NEW YORK: Iga Swiatek launched the defence of her US Open crown with an emphatic opening victory on Monday as Novak Djokovic eyed a return to the top of the men’s world rankings on his long-awaited return to the tournament.
Swiatek, bidding to become the first woman to successfully defend the US Open title since Serena Williams won a hattrick of titles from 2012-2014, needed less than an hour to defeat Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson 6-0, 6-1.
The 22-year-old world No 1 from Poland overwhelmed her opponent with five breaks of serve and 20 winners to complete victory in just 58 minutes at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I wanted to start the tournament with everything I was focusing on. I was happy to play a great game, with all the pressure and expectations I was happy on the court,” said Swiatek after her win.
Swiatek, targeting her fifth Grand Slam title, will face Daria Saville of Australia in round two.
While Swiatek advanced safely, there was no such luck for Greece’s eighth seed Maria Sakkari, who became the highest-ranked casualty of early round action, beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Spain’s Rebeka Masarova, ranked 71st in the world.
Eighteenth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was among the first women to book their place in the second round, swatting aside French wildcard entrant Fiona Ferro 6-1, 6-2 in early play on Monday.
Tenth seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic also made it safely through, blowing away Australia’s Storm Hunter 6-4, 6-0 in 1hr 5mins.
Elsewhere in the women’s draw on Monday, US teenager Coco Gauff takes centre stage with a night game against German qualifier Laura Siegemund, looking for a breakthrough first major win.
The 19-year-old American arrives in New York in blistering form after winning titles in Washington and Cincinnati.
In the men’s draw, meanwhile, all eyes will be on Novak Djokovic as the Serbian star returns to the US Open for the first time since his defeat in the 2021 final.
Djokovic, chasing a record-extending 24th Grand Slam singles title in New York, opens his campaign with a night game in Arthur Ashe’s main arena, knowing that a victory will propel him back to world No 1.
The 36-year-old, whose refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 prevented him from playing in the 2022 tournament, faces France’s world No 84 Alexandre Muller later on Monday.
A victory will guarantee Djokovic returns to the top of tennis’s global rankings, regardless of how the rest of the US Open fortnight pans out.
Djokovic needs just 20 points to regain the No 1 ranking after defeating current No 1 and defending US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz in the Cincinnati Open earlier this month.
Alcaraz, who defeated Djokovic in a five-set Wimbledon final classic in July, opens his US Open campaign on Tuesday.
In early action in the men’s draw on Monday, 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem ended a miserable sequence of six consecutive first-round exits at Grand Slam tournaments by defeating 25th seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in straight sets.
Thiem, whose career has been blown off course by wrist and knee injuries since his lone Grand Slam win three years ago, won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
“It took time to get my confidence back in my wrist, now I am back on track,” a delighted Thiem said in an on-court interview.
“I feel the game is back in place and a straight-set victory today I couldn’t be happier.”
In other men’s matches on Monday, American 10th seed Frances Tiafoe and ninth seed Taylor Fritz open their campaign dreaming of ending the host nation’s two-decade-long wait for a Grand Slam title.
No American man has won a Grand Slam singles crown since Andy Roddick lifted the 2003 US Open.
Tiafoe takes on compatriot Learner Tien, while Fritz faces Steve Johnson in another all-American match-up.