Tennis: Djokovic eyes No.1, Swiatek in action as US Open underway

AFP , Monday 28 Aug 2023

Novak Djokovic begins his bid for a 24th Grand Slam singles title at the US Open on Monday as the final major championship of the season got underway with the Serb needing only a first-round victory to reclaim the world number one ranking.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates a point after playing tennis with a trowel as a racket during Arthur Ashe Kids Day at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2023. AFP


The 36-year-old Serbian star makes a long-awaited return to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center after missing the 2022 tournament due to his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Second seed Djokovic headlines the night session on the 23,000-seater Arthur Ashe Stadium with what should be a straightforward opener against France's world number 84 Alexandre Muller.

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 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.

Seeds advance

In the women's draw meanwhile, defending champion and world number one Iga Swiatek opens against Sweden's Rebecca Peterson as she bids for a fifth career Grand Slam.

Swiatek went out in the semi-finals of the lead-in tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati, but believes she is better prepared this year than in 2022.

"I get more positive vibes, for sure than before last year's tournament," she said.

"But being the defending champion is not easy, so I'm kind of taking it easy, trying to do everything step by step."

Eighteenth-seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was among the first women to book their place in the second round, swatting aside French wild card 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 center-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.

Gauff's win in Cincinnati -- her first WTA 1000 title -- also included a psychologically useful first ever win over Swiatek, who she could meet in the quarter-finals in New York.

"I think now I'm going in with a lot more confidence," Gauff said of her recent resurgence in form.

"I feel like no matter the scoreline in the match, I can be able to problem solve and troubleshoot my way out.

"I know I can win matches not playing my best game now... I do feel I'm much more confident in my B or C game."

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