Day two at the US Open featured a selection of players who in the long term should be fighting for the top honours which many hoped would be sooner rather than later.
When you win matches like this it gives you lots of confidence Andrey Rublev
The match of the day pitched two 21-year-olds who certainly have the talent to topple the Big Three and it was Andrey Rublev who emerged victorious in the NextGen battle as he toppled the Greek eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first match of the day out on Louis Armstrong stadium.
With a steady stream of power off the baseline, the Russian blasted through to the second round with a 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(7) 7-5 victory.
World number 43 Rublev, who two weeks ago earned the biggest win of his career when he beat Roger Federer in the third round at Cincinnati, attacked Tsitsipas from the opening moments with his devastating forehand to break in the opening game, the first of five breaks of serve he was to achieve during the four hour match.
Rublev only knows one way to play, hitting the ball as hard as he can and though his opponent has a more varied game and often attempted to bring him forward, he couldn’t stem the attacks by his Russian opponent.
“Both of us were tired. He started to cramp . . . I was cramping in the match and tried not to show it,” said Rublev. “When you win matches like this it gives you lots of confidence.”
Tsitsipas, whose best showing at a Grand Slam came this year in Australia where he reached the semi-finals, received a coaching warning for his dad’s behaviour early in the third set.
Another time violation in the fourth sparked off Tsitsipas frustration which he took out on the umpire when he wouldn’t allow him extra time on the changeover to change his headband.
In anger he told the umpire Damien Dumusois: “Do whatever you want. For some reason you have something against me. I don’t know what … because you are French probably, and you are all weirdos.”
He also received a point penalty at 3-4 which was rubbing salt in the wound as far as Tsitsipas was concerned a he exited his second consecutive grand slam in the opening round.
Speaking after his loss, Tsitsipas said: “I wish that all the chair umpires were like Mohamed Lahyani because I believe he’s the best out in the game, and we need more like him in tennis because he’s fair to everyone. I feel like some of them have preferences when they are on the court.”
Joining the Greek at the exit were three other players in the world’s top 10, namely Dominic Thiem, Karen Khachanov and Roberto Bautista Agut which no doubt, will ease Rafa Nadal’s progress through the field with Nick Kyrgios being his greatest threat.
Two-time French Open runner-up Thiem was upset by Italian giant-killer Thomas Fabbiano 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2, as the Austrian slumped to another first-round exit, having lost at the same stage at Wimbledon.
“I got very tired and exhausted after two sets. I’m far away from 100 percent,” Thiem said. “It was not the real me there on the court.”
Russian ninth seed Khachanov lost to Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in five sets 4-6 7-5 7-5 4-6 6-3 with 10th seed Bautista Agut of Spain succumbing in similar fashion to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, 3-6 6-1 6-4 3-6 6-3.
The beneficiary of these events is of course, the second seed Rafa Nadal who inflicted a swift defeat on John Millman as the US Open champion of 2010, 2013 and 2017 swept past the Aussie 6-3 6-2 6-2 in barely two hours on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“The beginning, the first match, is always a little bit new even if I’ve played here plenty of times,” said Nadal, who meets Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis next. “I think I played well and in general (I) am very happy with the way I started.
“He (Millman) showed last year what he’s able to do when he’s doing well and I came on court with a lot of respect.”
Alexander Zverev, seeded sixth, battled into the second round by defeating Moldova’s Radu Albot 6-1 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-2, while Marin Cilic, the 2014 champion, advanced in straight sets over Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, 6-3 6-2 7-6(6).