Swiatek off the mark as Djokovic eyes No.1 at US Open

Poland's Iga Swiatek powered into the second round of the US Open with a straight sets victory against <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/sweden-women/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Sweden;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Sweden</a>'s Rebecca Peterson (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
Poland’s Iga Swiatek powered into the second round of the US Open with a straight sets victory against Sweden‘s Rebecca Peterson (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Iga Swiatek launched the defence of her US Open crown with an emphatic opening victory on Monday as Novak Djokovic eyed a return to the top of the men’s world rankings on his long-awaited return to the tournament.

Swiatek, bidding to become the first woman to successfully defend the US Open title since Serena Williams won a hat-trick of titles from 2012-2014, needed less than an hour to defeat Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson 6-0, 6-1.

The 22-year-old world number one from Poland overwhelmed her opponent with five breaks of serve and 20 winners to complete victory in just 58 minutes on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I wanted to start the tournament with everything I was focusing on. I was happy to play a great game, with all the pressure and expectations I was happy on the court,” said Swiatek after her win.

Swiatek, targeting her fifth Grand Slam title, will face Daria Saville of Australia in round two.

While Swiatek advanced safely, there was no such luck for Greece’s eighth seed Maria Sakkari, who became the highest ranked early casualty, beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Spain‘s Rebeka Masarova, ranked 71st in the world.

Kazakhstan’s fourth seed Elena Rybakina was an easy winner over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, cruising through to the second round with a 6-2, 6-1 victory in 1hr 27min.

Eighteenth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was among the first women to book their place in the second round, swatting aside French wild card entrant Fiona Ferro 6-1, 6-2.

Tenth seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic also made it safely through, blowing away Australia’s Storm Hunter 6-4, 6-0 in 1hr 5min.

Elsewhere in the women’s draw on Monday, US teenager Coco Gauff — tipped by many as one of the tournament favourites — takes centre-stage with a night game against German qualifier Laura Siegemund.

– Djokovic eyes No.1 –

In the men’s draw meanwhile, all eyes will be on Djokovic as the Serbian star returns to the US Open for the first time since his defeat in the 2021 final.

Djokovic, chasing a record-extending 24th Grand Slam singles title in New York, opens his campaign with a night game on the Arthur Ashe main arena knowing that a victory will propel him back to world number one.

The 36-year-old, whose refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 prevented him from playing in the 2022 tournament, faces France‘s world number 84 Alexandre Muller later Monday.

A victory will guarantee Djokovic returns to the top of tennis’s global rankings, regardless of how the rest of the US Open fortnight pans out.

Djokovic needs just 20 points to regain the No.1 ranking after defeating current No.1 and defending US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz in the Cincinnati Open earlier this month.

Alcaraz, who defeated Djokovic in a five-set Wimbledon final classic in July, opens his US Open campaign on Tuesday.

Djokovic’s route to a potential final meeting with Alcaraz was made easier on Monday as Danish fourth seed Holger Rune was stunned in four sets by Spanish journeyman Roberto Carballes Baena, a clay-court specialist ranked 63rd in the world.

Carballes Baena punished an error-strewn display by Rune to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 2hr 42min.

Last year’s US Open runner-up, Norway‘s fifth seed Casper Ruud, reached the second round with a battling 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) defeat of Emilio Nava of the United States.

Elsewhere, 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem ended a miserable sequence of six consecutive first round exits at Grand Slam tournaments by defeating 25th seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in straight sets.

Thiem, whose career has been blown off course by wrist and knee injuries since his lone Grand Slam win three years ago, won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

“It took time to get my confidence back in my wrist, now I am back on track,” a delighted Thiem said in an on-court interview.

“I feel the game is back in place and a straight set victory today – I couldn’t be happier.”

In other men’s matches, American 10th seed Frances Tiafoe advanced with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 win over compatriot Learner Tien, while ninth seed Taylor Fritz swatted Steve Johnson 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in another all-American clash.

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