NEW YORK - Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki made winning returns to the U.S. Open, while women’s world number one Iga Swiatek was in ominous form in getting her title defence off to a flying start.
It was also a bright start for home hopes of a U.S. winner at the championships, with Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe enjoying routine wins in their bids to become the first American man to win a Grand Slam title in 20 years. On the women’s side, Coco Gauff was made to work for her place in the second round.
Djokovic, prevented from playing in last year’s U.S. Open due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19, began his latest campaign to match Margaret Court’s all-time record haul of 24 Grand Slams with a 6-0 6-2 6-3 win over Alexandre Muller. Arriving in New York on the back of an absorbing win over young rival Carlos Alcaraz in the Cincinnati final, an in-form Djokovic showed the 84th ranked Frenchman no mercy in his U.S. Open main draw debut.
“This court has seen so much history and so many battles,” Djokovic told the New York crowd. “Everyone knows in tennis that night sessions at Arthur Ashe definitely are the most exciting, fun, loud, energetic sessions you can have out there in the tennis world.”
While the U.S. Open has just got underway, Djokovic’s win guarantees he will nudge Alcaraz out of top spot in the rankings when they are updated on Sept. 11. Djokovic had not been seen on the Flushing Meadows hard courts since his loss to Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 final and fans let the 36-year-old know they had missed him, showering him with applause as he emerged from the tunnel.
Bidding to become the first woman to defend the U.S. Open crown since Serena Williams won three straight from 2012- 2014, the Pole kicked off the action on Arthur Ashe Stadium court by blasting Swede Rebecca Peterson 6-0 6-1. Winner of three of the last six Grand Slams, not even the world’s top ranked player was able to inject some excitement into a lifeless contest that was mercifully completed in under 60 minutes.
The U.S. Open also welcomed back fan favourite and twice finalist Wozniacki, who retired in 2020 to raise a family and marked her return to Grand Slam tennis with a tidy 6-3 6-2 win over Russian qualifier Tatiana Prozorova. The top-ranked American men were hardly tested, with ninth seed Fritz crushing compatriot Steve Johnson 6-2 6-1 6-2 and Tiafoe, the 10th seed, beating another American, Learner Tien, 6-2 7-5 6-1. Christopher Eubanks was also a popular winner with the home crowd after he beat South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-3 6-4 0-6 6-4.
Sixth seed Gauff got off to a nervy start and had to fight back against feisty German Laura Siegemund before advancing 3-6 6-2 6-4. In contrast to Gauff’s laboured win, Danielle Collins turned on the jets to dispose of Czech Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2 6-0 in a lightning quick 52 minutes.