Having sat and watched Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all progress over the first two days, world number four Andy Murray finally got his 2011 US Open underway with a straight sets win over world number 64 Somdev Devvarman.
The first set didn’t go swimmingly for the Scot and switched hands over its 70-minute duration. Trailing 2-4, his unforced error count was slowly rising towards its final tally of 44, but in the New York heat he began to find his feet and turn it around.
He took Devvarman to a tie-break, won it to five, and then overpowered the 26-year-old Indian throughout the remainder of his 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3 win.
“He’s very solid,” Murray said of his opponent afterwards. “I’ve seen a little bit of him before. I watched a few videos of him the last couple of days just to see what his game was like.
“He doesn’t give you many free points, especially early on in the match. You have to get him to work hard before he starts making mistakes.”
2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro continued his winning streak at the event in his first match back at Flushing Meadows since that famous victory over Federer as he missed last year through injury.
He strolled past Italy’s Filippo Volandri 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 to take his place in the second round while barely breaking a sweat. He dropped just 11 points on serve and hit 18 aces as he secured victory in just 88 minutes, the entire match taking just 18 minutes longer than the first set of the Murray-Devvarman encounter.
“I feel really glad,” said the Argentine afterwards. “[It] was a short match, but I served well. I was improving my game during the match. It’s my favourite tournament, so I’m really happy to take the opportunity to play here again. I’m feeling really glad to see the crowd again, to see the Argentinean fans come to see me specially play here [at] the US Open.”
Elsewhere, tenth seed Nicolas Almagro is out after losing his opening round match to French world number 97 Julien Benneteau.
It was the pair’s first meeting for three and a half years, and Almagro made 41 unforced errors and took just one of the 13 break points he earned as he crashed out 2-6, 4-6, 3-6 in one of the round’s biggest surprises.
Sixth seed Robin Soderling is also out of the Open, but due to illness. The incredible run of retirements at this year’s tournament continued as Soderling was replaced by lucky loser Rogerio Dutra Da Silva, who then progressed to round two as his opponent, world number 618 Louk Sorensen of Ireland, then retired during their match through injury whilst trailing 0-6, 6-3, 4-6, 0-1.
Americans had something to cheer on the day too as Andy Roddick progressed to round two, albeit via a messy 6-2, 6-4, 4-6 7-5 win over compatriot Michael Russell. John Isner had earlier overcome Greece’s Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in four sets.
In the women’s draw, the 2011 US Open continued its seedings Russian roulette as another two potentials for the latter stages crashed out in round two, albeit for different reasons.
Number eight seed Marion Bartoli of France was ousted by 19-year-old American Christina McHale, despite leading the first set 5-3. McHale recovered, much to the delight of the New York crowd, and sealed a 7-6(2), 6-2 win that would have disappointed Bartoli with the way she let the second set pass her by without a fight.
McHale showed little sign of nerves, and the powerful ace she sent down on match point was a good vindication of her approach to the match.
“I couldn’t play any sloppy games. I had to compete really hard in the second set because I knew she was going to try even harder because she lost the first,” McHale, the youngest player in the Top 100, said afterwards. “When it went from 3-0 to 3-2 in the second set I was like, ‘C’mon Christina, don’t let it get back to 3-all.’ That game was a big game.”
But the day wasn’t as rosy for another American star. Venus Williams was forced to pull out of her second round match with Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome.
The 2000 and 2001 winner is suffering with the illness that causes fatigue and joint pain and can affect the body’s ability to create tears and saliva, raising questions over an athlete’s ability to stay hydrated during exercise.
“I have been recently diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome,” she said. “It is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain.
“I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and I am now focussed on getting better and returning to the court soon.”
The illness forced her to pull out of the warm-up events at Cincinnati and Toronto and it is unclear when she will be able to make a sustained return to the tour, having not been seen in action since Wimbledon before the US Open began.
Elsewhere, Maria Sharapova kept up her imperious record in US Open night matches as she powered past Belarusian Anastasiya Yakimova 6-1, 6-1 last night.
The third seed had struggled in her opening round victory over Heather Watson on Monday but the cobwebs looked well and truly dusted off during this one.
“I played a pretty tricky opponent tonight who didn’t play the typical kind of tennis. [She] sliced a lot, [played] a lot of high balls. Maybe the first couple of games I was a little bit impatient,” Sharapova said. “Then I got really steady. I was aggressive. I still felt I could have moved in a little bit more, but overall I played solid.”
The win moves her to a career-record of 14-0 in night matches, and 13-0 in night matches on Arthur Ashe Court.
Her compatriot Vera Zvonareva is also through, but the number two seed was given a much more torrid time by Kateryna Bondarenko.
“It was a good test for me,” she said after a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win. “I don’t think I played my best tennis but I managed to get through this one, and now I have another chance to go out there again and try to do a little bit better.”
Other seeds to safely make it through to the third round include Sam Stosur, Peng Shuai, Julia Goerges, Maria Kirilenko and Lucie Safarova.