The U.S. Open welcomed fans back for the first time since 2019 as Day One of the crown jewel of American tennis started in warm and sunny weather at Flushing Meadows on Monday at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka began her title defense to kick off the primetime session on Arthur Ashe Stadium, while Russian Daniil Medvedev, the runner-up in 2019, faced France’s Richard Gasquet.
In early action, former champion Sloane Stephens took down fellow American Madison Keys in straight sets, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (9-7) to start the tournament off on a dramatic note — especially for stateside supporters. The meeting between the two Americans was a rematch of the 2017 US Open final, which Stephens won.
It was a return to normalcy, as she embraced seeing friends and family back in the stands in Queens.
“It’s been a really difficult 18 months for us,” she noted after the match. “Everyone’s going through something and it’s a struggle. I think my tennis is my outlet. It’s where I can go and I can compete and I can just be myself and be free.’
Britain’s three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray — who tumbled down to No. 118 in the world rankings and gained entry into the qualifying field of the US Open via an invite — was greeted harshly into the main draw by world No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who is bidding for his maiden major title.
The year’s final Grand Slam has been stripped of some of the sport’s marquee names, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams injured, but still promises to be a major draw after playing to empty stands a year ago, as Novak Djokovic bids to complete the calendar-year slam.
The Serb needs a New York triumph to become the third man, and first since Rod Laver in 1969, to accomplish the feat.
Fans were required to bring proof of their COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter the facility, after a change in policy was announced on Friday.
Additional reporting was supplied by Joe Pantorno