US Open Day 2: Early night for Alcaraz, tough day for Garcia

Defending champ through after just one hour on court, French No.7 seed ousted

Carlos Alcaraz / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

First round action has concluded in New York as an exciting Day 2 witnessed heroic comebacks, major breakthroughs, and some solid victories for most of the top seeds.

Here's what you may have missed from a busy Tuesday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Gone in 60 minutes

The first step in Carlos Alcaraz’s title defence campaign lasted a mere 60 minutes as the Spaniard’s opponent Dominik Koepfer was forced to retire with an ankle injury while trailing 2-6, 2-3.

Bidding to become the first man since Roger Federer in 2008 to successfully defend the US Open title, Alcaraz will next face South Africa’s Lloyd Harris for a place in the last-32 stage.

With Colombian pop star Sebastian Yatra supporting him from the stands, Alcaraz sang a snippet from Yatra’s song ‘Vagabundo’ during his on-court interview with Brad Gilbert, giving the night-session crowd something to cheer for after the match was cut short due to Koepfer’s physical situation.

Alcaraz, the youngest men’s No.1 seed in the history of the tournament, is on collision course with familiar foe Jannik Sinner, who eased past Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 and could face Alcaraz in the quarter-finals, which would be a rematch of their epic five-set clash at the very same stage 12 months ago in New York.  

"Obviously happy to be back here. It's a special place for me. I felt very good on court today," said the sixth-seeded Sinner, who faces his good friend and fellow Italian Lorenzo Sonego next.

"I was playing good. I was returning good. Sometimes the serve could be a little bit better. But the atmosphere is obviously very nice. I know physically I'm healthy, which is most important, then we see how it goes."

Ailing Jabeur squeezes past Osorio

Battling the flu and clearly out of sorts, Tunisian Ons Jabeur eked out a hard-fought 7-5, 7-6(4) victory over world No.68 Camila Osorio to book her spot in the second round.

A runner-up in New York last year, and finalist in three of her last five Grand Slams, Jabeur led by a double-break 4-1 in the first set before losing four games in a row and receiving treatment from the tournament doctor.

The No.5 seed appeared to struggle with her breathing and got her blood pressure checked. After taking some medication, Jabeur managed to wrestle back the set from her Colombian opponent to take a one-set lead in 59 minutes.

The second frame was a roller coaster that saw both players squandering leads, unable to sustain a high level of performance. Osorio saved two match points on her serve in the ninth game and Jabeur twice served for the victory and got broken but the Tunisian finally sealed the deal in the tiebreak to set up a second-round clash with Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova.

Jabeur and Osorio shared a lovely moment at the net before the crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for the world No.5, who turned 29 on Monday.

“I’m old now, that’s why I didn’t feel so good on the court,” joked Jabeur.

“I gotta say, I always feel loved in New York, everywhere I go, not just here. I’m feeling blessed to have all of this. For me this is more important than winning any match. Because I know the love you get from people, you will cherish it until the end of your life, not just your career.”

She paid tribute to Osorio, who lost to Jabeur at the US Open two years ago, saying: “She’s such a nice person so she asked me if I’m feeling okay. I told her, not really. She told me I’m such a warrior and I apologised for bringing the doctor on the court because I didn’t do it on purpose. I know it is tough sometimes to play a player that is kind of injured or not feeling well on the court but she took it very well and she congratulated me for the match, so I’m glad.”

Comeback of the day

Bulgarian No.19 seed Grigor Dimitrov battled for four hours and 38 minutes and completed a comeback from two-sets-to-love down for the first time in his career by defeating Alex Molcan 6-7(9), 6-7(5), 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(11/9).

Dimitrov was down 2-5 in the fifth set, saved match point at 4-5 and saved two more while trailing 7-9 in the deciding super-tiebreak before securing a second-round clash with Andy Murray.

Grigor Dimitrov / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Medvedev, Berrettini untroubled

2021 champion Daniil Medvedev dropped the fewest number of games he’s ever conceded in a Grand Slam match with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 victory over 34-year-old unranked Hungarian Attila Balazs (entered US Open with a protected ranking of 101).

