Djokovic tops teen Rune to launch calendar Slam quest

Published September 2, 2021
AN OVERVIEW shows the Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open men’s singles first-round match between Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (bottom) and Holger Rune of Denmark at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.—AFP
AN OVERVIEW shows the Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open men’s singles first-round match between Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (bottom) and Holger Rune of Denmark at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.—AFP

NEW YORK: If the last-name chorus of “Ruuuuuune!” in support of his relatively unknown teenage opponent at the US Open bothered Novak Djokovic, he never let anyone know.

Nor was there any visible evidence that Djokovic was shaken by the shaky patches he went through while dropping a set Tuesday night as he began his historic bid to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969 and collect a record-breaking 21st major singles championship.

Djokovic was not perfect, “It wasn’t the best of my performances,” he acknowledged but he didn’t need to be. All he needed to do was win, and he did, just as he’s done every time he’s played a Grand Slam match this season, whether on the hard courts of the Australian Open, the red clay of the French Open, the grass of Wimbledon or, now, the first of what he hopes will be seven times on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows.

Quickly regaining control after a second-set blip, then wearing down his cramping foe, Djokovic beat Danish qualifier Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-1 to reach the second round.

“I mean, obviously you always wish to have crowd behind you, but it’s not always possible. That’s all I can say. I mean, I don’t know; I’ve been focusing on myself and what I need to do,” said Djokovic, who next faces Tallon Griekspoor, a 25-year-old from Netherlands ranked 121st who got into the field when Roger Federer pulled out. “I guess I have to just see how it feels on the court and try to keep it together. That’s all I can do.”

Rune, ranked 145th, began cramping in the third set and struggled to finish.

“From the third or fourth game in the third set, he couldn’t move much,” Djokovic said. “You could see he struggled a lot. I feel for him.” Djokovic won the first set in 26 minutes without facing a break point, fell behind 3-0 to start the second before battling into the tie-breaker, where Rune grabbed leads of 4-0 and 6-3. After two Djokovic service winners, he sent a backhand service return long to drop the set.

In the third set, Djokovic broke to lead 3-1 and Rune began getting treatments between games, grimacing at times and struggling to run for shots to the end.

Afterwards, 2019 US Open women’s champion Bianca Andreescu closed out the first round by edging Viktorija Golubic 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in a match that ended at 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

Andreescu needed a visit from a trainer in the second set because of stomach issues, but she improved to 8-0 at a tournament she won on her debut two years ago, then missed last year because of injury.

“My food was just, like, rumbling in my stomach, and I just felt like I had to throw up,” said Andreescu, a 21-year-old from Canada who is seeded sixth. “Just super nauseous, which was super random.”

Earlier on Day Two, the top-seeded woman, Ash Barty, made a successful return to the site of one of the two Grand Slam tournaments she has yet to win.

The biggest holdup for Barty during her 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) victory over 2010 US Open runner-up Vera Zvonareva came early in the first set. There was a delay of more than five minutes because the Hawk-Eye Live electronic line-calling system went down when a TV camera wasn’t working.

“Just needed to make sure all cameras were spot on, and just, I think, plug one back in,” said Barty, the champion at the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon this July but never past the fourth round at the US Open, “and we were all right to go.”

The 25-year-old Australian next faces Denmark’s Clara Tauson as she goes for her sixth title of the year.

Pablo Carreno Busta, was a surprise first-round loser Tuesday. He was eliminated 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) by Maxime Cressy, a Paris-born American ranked 151st. Cressy played college tennis at UCLA, as did Mackie McDonald, the American who defeated 27th seed David Goffin in straight sets.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, eliminated Italy’s 113th-ranked Salvatore Caruso 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3. He next plays McDonald with Djokovic a possible third-round opponent.

Tokyo Olympic champion Alexander Zverev stretched his win streak to 12 matches and warned he has his eyes on denying Djokovic the Slam.

Fourth seed Zverev, who beat Djokovic in an Olympic semi-final, dispatched American Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

“I hope in two weeks’ time I’ll be on an 18-match winning streak,” said Zverev, who would claim his first Grand Slam title if he creates such a run.

Italian sixth seed and Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, a 2019 US Open semi-finalist, defeated France’s Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (9-7), 6-3.

Tuesday’s results (prefix number denotes seeding):

Men’s singles:

