The schedule for the opening day of the US Open, the fourth and final major of the season, saw Novak Djokovic make his return to Flushing Meadows following a two-year absence and as a consequence, was expected to be the match of the day as he successfully launched his campaign for a fourth title at the Big Apple and a 24th Grand Slam title to match the record of great Australian, Margaret Court.
I was excited to come out on the court. It’s been a couple of years, and to come out here in front of you guys is always an honour and a pleasure here on Arthur Ashe (Stadium). Novak Djokovic
As the second seed he required just 95-minutes to get past his first-round opponent, Frenchman Alexandre Muller, 6-0 6-2 6-3, a victory which provide him with sufficient ranking points to overtake Carlos Alcaraz at the top of the world rankings in a fortnights time.
As defending champion, Alcaraz is unable to add to his current tally of points as he is defending the 2000 he acquired 12-months ago when his rival was absent.
Djokovic was all over the World No. 84 which didn’t get started until 11-00 pm and took the first eight games to gain complete control of the match which he never relinquished.
“The first set I started tremendously well off the box,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “We started quite late. Obviously, there was a ceremony between matches and I knew that we might have a late start, but nevertheless I was excited to come out on the court. It’s been a couple of years, and to come out here in front of you guys is always an honour and a pleasure here on Arthur Ashe (Stadium).
“I think I could have served [better] in the second and third. I dropped the level of my serve and had to work for my points a bit more, but nevertheless I think I played great from the beginning to the end,” he added. “Some hiccups, but I liked my level and hopefully I can maintain it in the next round as well.”
In the second round Djokovic will face Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, the world No.76 who defeated Ethan Quinn of the States 6-4 6-4 6-3.
“He’s a clay-court specialist but over the years all these guys learn how to play on the hard courts,” said Djokovic looking ahead to his next match. “There’s no easy opponent, obviously I respect everyone. I don’t underestimate anybody and try to give my best. Hopefully I can get another win in a few days.”
While the Serbian icon fulfilled expectations, the major upset of the day was the elimination of the fourth seeded Dane, Holger Rune, who crashed out to Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-2.
The hot-headed young Dane took exception to being shunted out to Court 7, one of the minor courts at Flushing Meadows, tweeting directions to the court!
The 20-year-old later admitted his frustrations at the scheduling, complaining: “As best as you get in the ranking, the more benefits you should get with playing in better conditions.
“So I think that’s a normal way and it’s also how ATP do with all the players. But they didn’t do it with me here.
“That’s obviously disappointing, but I’m not going to blame the court on the loss. He played very, very solid. Credit to him.
“Disappointing day today,” Rune added. “I had, as you know, a setback after the tournaments in Toronto and Cincy, where I had to retire. Not the best preparation I had.
“Not satisfied with the result obviously, but also with my tennis. There is only one way, and it’s to work.
With regard to his tweet, he said: “I just did it kind of for fun. I mean, of course I was a bit not happy when I saw the schedule, butI saw the schedule Friday so I had time to recover from it.
“It’s not like I can’t play tennis if I don’t play on centre court!”
In other action former champion Dominic Thiem, posted his first win at Flushing Meadows since he won the title in 2020.
The 29-year-old Austrian, a former world No 3 who is working his way back up the rankings after a long spell out injured, beat 25th seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan after one-hour and 52-minutes, 6-3 6-2 6-4.
“It’s a pretty special victory, because it’s the first since two-and-a-half years on Grand Slams,” a delighted Thiem said.
“So it’s great. Especially here at the US Open with all the past and all the memories I have here.”
Fifth seed Casper Ruud, last year’s runner-up, dropped a set to American qualifier Emilio Nava but eventually, after three-hours and 17-minutes, battled through 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4 7-6(5).
Two other Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, the respective 9th and 10th seeds, were successful as they launched their individual bids to become the first American male to win a Grand Slam title in 20 years with routine victories. Andy Roddick was the last in 2003.
The top-ranked Americans were hardly tested as Fritz crushed compatriot Steve Johnson 6-2 6-1 6-2 after Tiafoe, in another-all American clash, ousted Learner Tien 6-2 7-5 6-1.
Christopher Eubanks, the 28th seed, joined the group of successful fellow nationals by dismissing South Korean Kwon Soon-wo 6-3 6-4 0-6 6-4.
Stefanos Tsitsipas also had an easy night blowing past Milos Raonic 6-2 6-3 6-4 for his first win over the Canadian in three meetings, breaking the big serving former world No.3 five times.
“It was fun to play high quality tennis against a champion like Milos,” Tsitsipas said in is on court interview. “He’s dealing with a comeback and I knew he had nothing to lose. I had to bring my A game from the very first point. I made it physical, and it worked.”
There were also were some surprising results with Sebastian Korda losing to Marton Fucsovics 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(1) 4-6 6-4 in a four-hour 26-minute battle while Lorenzo Musetti, the Italian 18th seed, crashing out to French qualifier Titouan Droguet 6-3 0-6 6-7(5) 6-3 6-2.
Finally, as many predicted, Mackenzie McDonald of the US took out the 15th seed from Canada, Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(5) 4-6 6-1 6-4.