It was Medvedev’s 50th win of the season (33rd on hard courts) and he wrapped it up in just 74 minutes. His reward is a second-round meeting with Australia’s Christopher O’Connell.

“I think at one moment I thought I had total control of the match, I tried to maybe work some shots. I felt I was playing better and better throughout the match, I was hitting stronger, and more confident in my shots, so that was great,” said Medvedev.

“In general, felt great. So focus was there. Hopefully it's going to be there for the next matches also.”

Meanwhile, 2019 US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini fired 11 aces in his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win against French No.29 seed Ugo Humbert to earn a spot in the second round for a fifth consecutive year.

Berrettini has reached the fourth round or better on each of his last four US Open appearances. He faces another Frenchman next in the form of Arthur Rinderknech.

2020 New York runner-up and this year’s No.12 seed Alexander Zverev needed just two hours and nine minutes to move past Aleksandar Vukic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. It is Zverev’s first US Open outing since 2021, having missed the event through injury last year.

Matteo Berrettini / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Pegula, Vondrousova stroll through

Dressed in a special outfit adidas created in honour of the 50-year anniversary of Billie Jean King’s win in ‘Battle of the Sexes’, No.3 seed and recent Montreal champion Jessica Pegula claimed her ninth win in 11 meetings with Camila Giorgi to move into the second round with a 6-2, 6-2 result.

“This out fit was inspired by Billie Jean and her fight for equality always, so I think that’s really important,” said Pegula after her win.

“It’s an honour to get to wear something inspired by someone as great as her. She’s always got so much great advice and she’s so inspiring. She texts me a lot after matches and stuff like that, it’s really cool. Fighting for equality is very important though, we still have some ways to go. She’s always inspiring us to keep fighting for more.”

Reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova swept past South Korean qualifier Han Na Lae 6-3, 6-0 in 60 minutes to make the US Open second round for a fourth consecutive time (didn’t play in 2019 and 2022).

The Czech No.9 seed will face Italian Martina Trevisan next.

Upsets of the day

Reigning WTA Finals champion and No.7 seed Caroline Garcia crashed out of the US Open first round 6-4, 6-1 to a red-hot Wang Yafan, who has now won 38 of her last 41 matches, across all levels, including qualifying.

Wang, a former top-50 player, was out of action for eight months starting May last year. She began her 2023 campaign in February ranked 431 in the world and dropped to as low as 696 in March, but has since taken the ITF circuit by storm, scooping six titles and barely losing any matches.

She is projected to rise to at least 91 in the rankings after the US Open, and can go even higher if she makes it past Britain’s Katie Boulter in round two.

The 29-year-old is currently on an 11-match winning streak. Her success against Garcia marked just the second time she has defeated a top-10 opponent, in nine attempts, and the first time since 2019.

This US Open marks Wang’s first Grand Slam main draw appearance since Wimbledon 2021 and her victory on Tuesday was her first at a major since Wimbledon 2019.

Garcia was a semi-finalist at the US Open last year and has suffered her first opening round defeat in New York since 2019.

Caroline Garcia / 1er tour US Open 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Tuesday was not a good day for 2022 semi-finalists.

American wildcard Michael Mmoh picked up just the fifth top-20 victory of his career by knocking out last year’s semi-finalist, world No.11, Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Khachanov was playing his first singles match since Roland-Garros nearly three months ago as he was sidelined with two injuries – a sacrum bone fracture and a pubic bone fracture.  

He didn’t touch a racquet for seven weeks and told for a period of time it was painful to walk.

Contesting his first US Open since 2020, the 89th-ranked Mmoh is through to the second round at his home Slam for just the second time in his career.

Stat of the day

200 – Former US Open champion Andy Murray has become just the ninth man in history to win 200 singles matches at the Grand Slams, thanks to his straight-sets effort against French lefty Corentin Moutet on Tuesday.

Breakthrough of the day

French teenager Arthur Fils claimed the first Grand Slam match-win of his career with a hard-earned 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 over No.24 seed Tallon Griekspoor in just under four hours.

This US Open is Fils’ third-ever main draw appearance at a major and the 19-year-old will next face Italian Matteo Arnaldi for a spot in round three.

Arthur Fils / 1er tour US Open 2023 ©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT