US Open Round 1 recap: Surprises, upsets and more

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Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts during the first round of the US Open tennis championships against Danka Kovinic, of Montenegro.
Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts during the 1st round of the US Open tennis championships against Danka Kovinic, of Montenegro.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

The 1st round of the US Open wrapped up on Tuesday night, with many dominating performances from the world’s best tennis players, along with several surprises and upsets. 

So what do fans need to know about the opening set of matches? Here’s a list of the Round 1 highlights out of Flushing Meadows: 

Serena Williams cruises to victory

In her final major tournament of her illustrious career, Serena Williams took the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium for a commanding win over Danka Kovinić of Montenegro, 6-3, 6-3 on Monday night.  

“When I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming,” said Williams. “It was loud and I could feel it in my chest. It was a really good feeling. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget…that meant a lot to me.”

Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles since her professional debut in 1995, including 6 victories at the US Open, announced that she would retire from tennis after the tournament, leaving her as the undisputed greatest female player in the sport’s history, with a career 857–154 record.  

At 40 years old, Williams looked stellar in her opening match, where she served up 9 aces against Kovinić and won 41 service points to her opponent’s 28. 

Williams now faces Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, the 2nd-ranked woman in the world on Wednesday. 

Venus Williams falls

Serena’s sister, Venus Williams, was not so lucky in her opening match, as she lost to Belgian-born Alison Van Uytvanc 6–1, 7–6 to end her single’s bid. 

The 1st set was uncharacteristically poor from Venus, as she failed to muster much energy and lost a lopsided opening set. She eventually bounced back and began playing better in the 2nd set, but still lost in a tie-breaker that saw Kovinić win 7 points to Williams’ 5. 

At 42-years-old, Venus has won 7 Grand Slam singles titles, most recently coming during her 2017 victory at the Australian Open. She has not won the US Open since she was victorious in back-to-back years in 2000 and 2001.

Venus will continue to play in the US Open, however, as she will team up with her younger sister for the doubles tournament beginning on Thursday. 

“Right now, I’m just focused on the doubles,” Venus said after the match. 

Rafael Nadal moves on

On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal took the court on Tuesday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and beat Australian-born Rinky Hijikata, 4–6, 6–2, 6–3, 6–3. 

After falling in the 1st set, Nadal took complete control over the 3-hour, 8-minute match. 

“I was able to come back after a tough 1st set,’’ Nadal said. “You have to accept you’re going to suffer.”

“It was a tough match,’’ he added. “I was a little nervous after three years, my 1st match here on the night session. But I think I played better. It was a day to get the job done.’’

He entered the tournament as the 2nd-ranked player, and is searching for his 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title — as he currently sits with 1 more than Novak Djokovic, who has missed the tournament due to his unvaccinated status. 

Naomi Osaka falters, exits after 1 game

Female prodigy Naomi Osaka had a surprise loss in her opening round, and exited the tournament with a disappointing finish. 

Osaka, a Japanese pro, lost her match to American Danielle Collins, after dropping the 1st set in a tie-breaker 7–6, and losing the 2nd set 6–3.

She has won the US Open twice — in 2018 and 2020 — and won the Australian Open 2 times as well, in 2019 and 2021. That gives her 4 Grand Slam victories in her still-young career. 

This marks Osaka’s 2nd consecutive 1st-round exit in a major tournament, as she lost in the opening match at the French Open, before sitting out Wimbledon.

Collins, meanwhile, goes on to face Cristina Bucșa of Spain on Thursday in the 2nd round. 

Sloane Stephens wins in epic comeback

After dropping the 1st set to Belgian-born Greet Minnen 6–1, Sloane Stephens of Florida rallied back to win the final 2 sets 6–3, 6–3 and advance to the 2nd round, where she will face the number-1 ranked female in the world, Iga Świątek of Poland. 

“I was just fighting as hard as I can and with your guys support, you pushed me through, so thank you,” said 29-year-old Stephens, after her win. 

Stephens has won just a single major tournament, when she bested Madison Keys in two sets at the US Open in 2017.

She came into the tournament with sky-high expectations, and after a rocky start, managed to show why she will be a serious contender going forward. 

US Open Matches to watch going forward

Jenson Brooksby vs. Borna Coric, 9/1: American Jenson Brooksby will take on Coriatian Borna Coric on Thursday, which gives the United States a chance to see a hometown hero take on the 25th-ranked player in the world. 

John Isner vs. Holger Rune, 9/1: Another American, John Isner, advanced to the 2nd-round after beating Federico Delbonis in a commanding 3 sets. He will face off against Holger Rune of Denmark, the 28th-ranked player, in his attempt to advance to the 3rd round. 

Rafael Nadal vs. Fabio Fognini, 9/1: The 2nd-ranked Nadal will have his next match against the Italian Fabio Fognini at noon on Thursday. As the Spaniard looks to solidify his place in tennis lore, he will need to overcome his scrappy next opponent on the court of Arthur Ashe Stadium. 

Sloane Stephens vs. Iga Świątek, 9/1: Stephens takes on the number-1 ranked player in the world on Thursday, and is one of the few Americans left on the Women’s side of the tournament. This will be the biggest challenger that former US Open-champion Stephens has faced in some time, and should make for an epic clash. 

Serena Williams and Venus Williams vs. Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova: The Williams sisters will face off against a pair of opponents from the Czech Republic on Thursday in the opening round of the women’s doubles tournament. This will be a chance for fans to see Serena for one of the last times in her professional career, and another opportunity to catch Venus, who was eliminated from the single’s tournament in the 1st round.