey over the past three years.
“Especially personally I was learning a lot, so I don’t want to miss anything in this road, but obviously tennis-wise or sports-wise was not easy all the time.
“So that’s why I’m even happier that I got the win today. First win on Grand Slam since a while. I had some good previous weeks as well with the first finals after the injury .So it’s feeling good, and I’m really looking forward to the next one,” said Thiem.
The longest match so far, four hours and 29 minutes, went to Zhizhen Zhang of China, who outlasted American J.J. Wolf 7-5, 7-5, 6-7 (5), 4-6, 6-3.
Still to come are matches with Coco Gauff on the women’s side, and Novak Djokovic on the men’s.
Gauff, a 19-year-old from Florida, faces Laura Siegemund of Germany, who won the women’s doubles title in New York three years ago. Gauff was the runner-up at the French Open in singles — losing to Swiatek — and doubles in 2022.
Wrapping things up in the main stadium will be 23-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic against Alexandre Muller of France, who is making his US Open debut. It marks a return to the event for Djokovic, who missed it last year because he couldn’t travel to the United States as a foreigner who is not vaccinated against COVID-19. That rule has been dropped.
The first round is played on Monday and Tuesday. The tournament lasts two weeks and wraps up with the women’s singles final on September 9, and the men’s singles final on September 10.
(With inputs from AFP)
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