As the rain came tumbling down at Flushing Meadows one could have been forgiven for thinking that we were in the South London suburb of Wimbledon as opposed to the bright lights of New York, and the heavens opening pretty much characterised the first day’s play at the US Open, with only a few matches completed before the rain delay.
Recap on days one and two
Despite the weather on day one, both Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams made short work of their opponents and strolled into the second round, whilst there was one major shock, with British qualifier Dan Evans defeating 11th seed Kei Nishikori. In the men’s tournament, Gasquet, Ferrer and Robredo all won; as generally speaking the seeds went through.
The same was true in the women’s, with Radwanska, Jankovic and Li all enjoying straight sets victories. Perhaps one of the most topsy turvy results of the first round saw Venus Williams overcome 12th seed Kirsten Flipkens with consummate ease; the Belgian only taking three games off the powerful American.
Day two was fairly generic as far as results go, with wins for Federer, Djokovic and Berdych in the men’s half of the tournament. There was however an upset in the women’s half of the draw, as Aussie hope Sam Stosur was beaten by US teenager Victoria Duval. Stosur was the 11th seed and actually won in New York only two years ago, but was nevertheless undone by the 17-year old qualifier. Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Kvitova, Wozniacki and Errani all marched into the second round.
When will the holder start?
Surprisingly for a major tournament, the current holder of the men’s title – Wimbledon champion Andy Murray – has yet to start the defence of the title he won here last year. Murray has been booked to start his campaign against Michael Llodra on Wednesday evening; signifying one of the latest starts for a holder that anyone can think of.
Not only that, but with the forecast for Wednesday night looking decidedly dodgy, there’s a good chance that the Scot will not have completed his match as we head into day 4. This will not help the player who admits that he is likely to be nervous for his first encounter in this year’s tournament.
There is now pressure on Murray in a way that there has never been before. Although he has got the Grand Slam monkey off his back in stylish fashion – clinching both the US Open and Wimbledon – he is now seen as the one to beat rather than just another one of the hopefuls, and this new status will see the public expecting him to win rather than hoping; something that brings significant extra pressure.
The mature way that the Brit coped with the pressure at this year’s Wimbledon indicates that he is up to the challenge; and given how well Murray has played in the last calendar year, you’d have to say that he has got a wonderful chance of going all the way, if only he can get his tournament up and running.
Nadal’s to lose?
The meteoric re-rising of Rafa Nadal has been well documented, but just in case you aren’t aware: Nadal was out of the game for 9 months after a serious injury, and some felt that the Spaniard was unlikely to ever get back to his best. After returning and clinching yet another French Open title, Rafa has been at his rampaging best, and despite the Scot’s best efforts, he has now usurped Andy Murray in the race for number one. During 2013, Nadal has won 53 matches out of a possible 56, and reached the final in all but one of the 12 tournaments he has participated in. He has won 5 Masters 1000 titles in 2013 alone, putting him above Roger Federer in terms of Masters wins. One of the scariest things about Nadal’s form is that the powerhouse – who usually prefers clay – has been at his imperious best on hardcourt; a fact that is prompting many people to suggest that the US Open is his to lose.
Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but it must be said that although Murray is also in great form, few would tip him to topple the Spaniard in New York, and if Murray wishes to retain his title he may be hoping for an upset tantamount to the one in Wimbledon, where Nadal was beaten in the first round. This would open the way for the Scot, who will not fear Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or the rest of the top 10. Nadal however, is a different story.