Djokovic, who had won only two matches in the hard court run-up
to the season's final grand slam after getting married just days
after his Wimbledon triumph, was back to his best once the center
court spotlight shone on him at Flushing Meadows.
The 2011 champion treated his first-round match against unseeded
22-year-old Argentine Diego Schwartzman like a breezy workout,
dominating in all phases with 24 winners including seven aces in a
6-1 6-2 6-4 rout.
His fast work followed a scintillating finish by French Open
champion and 2006 winner Sharapova, as the fifth seed won 10
straight games to prevail 6-4 6-0 after falling 2-4 behind against
her Russian compatriot and old friend Maria Kirilenko.
Despite the night program starting one hour later than scheduled due
to ceremonies featuring bands, speeches and fireworks, Djokovic
enabled the New York night crowd to head to the exits shortly before
the stroke of midnight.
"I'm very pleased," the Serbian world number one said in a courtside
interview after his 97-minute win. "It's never easy to start a U.S.
Several of the favorites at Flushing Meadows could attest to his
Busy bees made life difficult for two grizzled veterans and a pair
of favorites were forced to work overtime on a hot, steamy day at
the U.S. National Tennis Center that drew a combined 57,000 fans to
the day and night sessions.
Eighth-seeded 2012 champion Andy Murray fought off cramps to beat
Dutchman Robin Haase in four painful sets, while women's second seed
Simona Halep lost an early tiebreak to U.S. debutant Danielle
Collins before claiming victory.
And in an intriguing match-up of 19th seed Venus Williams and Kimiko
Date-Krumm of Japan, the oldest players in the women's draw, some
pesky bees joined in and refused to leave them alone.
Murray appeared on course for an easy victory before he fell victim
to cramps that left him stretching and straining to get comfortable
before clinching a 6-3 7-6 (6) 1-6 7-5 victory over Haase.
"I felt extremely good before the match, and I did train very, very
hard to get ready for the tournament," said Murray, one of the
fittest players on the ATP Tour.
"My quads were cramping, then it started to get to my lats, then my
forearms," he added. "I just tried to hang around and at the end I
was trying to play without moving my legs much and managed to get
Murray said he might consult with a nutritionist before meeting his
second-round opponent, Germany's Matthias Bachinger.
A less serious intrusion hit the irresistible women's clash between
seven-times grand slam singles winner Williams and Japan's
remarkable Date-Krumm, who were beset by bees.
First the 43-year-old Japanese player and later 34-year-old Williams
dipped, ducked and danced away before ballgirls helped usher the
stubborn swarm away from the baseline.
When finally left to play tennis on a sun-bathed Arthur Ashe Stadium
court, Williams stung her opponent 2-6 6-3 6-3 to advance.
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Asked about who presented the peskier test in the two-hour match, two-time
U.S. Open winner Williams said: "The bee was a challenge but easily the
answer is Kimiko."
In an upset on the men's side, twice U.S. Open semi-finalist Mikhail
Youzhny of Russia, the 21st seed, fell to big-serving Australian
teenager Nick Kyrgios 7-5 7-6 (4) 2-6 7-6 (1).
The 19-year-old Kyrgios, who made a Wimbledon splash by ousting Rafa
Nadal in the fourth round to reach the quarter-finals, blasted 26 aces.
The 60th-ranked Kyrgios moved on to a second-round match against Italy's
Advancing with relative ease in straight sets were Australian Open
champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and fifth-seeded Canadian Milos
Raonic, a Wimbledon semi-finalist.
The Swiss third seed beat Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic to set up a
second-round test against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, while big-serving
Raonic defeated Japan's Taro Daniel to get to the next round against
Peter Gojowczyk of Germany.
Halep survived a scare in the tournament's first match on stadium court
before overtaking Collins 6-7 (2) 6-1 6-2.
The 22-year-old Romanian, a French Open finalist, admitted to a bout of
nerves in being thrust onto the big stage as the opening act of the
season's last grand slam.
"She played a tough match, I want to congratulate her," Halep said of
her 20-year-old opponent, who was given a wild card into her first
tour-level event for winning the U.S. collegiate championship.
"The first set I was a little bit nervous. This court is huge.
"I have to enjoy it, but it's not easy. Everybody is telling me I have
chances to win this title."
She moves on to face Slovakian Jana Cepelova, a 2-6 7-5 6-1 winner over
Spain's Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, in the second round of the season's
last grand slam.
Also advancing on the women's side were fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska
of Poland, sixth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, and former world
number one Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, the ninth seed.
(Editing by Frank Pingue and John O'Brien)
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