New York | Wins for Badosa and Azarenka, but Venus and Kenin stumble

Late afternoon in New York on Tuesday brought wins for Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka, but Venus Williams and Sofia Kenin both fell in their openers.

I like that kind of moments. I like the pressure moments when you're like at the limit. I think I try to play my best tennis there and I compete pretty well. So I think that's what's giving me maybe that many tiebreakers, but I don't really know. I don't have the secret key there, to be honest. Paula Badosa

Badosa, the 4th seed from Spain, had scored just a single win over her 3 prior appearances in the US Open main draw, and she was close to another first-round exit at the hands of 2018 US Open quarter-finalist Tsurenko from Ukraine before rallying from behind to win through, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3.

After dropping the opening set, Badosa gritted through a topsy-turvy second on her way to the win, but was unable to serve out the second set at 5-4 and 6-5, until she used her heavy groundstrokes to force long returns from Tsurenko in the tiebreak.

The Ukrainian began to struggle in the toasty conditions as the decider wore on, and Badosa eventually became the sturdier player in the rallies as she squeaked out the victory after two-and-a-half hours.

It became a tough, physical match on Court 17 that demonstrated Badosa’s remarkable resilience.

“I’m happy about the win,” Badosa said afterwards. “I think it was a tough battle there today.

“She played pretty well. I played, depends. First set wasn’t that good, second and third was better. It still took me some time to adapt to the conditions. It was a tricky day today, but I fought until the last point. So that gave me I think the match and I’m really happy.”

32-year old Tsurenko, now ranked 87 in the world, was bidding for her 9th career win over a Top 10 player and her 3rd on the hard courts of New York.

She recently returned to the Top 100 in the WTA rankings after a stretch that saw her drop as low as 141, having reached a career-high of 23 in 2019, and being plagued by a right elbow injury that has limited the effectiveness of her serve, sidelined her from action for months at a time, and often forced her to withdraw or retire from matches.

At her peak, Tsurenko was a top-level counter-puncher with a two-handed backhand to match, and for much of the first 2 hours of Tuesday’s affair, it frustrated the hard-hitting 4th seed into a mounting unforced error count, and the first 2 sets saw 10 service breaks combined between the two players.

Despite holding a one-set lead, Tsurenko couldn’t stretch her edge in the second, responding from a break behind 3 times, but after Badosa won her 13th tiebreak set of the year, it was relatively plain sailing for the Spaniard.

“I like that kind of moments. I like the pressure moments when you’re like at the limit,” Badosa said. “I think I try to play my best tennis there and I compete pretty well.

“So I think that’s what’s giving me maybe that many tiebreakers, but I don’t really know. I don’t have the secret key there, to be honest.”


Victoria Azarenka found a way past 19-year old qualifier Ashlyn Krueger to set up a politically-charged encounter with Marta Kostyuk in round 2

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Meanwhile, Azarenka set up a potentially explosive clash with Marta Kostyuk when the former World No 1 defeated Ashlyn Krueger of the United States, 6-1 4-6 6-2.

Azarenka is from Belarus and Kostyuk is a Ukrainian, who has been very outspoken about the war in her country and the lack of support from Russian and Belarusian players while targeting Azarenka, who sits on the WTA Player Council, for leading the decision to impose penalties on Wimbledon and the LTA for excluding these players from UK events, including The Championships.

It will be a politically-charged grudge match between the two after they both advanced on Tuesday afternoon.

Only last week, Azarenka was axed by the USTA from the Tennis Plays for Peace Exhibition on the eve of the US Open that raised $1.2 million for humanitarian relief in Ukraine, the result of Kostyuk and several Ukraine players speaking out about the Belarusian’s participation.

While Azarenka needed 3 sets, Kostyuk made her way into round 2 with a 7-6(2) 6-4 win over Egypt’s Mayar Sherif.

Azarenka outlasted determined American teenage qualifier Krueger in the last day match on Court 5, which began with the lights on and under slightly cooler temperatures, nearing 8 pm.

She raced to a 6-1, first-set win in just 32 minutes, controlling play with deep, flat groundstrokes off both wings and preventing 18-year old Krueger from winning many free points with her serve.

When Azarenka rolled to a seemingly commanding 3-0 lead in the second, it looked very much like she would cruise to an emphatic victory, but Krueger suddenly raised her level, connecting on big groundstrokes, and snatching the set to level.

In the decider, just the third 3-setter of Krueger’s career, the more experienced Azarenka seized back control with a break of serve for a 4-2 lead, and she broke the American’s serve again, for the 7th time in the match, to claim victory and move on to the 2nd-round.

Azarenka is now 14-1 in 1st-round matches at the US Open, having notched her 43rd win in New York behind Serena and Venus Williams among active players.


Amanda Anisimova played with a broken toe against Yulia Putintseva but succumbed in straight sets on Tuesday

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Kazakstan’s Yulia Putintseva upset 24th-seeded Amanda Anisimova, 6-3 6-3, after which the American announced on social media that she had broken her toe earlier this month in Cincinnati.

“I broke my toe in Cincinnati last week, and I’ve done everything I could to get ready for the Open,” the American wrote in a statement later. “I’m proud of myself for giving myself a chance and playing the whole match.

