Alcaraz, Medvedev cruise into 2nd round as Venus bows out

Zanevska snubs Sabalenka handshake; Wawrinka breaks record

NEW YORK: Carlos Alcaraz launched the defense of his US Open crown with a brisk victory after his opponent suffered an injury on Tuesday as third seed Daniil Medvedev strolled into the second round with a quick-fire win. Alcaraz, returning to the same Arthur Ashe Stadium court where he lifted his first Grand Slam as a teenager a year ago, was always in control after Germany’s Dominik Koepfer rolled his left ankle badly in the opening game. Koepfer tried to continue despite being in obvious discomfort, but finally called it quits while trailing 3-2 in the second set after dropping the first 6-2.

“That’s not the best way to get through into another round,” said world number one Alcaraz. “But I have to say on my side I was playing great.” Alcaraz, who faces Lloyd Harris of South Africa in the second round, is on course to face 2021 US Open champion Medvedev in the semi-finals. Medvedev opened his account on Tuesday with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 thrashing of Hungary’s Attila Balazs in just 74 minutes. The Russian will face Australia’s Christopher O’Connell in the second round on Thursday for a spot in the last 32. “That’s probably the fastest three-set match I played,” Medvedev said after his blistering demolition of Balazs.

While Alcaraz and Medvedev cruised into the second round, Karen Khachanov – a semi-finalist at last year’s US Open – was on the wrong end of a first-round upset. The 11th-seeded Russian was bounced out in straight sets by American world No.89 Michael Mmoh, losing 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Germany’s 12th seed Alexander Zverev, a beaten finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2020, never looked in danger of following Khachanov out of the tournament, registering a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic.

Jannik Sinner, the Italian sixth seed, trounced Yannick Hanfmann of Germany 6-3, 6-1, 6-1. In other men’s games on Tuesday, British veteran Andy Murray downed France’s Corentin Moutet 6-2, 7-5, 6-3, in a match that saw a bungled attempt to use the US Open’s new video review technology for the first time. Chair umpire Louise Azemar Engzell attempted to deploy the system after Moutet requested a review following a double-bounce call. The umpire was forced to abandon the attempt however after discovering officials were unable to properly access footage of the incident. “I don’t know how the technology works,” Murray said.

“But it obviously didn’t go to plan in a pretty important moment of the match. So, yeah, it would be good if they could get that fixed.” Meanwhile, China sealed a notable first when Wu Yibing beat Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to join compatriot Zhang Zhizhen in the second round. It is the first time in tennis’s Open era that two Chinese men have reached the second round of the same Grand Slam tournament.

Ailing Jabeur advances

In the women’s draw meanwhile another semi-finalist from 2022 also made an early exit, with French seventh seed Caroline Garcia slumping to a 6-4, 6-1 reverse against Chinese qualifier Wang Yafan. Meanwhile second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, the reigning Australian Open champion, progressed with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Ukraine-born Belgian Maryna Zanevska. The end of the match was tinged with controversy as Zanevska declined to shake hands with Sabalenka in protest at Belarus’s military support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I know I’m representing Belgium but all my family are in Ukraine,” Zanevska told AFP. “I have family fighting on the frontline. And I think if I shake her hand it would be the same as spitting in the face of them.” Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, desperate to land her first Grand Slam title after losing in three major championship finals in 2022 and 2023, survived a medical scare before scraping past Colombia’s Camila Osorio.

The 29-year-old fifth seed looked out of sorts throughout her 7-5, 7-6 (7/4) win, at one stage in the opening set complaining of breathing difficulties before taking an extended medical timeout. Jabeur has played only one tournament since being upset in last month’s Wimbledon final by unseeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova. Vondrousova, seeded ninth in New York, cruised into the second round on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-0 win over South Korean qualifier Han Na-Lae. Third seed Jessica Pegula meanwhile kept home hopes alive with a clinical 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

Venus Williams out

Meanwhile, Venus Williams bowed out of her record-extending 24th US Open at the first hurdle on Tuesday, the seven-time Grand Slam champion losing 6-1, 6-1 to Belgium’s Greet Minnen. The 43-year-old tennis icon was no match for her 26-year-old opponent, who was born just weeks before Williams played her first Grand Slam final at the US Open in 1997. Williams, whose ranking has dipped to 410th in the world, was never in contention against Minnen who dominated all facets of the match for a comfortable win.

In recent years, Williams has tended not to play beyond the US Open at the end of each season. However the American veteran said she might revise those plans after a season that was blown off course by injuries, notably a knee injury suffered at Wimbledon, where she also went out in the first round. “I may reconsider that this year because my year didn’t go the way, in any way, shape or form, that I thought it would go,” Williams said. “I was really getting good momentum into Wimbledon. That fall really kind of threw me for a loop for the summer.”

Oldest man to win

Former US Open champion Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday became the oldest man to win a match at the tournament since 40-year-old Jimmy Connors in 1992. Wawrinka, 38, earned his first win in New York in four years as he beat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 6-4 in the opening round. “I think I’m playing well. I’m not trying to compare from the past because it’s never good idea to compare a few years ago what I was doing,” said Wawrinka, who lifted the US Open trophy in 2016. “But I’m happy with my level. I know where I am right now. I know I can beat some really good players. I can be really competitive. I’m moving well.”

The Swiss goes on to play Argentine 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry, who outlasted Finnish qualifier Otto Virtanen in a fifth-set tie-break. Wawrinka has reached the quarter-finals or better on six occasions at Flushing Meadows, but his win over Nishioka was his first at the event since he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the last eight in 2019. “Last few months have been almost better every week with more win, with more confidence, with what I’m doing,” he said. “Hopefully I can keep pushing myself and get some big results before the end of the year.” – AFP

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