First round: 1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) bt Holger Rune (Denmark) 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-1; Tallon Griekspoor (Netherlands) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (Germany) 2-6, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-4, 7-5; Kei Nishikori (Japan) bt Salvatore Caruso (Italy) 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3; Mackenzie McDonald (US) bt 27-David Goffin (Belgium) 6-2, 7-5, 6-3; 21-Aslan Karatsev (Russia) bt Jaume Munar (Spain) 7-5, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2; Jordan Thompson (Australia) bt Gianluca Mager (Italy) 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3); Jenson Brooksby (US) bt Mikael Ymer (Sweden) 7-5, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3; Taylor Fritz (US) bt 14-Alex de Minaur (Australia) 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 1-6, 6-4; 10-Hubert Hurkacz (Poland) bt Egor Gerasimov (Belarus) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3; Andreas Seppi (Italy) bt Marton Fucsovics (Hungary) 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (15-13); Denis Kudla (US) bt Laslo Djere (Serbia) 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4); Oscar Otte (Germany) bt 20-Lorenzo Sonego (Italy) 6-7 (8-10), 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-1); Vasek Pospisil (Canada) bt 28-Fabio Fognini (Italy) 2-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); Ilya Ivashka (Belarus) bt Tennys Sandgren (US) 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-4; Corentin Moutet (France) bt Stefano Travaglia (Italy) 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3); 6-Matteo Berrettini (Italy) bt Jeremy Chardy (France) 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (9-7), 6-3; 4-Alexander Zverev (Germany) bt Sam Querrey (US) 6-4, 7-5, 6-2; Albert Ramos (Spain) bt Lucas Pouille (France) 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4; Jack Sock (US) bt Yoshihito Nishioka (Japan) 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4, 6-2; 31-Alexander Bublik (Kazakhstan) bt Yannick Hanfmann (Germany) 6-0, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1; 17-Gael Monfils (France) bt Federico Coria (Argentina) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; Steve Johnson (US) bt Maximilian Marterer (Germany) 5-7, 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (10-8), 6-3; Zachary Svajda (US) bt Marco Cecchinato (Italy) 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4; 13-Jannik Sinner (Italy) bt Max Purcell (Australia) 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2; Maxime Cressy (US) bt 9-Pablo Carreno-Busta (Spain) 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7); Nikoloz Basilashvili (Georgia) bt Sebastian Korda (US) 6-2, 2-1 — Korda retired; Lorenzo Musetti (Italy) bt Emilio Nava (US) 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3; 22-Reilly Opelka (US) bt Kwon Soon-woo (South Korea) 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-4; Lloyd Harris (South Africa) bt 25-Karen Khachanov (Russia) 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2; Ernesto Escobedo (US) bt Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) 6-1, 6-3, 6-1; Roberto Carballes (Spain) bt Tommy Paul (US) 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 1-6, 6-3; 7-Denis Shapovalov (Canada) bt Federico Del Bonis (Argentina) 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

Women’s singles:

First round: 1-Ashleigh Barty (Australia) bt Vera Zvonareva (Russia) 6-1, 7-6 (9-7); Clara Tauson (Denmark) bt Clara Burel (France) 7-5, 6-0; Shelby Rogers (US) bt Madison Brengle (US) 6-4, 6-0; Sorana Cirstea (Romania) bt 29-Veronika Kudermetova (Russia) 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-0; Sara Sorribes (Spain) bt 22-Karolina Muchova (Czech Republic) 6-2, 7-6 (7-3); Hsieh Su-wei (Taiwan) bt Claire Liu (US) 6-1, 6-4; Zhang Shuai (China) bt Hailey Baptiste (US) 6-3, 6-4; Emma Raducanu (Great Britain) bt Stefanie Voegele (Switzerland) 6-2, 6-3; 11-Belinda Bencic (Switzerland) bt Arantxa Rus (Netherlands) 6-4, 6-4; Martina Trevisan (Italy) bt Coco Vandeweghe (US) 6-1, 7-5; Misaki Doi (Japan) bt Storm Sanders (Australia) 7-6 (7-3), 6-3; 23-Jessica Pegula (US) bt Anastasia Potapova (Russia) 6-2, 6-2; 28-Anett Kontaveit (Estonia) bt Samantha Stosur (Australia) 6-3, 6-0; Jil Teichmann (Switzerland) bt Cristina Bucsa (Spain) 6-3, 6-4; Fiona Ferro (France) bt Nao Hibino (Japan) 6-1, 6-4; 7-Iga Swiatek (Poland) bt Jamie Loeb (US) 6-3, 6-4; 4-Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) bt Caty McNally (US) 6-3, 6-4; Amanda Anisimova (US) bt Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 7-5, 6-2; Ajla Tomljanovic (Australia) bt Katie Volynets (US) 6-3, 6-1; 30-Petra Martic (Croatia) bt Dalma Galfi (Hungary) 6-3, 6-2; 24-Paula Badosa (Spain) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (Belgium) 6-4, 6-3; Varvara Gracheva (Russia) bt Nuria Parrizas-Diaz (Spain) 5-7, 6-0, 6-2; Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (Slovakia) bt Ashlyn Krueger (US) 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3; 14-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia) bt Alison Riske (US) 6-4, 6-2; 10-Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) bt Polona Hercog (Slovenia) 6-1, 6-2; Kristina Pliskova (Czech Republic) bt Danka Kovinic (Montenegro) 6-4, 6-3; Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) bt Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia) 7-6 (8-6), 6-3; 17-Maria Sakkari (Greece) bt Marta Kostyuk (Ukraine) 6-4, 6-3; Greet Minnen (Belgium) bt Nadia Podoroska (Argentina) 6-4, 1-6, 6-3; Liudmila Samsonova (Russia) bt Katie Boulter (Great Britain) 6-3, 6-2; Lauren Davis (US) bt Viktoriya Tomova (Bulgaria) 6-2, 2-6, 6-3; 6-Bianca Andreescu (Canada) bt Viktorija Golubic (Switzerland) 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2021

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