US Open Day 2 | Ostapenko ousts Arruabarrena under the roof
On a day blighted by rain, pundits blessed the USTA for deciding to put a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
By around midday on Tuesday, play was suspended on all courts except Ashe and, a few hours later, everyone was let go as no further match play was possible.
Everyone, that is, other than Jelena Ostapenko, the French Champion, and Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena Vencino, who were locked at set all with the Latvian leading 3-1 when the rain arrived in earnest.
Today, it was advantage for me to finish the match under the roof because the court is kind of faster. I finished great those….three games. I always love to play on the big courts. I really enjoy to play in front of crowd. That’s I think one of the dreams of all tennis players, to play on a big court.
The first set I played really well, and the second set I stepped back a little bit.
She played well, then we had to wait not the whole day but couple of hours if we have to play or not.Jelena Ostapenko
They were the back-up act for the packed crowd watching Rafael Nadal survive a slippery start against Dusan Lajovic, from Serbia.
That could have gone on for hours but the World No 1 steadied himself to take it 7-6(6) 6- 6-2 and the women were on.
Out on Court 17, Ostapenko had struggled with her range in a match plagued by stoppage.
Seeded 12th, Ostapenko overpowered her Spanish opponent in the opener, blasting 16 winners to counteract her 15 unforced errors, as Arruabarrena was unable to fire one winner past the Latvian’s defences in the set.
The Latvian’s offensive onslaught floundered in the second, and Arruabarrena pounced, breaking serve three times as Ostapenko’s first serve percentage dipped under 30 percent.
The world No 60 stroked away 8 winners to just 6 unforced errors to send the match into a decider, as she looked to win a match at the US Open for the first time since her tournament main draw debut in 2012.
A brief drizzle with the Spaniard leading 5-1 in the second set proved to be a harbinger of things to come, and the players contested five more games before they were ushered off court for a second delay, which lasted more than five hours with the French Open champion leading 3-1 in the final set.
With her Arthur Ashe Stadium debut coming out of necessity, Ostapenko hardly missed a beat under the roof, blitzing through the final three games with the loss of just two points to punch her ticket into the second round, 6-2 1-6 6-1.
“Today, it was advantage for me to finish the match under the roof because the court is kind of faster,” she said.
“I finished great those….three games. I always love to play on the big courts. I really enjoy to play in front of crowd. That’s I think one of the dreams of all tennis players, to play on a big court.
“The first set I played really well, and the second set I stepped back a little bit.
“She played well, then we had to wait not the whole day but couple of hours if we have to play or not.
“I didn’t really know what to do, should I warm up or should I go back to hotel.
“When Rafa [Nadal] finished…we went on court and played a match. I’m really happy that I could have a chance to play on a big court.”
The 20-year-old had backed up her stunning first Grand Slam title in Paris with a run to the last eight at Wimbledon, where she lost to runner-up Venus Williams, but has since struggled to find her form during the summer season and the US Open Series.
Earlier in the day on Ashe, another pretender of the eight to the No 1 crown fell at the first hurdle when Angelique Kerber, the defended champion, followed Simona Halep and Johanna Konta out of the tournament.
The former No 1 and 6th seed was routed in her opening match at the US Open by Japan’s Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-1.
“Moving forward, I feel like I know that I can play with the top players now, so I don’t have to be as nervous as I was today,” Osaka said.
For Kerber it was the continuation of a down season under the weight of achieving the top ranking last year.
“She’s a very aggressive player, but I know this before,” said Kerber, who will now drop out of the Top 10.
“She served very well and was going for it. Yeah, she played a very good match from the beginning.”
Current world No 1 Karolina Pliskova also got her first-round match in, defeating Poland’s Magda Linette 6-2 6-1 on Ashe.
“Was expecting a little bit tougher than it was, but was a little bit nervous this morning before the match,” Pliskova said.
“I think serve could be better, but overall, I think it was solid.”
The only other seeded winners on Day 2 were No 15 Madison Keys and No. 23 Barbora Strycova.
Keys moved into the US Open’s second round by beating Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3 7-6 (6) in the night session with the roof still closed on Ashe.
Born in Illinois and based in Florida, Keys had a bit of trouble closing things out against the 39th-ranked Mertens.
She was broken while serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set and in the ensuing tiebreaker, the American trailed 6-5, meaning Mertens was one point from forcing a third set.
Keys delivered a big forehand that forced a backhand error, starting a three-point run that ended her victory.
In all, Keys compiled a 32-9 edge in total winners.
She showed no signs of any lingering problems with her left wrist, which was operated on during the off season, forcing her off the tour for the first two months of 2017, after which she endured a second procedure on that arm after a second-round exit at the French Open.
Keys reached the US Open’s fourth round in each of the past two years, with her best Grand Slam showing being a semi-final appearance at the 2015 Australian Open.
Confidence is building in the 22-year-old American, who was equally effective attacking the net – converting 18 of 27 net point opportunities – as she was from the baseline.
Keys finished with 32 winners, including five aces.
“I’m really happy that I got it done in straight sets,” she said.
“I guess I had time to add a bit of drama to the match, but glad I didn’t add too much!
“Truly it was the loudest court I’ve ever played on in my life. I’m assuming it had to do with the roof just holding all of that noise in.
“It took a while to get used to it. But then it kind of just seemed — like if it became silent all of a sudden, it probably would have felt really weird.”
It was an echo of Nadal’s complaint earlier in the day when he told reporters: “Being honest, it [the noise] is a little bit too much…
“The energy and support of the crowd is massive. I enjoy it and I have unforgettable memories from this tournament and this court, because the energy is different from in other places.
“But at the same time, under the roof, it’s too much noise.
“I was not able to hear the ball when hitting. I understand it’s a show, but under the roof we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise. All the noise stays inside, and this is difficult.”
With torrential rain lashing the Flushing Meadows site, the roof on the showpiece Arthur Ashe stadium was shut tight, creating a giant echo-chamber for the boisterous crowd of 24,000 beneath.
Nadal’s complaints echoed similar concerns made by Andy Murray last year when the huge $150 million roof over the world’s biggest Tennis stadium was rolled into action for the first time.
Murray, the 2012 champion, claimed that when the rain was bouncing off the outside of the roof, it was impossible to hear line calls inside.
Women’s matches to look for on Wednesday on the rain-backed-up schedule include (WC) Maria Sharapova vs. Timea Babos, (9) Venus Williams vs. Oceane Dodin, (20) CoCo Vandeweghe vs. Alison Riske in an all-American, (5) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Ekaterina Makarova in an upset alert, (11) Dominika Cibulkova vs. Sloane Stephens, and (13) Petra Kvitova vs. Alize Cornet.