“Even with getting injections in my foot that hurt more than the actual injury that I’m still recovering from lol.

“I did all of this because I love this sport so much, even though it brings a lot of pain and disappointment.

“I hope I’ll be back stronger next year, and thank you to the crowd that is always the best here in New York. I love playing here.”

A quarter-finalist at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, Anisimova was one of only two players to reach the second week of the first three major tournaments, but withdrew from the Western & Southern Open ahead of her second-round clash with Shelby Rogers.

Putintseva, a quarter-finalist in New York in 2020, eased her way into the match with a steady yet varied baseline game, but took charge after a battling hold brought her to 3-3 in the opening set, which began a run of 5 straight games.

Anisimova was plagued by 36 unforced errors, including 20 in the opening set, and 5 double-faults, while she required a trainer visit in-between sets, during which she had her blood pressure checked.

The American converted on just 1 of her 14 break points in the one-hour, 24-minute contest.

At 3-3 in the second set, Putintseva saved 3 break points in the midst of a marathon, 18-point game, and she followed it up with the set’s only break, aided by two double-faults and an unforced error before the 27-year-old then closed out the match on her serve.


Jule Niemeier took out Sofia Kenin to reach round 2 at Flushing Meadows

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Making her 35th Grand Slam appearance, Putintseva will next face Germany’s Jule Niemeier in round 2, after the German beat Sofia Kenin, another American, 7-6(3) 6-4.

On a blustery night on Grandstand, Niemeir, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist and World No 108, took wild-card and the 2020 Australian Open champion to reach the 2nd-round of the US Open for the first time.

Both are 23 years old, yet are experiencing two very different pathways in their respective careers, with Niemeier continuing to see her game flourish after her breakthrough run at Wimbledon, while Kenin has been plagued by illness and injury.

Strong-serving Niemeier had 8 aces on the day as she toughed out two close sets to topple the former World No 4, coming back from 0-3 down to win 7 points on the trot in the first-set breaker, then gritted out the second set to triumph in just over 2 hours.

Still, Kenin demonstrated more signs that she is stepping back into form after a 5-month absence from the WTA tour before returning earlier in August, finding strong shots down the line at key moments but was ultimately pipped by powerful Niemeier.


Venus Williams was wild-carded into the draw and lost in straight sets to Alison van Uytvanck on Tuesday in New York

© Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

After squaring off with Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck on Tuesday in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Venus Williams has now faced a total of 360 different opponents over the course of her illustrious career.

The 42-year old was making her Open Era record 91st Grand Slam main draw appearance, and so had experience on her side, but the two-time US Open champion could not make it count against the 28-year-old.

Van Uytvanck blazed out of the gates and fought off a heavy push from Williams in the second set, notching up a 6-1 7-6(5) triumph to book her spot in the second round at Flushing Meadows for the second time.

“It’s always an honour to play a legend,” Van Uytvanck told the crowd after her win. “She means so much to women’s tennis—tennis in general—and I was so happy to play her for the first time on Arthur Ashe.

“I really enjoyed it. I had goosebumps when I came onto the court and I’m happy with my performance.”

The Belgian has lost in the first round 7 times in 9 total appearances at the Open, but her first foray to the biggest tennis stadium on the Grand Slam circuit was a successful one, thanks to confidently struck ground strokes, crisp precision at the net, and a strong effort behind her serve, particularly the second offering.

The trademark tenacity of Williams, a 7-time Slam champion, kept her in it deep into the second set, but she could not stop the Belgian down the stretch, and dropped to 21-2 in first-round matches at the US Open.

“I was still finding my space,” Williams said in her post-match press conference. “This is my first major in over a year, so I was finding my space, and my rhythm, and finding myself out there, and getting closer and closer.

“Her level was really incredible today. So credit to her.”

Van Uytvanck said of Williams: “She won so many Grand Slams. I knew she would raise her level and that she would take the energy of the crowd. I tried to stay focused on my own game, and that’s what I did.”

There is still doubles to look forward to for Williams, when she teams up with her sister Serena to make a run for what would be her 15th major doubles title, with action starting later this week in New York.

Van Uytvanck goes on to face French qualifier Clara Burel, who won her first match at the US Open, defeating 25th-seeded Elena Rybakina, 6-4 6-4, earlier on Tuesday.

Asked if she also plans to retire after this tournament, Williams replied that right now ‘she’s just focused on the doubles’, adding that it was Serena’s idea to compete together this year because ‘she’s the boss, so I do whatever she tells me to do’.

in other Tuesday afternoon results, Karolina Pliskova, the Czech No 22 seed, came from 4-1 down in the 3rd set to survive Poland’s Magda Linette, 6-2 4-6 7-6(8), sealing the win in the first super-tiebreak of her singles career, while her compatriot Petra Kvitova, the 21st seed, had an easier time getting past qualifier Erika Andreeva, 7-6(3) 6-0.

Pliskova, a former US Open finalist, has not lost a deciding tiebreak since the 2nd-round of Birmingham in 2019, where she was defeated 6-2 3-6 7-6(7) by twin sister Kristyna.


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