US Open Day 1: Iga, Novak start with a bang, Rune out

Reigning and former champs make quick work of first-round opponents

Iga Swiatek / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

The 2023 US Open is officially underway and there was no shortage of action across the grounds at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

Here's what you may have missed from Day 1 in New York.

Swiatek in a hurry

If there were any nerves for Iga Swiatek at the start of her title defence in New York, you definitely couldn’t tell as the world No.1 stormed to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in just 57 minutes to move into the second round.

The Pole improved to 18-1 in Grand Slam openers, and 5-0 in US Open first rounds, to book a last-64 meeting with Australian Daria Saville.

She joked on court that Frances Tiafoe, who was next up on Arthur Ashe stadium following her match, had asked her not to finish off her opponent too fast so he wouldn’t have to rush to be ready for his first round against fellow American Learner Tien.

“Frances told me yesterday actually to not make it too quick because he doesn’t have time to warm-up or do other stuff. No, I’m just kidding,” said four-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek.

“I really wanted to play solid and start the tournament with everything I focused on when I was practising here for the whole week. So I’m happy I could play such a great game and I just feel happy that with all the pressure and expectations I can just have fun on court.”

Iga Swiatek / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

‘Flawless’ Djokovic wrestles back No.1 ranking

Meanwhile, three-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic needed just one hour and 35 minutes to post a 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 result against French world No.84 Alexandre Müller in the closing match on Arthur Ashe stadium.

It was the 36-year-old’s first appearance in New York since his final defeat to Danill Medvedev in 2021 and he is thrilled to be back.

“I was excited to go out on the court. I didn't care if I started after midnight because I was looking forward to this moment for few years, to be out on the biggest stadium in our sport, the loudest stadium in our sport, playing night session,” said Djokovic.

“I think the performance explains how I felt tonight, particularly in the first two sets. It was kind of lights-out tennis really, almost flawless, perfect first set.

“I've probably had the answer for every shot he had in his book. Overall I'm very, very pleased with the way I feel, with the way I'm playing.”

The victory means Djokovic will return to the No.1 spot when the new rankings are released in two weeks’ time, dethroning Carlos Alcaraz once again in a tug of war that has seen the pair switch places at the summit multiple times throughout the season.

Djokovic, who next faces Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, is now a perfect 17-0 in US Open first rounds.

It’s also the Serb’s 67th consecutive win in a Grand Slam opening round, which is the longest streak on the men’s side at the majors in the Open Era.

Novak Djokovic / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Coco survives, meets the Obamas

While Swiatek and Djokovic claimed speedy wins, Coco Gauff was made to sweat against the always tricky Laura Siegemund, the American teenager needing two hours and 51 minutes to complete a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory.

With former First couple Barack and Michelle Obama watching from the stands, Gauff had to dig deep to overcome Siegemund and set up an exciting second-round clash with 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva.

During the match, the No.6 seed complained to umpire Marijana Veljovic about Siegemund taking too much time to get ready for Gauff’s serves.

In the on-court interview, Pam Shriver asked Gauff to describe how it was like to play that match.  

“Slow,” said Gauff, as the crowd laughed in response.

“It was a tough match, I wasn’t playing my best tennis. Laura, she’s not an easy opponent, she fights to the end and that’s what she did today. I was able to overcome a lot of adversity so I’m happy how I managed to get through.”

Coco Gauff / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Gauff, who won D.C. and Cincinnati in the build-up to this US Open, has now won 12 of her last 13 matches.

While she wasn’t happy with her performance on Monday, she added that, “I think most of the time, every Grand Slam you have one bad match. I'm glad I was able to get that out of the way in the first round.”

The 19-year-old Gauff got to meet the Obamas after her match.

“I think I'm going to never forget that moment for the rest of my life. I'm glad I got to meet them. They gave me some good advice, too,” shared the Floridian.

“They just told me how I handle myself in these situations. She said it's good to speak up for myself. I think she was happy that I spoke up for myself today.”

Losing streak snapped

Former champion Dominic Thiem ended a seven-match losing run at the Grand Slams with a smooth 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over No.25 seed Alexander Bublik in under two hours.

It was Thiem’s first match-win at the US Open since his title run in New York back in 2020, and his first at a major since 2021 Australian Open.

It’s been a long road for Thiem trying to recover his form after a career-threatening wrist injury and the former world No.3 is now on the cusp of returning the top 70 for the first time in 16 months.

Next up for the 29-year-old Austrian is home favourite Ben Shelton, who posted the first US Open match-win of his career with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 result against Argentina’s Pedro Cachin on Monday.

“I'm looking forward a lot to that match,” Thiem said of his upcoming clash with the 20-year-old lefty.

“He's a great guy. He's unbelievable athlete. I really love to watch him. I guess that one big thing gonna be the return again. He's serving incredible. Today I was returning well, so I try to do that in the second round as well.”

Quote of the day

“Diversity in sport speaks volumes. Obviously it has people tune into the game that usually wouldn't. He's (Kevin Garnett is) one of them, and many others. I have to keep winning so they stay interested. I want to impact a lot of people of colour to want to pursue the game of tennis. It's big shoes to fill but a great seat to be in.”

– Following his straight-sets win over Learner Tien, Frances Tiafoe is asked about what it’s been like getting scores of celebrities, including basketball legend Kevin Garnett on Monday, to come watch him play tennis at tournaments. 

Breakthrough of the day

Roberto Carballes Baena entered his showdown with No.4 seed Holger Rune carrying a 0-13 record against top-10 opponents throughout his career.

On Monday though, the Spanish world No.63 snapped that losing streak to knock out Rune 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 and reach the US Open second round for a fourth consecutive year.

Rune has not won a match since Wimbledon and is on a four-match losing streak (six if you include Hopman Cup).

"Disappointing day today. I had a setback after the tournaments in Toronto and Cincy, where I had to retire. Not the best preparation I had," said Rune.

"So it's tough what to believe before you enter big tournaments like this. Not satisfied with the result obviously, but also with my tennis. There is only one way, and it's to work."

Stats of the day

17 – double faults struck by Bublik in his straight-sets defeat to Thiem in their first round on Monday.

19 – 6-0 bagel sets delivered by Swiatek to her opponents in 2023.

200 – Last year's runner-up Casper Ruud recorded the 200th tour-level match-win of his career on Monday with a tight four-set victory against Emilio Nava.

Upset of the day

World No.71 Rebeka Masarova had never won any of her four previous matches against top-10 opponents and owned just two match-wins in Grand Slam main draws entering this US Open.

Still none of that stopped the Spaniard from producing a big upset on Monday morning in New York, dismissing No.8 seed Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4 to book a second-round meeting with Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Sakkari, a two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, has now lost her last four consecutive matches at the majors.