With the sight of Petra Kvitova crashing out fresh in her memory Maria Sharapova took to the court against British teenager Heather Watson hoping that she could curb the early seed rot on day one.
The 2006 US Open winner looked all at sea throughout much of the first set as the 19-year-old from Guernsey refused to be intimidated by Sharapova’s heavy hitting and incessant shrieking.
Watson went in to this match ranked 100 places below Sharapova on the WTA Tour but you wouldn’t have been able to tell as the 2009 Junior US Open winner took the game to her opponent.
She went stroke for stroke from the baseline and chased every ball Sharapova tried to pull her out of position with. At her first opportunity she broke the tournament’s second favourite to love and the hush of surprise surrounding the court soon turned to cheers for the Briton.
Sharapova broke straight back, but the first of a series of terrible double faults handed Watson the initiative and she didn’t let it go again on her way to taking the first set.
She broke again at the start of the second, but Sharapova broke straight back again and the fighting spirit that has embodied the world No.4 over the past 18 months through her injury and form problems clicked back in to gear and she began to take control of the set.
Watson pulled back to parity, and eventually took Sharapova to 5-5, but the Russian’s class began to shine through and she eventually took the set 7-5.
From there on she began to assert her dominance and, other than a few wobbles, eventually saw out the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to secure her place in round two.
“I had a lot of fun today,” Watson said of her Arthur Ashe Stadium debut afterwards. “It’s what I want to do. I want to be out there on the big courts playing the top players. It was a really great match, very competitive. We played some really great tennis.
“I had my chances in the second set. You have to create the opportunity but also execute, and I was probably a bit too defensive on those important points,” she admitted.
Roger Federer also secured safe passage to the second round with victory over Columbia’s Santiago Giraldo, but not without an early scare.
At 5-1 in the first he looked set to dominate but then he let a double-break lead slip before eventually seeing it out.
If he fails to win here it will be the first time he has gone through a calendar year without lifting a Grand Slam since 2002 and the pressure appeared to show a few signs of rearing its ugly head through his post match grumbles about the courts that followed his 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win.
“It’s just unfortunate maybe that all the slams are too equal,” he said afterwards. “This should feel very different to the Australian Open and it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s really what tennis needs.”
However, another seed to bite the day one dust was Serbia’s Viktor Troicki as the fifteenth- seeded star crashed out 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 to Alejandro Falla.
There were easy wins for Kevin Anderson, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Radek Stepanek, Marcel Granollers and Gael Monfils in the men’s draw, while Agnieszka Radwanska had the painful task of defeating her sister Ursula in round one of the women’s tournament. She will be joined in round two by the likes of Lucie Safarova, Venus Williams, Flavia Pennetta and Marion Bartoli.