By Laura Amato
The big names survived the opening day of the US Open Monday.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber all notched victories in the first round of the Grand Slam tournament.
Djokovic, the reigning US Open champion, was in the center of the spotlight, competing under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The world No. 1 cruised to a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jerzy Janowicz.
“It does feel like you’ve been illuminated on the court with all these lights and all the show and everything that’s going on,” Djokovic said. “It was wonderful to come back and play a night session that is undoubtedly the most special night session that we have in the sport.”
Nadal, fresh off a strong performance at the Olympic Games in Rio, rolled to a straight-sets victory over Denis Istomin. The two-time Open champ looked fresh, despite his recent schedule, and hardly showed signs of the wrist problems that have dogged him throughout the season.
“My serve worked well almost all the time,” said Nadal, who won his first Grand Slam match in more than three months. “To have the confidence again with my wrist is coming. Every day I feel the wrist is getting better. That’s probably the most important thing.”
Kerber, who has a chance to take over the women’s No. 1 ranking while in Queens, picked up a victory as well, although not in the way she hoped. Kerber was nearly perfect in the opening set, taking a 6-0 win over Polona Hercog, but the match came to an early end when Hercog suffered an injury and was forced to withdraw.
“To be honest, it’s never the way I would like to finish the match, but I went out there to feel my rhythm and start the tournament well,” Kerber said. “I played the first set really good, so this is what I will take from this match, that I’m playing my tennis.”
Kerber advances to take on Mirjana Lucic-Baron in the second round of play and while the Olympic silver medalist isn’t lacking for confidence, she’s also not getting too far ahead of herself. She can accomplish a lot on the court in the next few weeks, but she’s also determined to take everything one set at a time.
“To be No. 1, I think this is a goal for everybody,” Kerber said. “But I will not putting too much pressure on myself like I said a lot of times, because I know that when I put the pressure on I’m not playing my tennis.”
Wozniacki may have had the most challenging match of the day, defeating American qualifier Taylor Townsend 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on the new Grandstand court. The former world No. 1 was happy to get the first win of the tournament under her belt, particularly after a recent string of early-round exits and injuries.
Roberta Vinci, who eliminated Serena Williams in the semifinals of last year’s US Open, also breezed into the second round with a 6-2 6-4 win against Anna-Lena Friedsam.
“It was great to be back here to play on center court first match,” Vinci said. “So just my mind [was] to stay focused and think about every single point. Don’t think about the opponent. Just try to play aggressive.”
Day two of the U.S. Open gets underway at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Venus and Serena Williams will both take the court for their opening-round matches, as will Olympic champion Andy Murray.