Del Potro, Serena, Stephens begin US Open with drama-free wins

by: Nina Pantic | August 27, 2018

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email

WATCH—Mary Carillo and Lindsay Davenport on Simona Halep's opening-round loss at US Open:

Day 1's US Open schedule was brimming with big names into the late afternoon and evening session. We recap a few of them, including one of the biggest in tennis history—Serena Williams.

NEW YORK—In the final match on Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday night, Juan Martin del Potro dispatched qualifier Donald Young in straight sets, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. While Young is the homegrown American, Del Potro is a huge fan favorite in New York, thanks to a passionate population of Argentinians.

If you remember last year, a roaring crowd of his fans pulled him back from the brink against Dominic Thiem and boosted him all the way to the semifinals.

Young needed a strong start against the world No. 3, but instead, he got the opposite. Del Potro pulled ahead right away with an immediate break. Things went from bad to worse for the world No. 246 as Del Potro closed out the first set 6-0 in just 22 minutes.

Young would break in the second set for 1-0, but would not be able to sustain it. He’d repeat the exact same offense in the third set. By the end of the three sets, a lopsided stat emerged: Del Potro was 7 of 14 on break points converted, while Young was 2 of 2. At least he made the most of his scant opportunities.

The match went fairly routinely for Del Potro, despite the two dropped service games. He broke back without much drama and moved on in one hour and 43 minutes. 

The Argentinian will play another American in the second round, Denis Kudla.

*****

Serena Williams made it look so easy on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night against Magda Linette, winning her first US Open match since giving birth to her first child, 6-4, 6-0.

She walked on court after an opening-night show featuring a booming Kelly Clarkson.

“I love opening for Serena,” the 2002 American Idol winner told the eager crowd.

Williams was dressed in a one-sleeve black dress complete with a tutu skirt—a creation crafted by Nike’s collaboration with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh.

“I’m just honored to wear Virgil Abloh, who is probably the hottest designer right now,” Williams said. “I’m just the muse I guess.”

The 26-year-old Linette managed to keep up with the 23-time Grand Slam champion at the start of the match. But the second Williams got her nose out in front, it was like trying to stop a freight train at full speed—the world No. 60 never stood a chance.

“The first set was tight—it was my first match back here in New York. That wasn’t the easiest,” Williams said. “Once I got settled I started doing what I’m trying to do in practice. I started feeling a little bit better and it helped a lot.”

Williams closed out the first set and then took that momentum into the second. Barreling ahead at a steady clip, Williams raced to 5-0 in what felt like seconds. It’s just her seventh tournament back since giving birth to Alexis Olympia Jr. last September.

“Today was a weird day for me. I was coming out and I left my hotel and I didn’t get to say bye to Olympia,” Williams said. “That kind of broke my spirit. I was like, 'OK Serena, don’t cry, you’re going to see her tomorrow.' I was a little emotional but I got through it.”

The American hit more than twice as many winners as Linette, putting pressure on her from the first ball to the last. The 36-year-old makes her opponents feel like they have to do more to get points off of her, so the forced errors tend to pile up. In the final game, Williams won it at love with an ace on match point.

“It’s such a good feeling to be back out here,” Williams said. “It’s an experience I can only live here in New York. It’s really one of the best feelings in the world.”

*****

On Monday afternoon, Sloane Stephens began her US Open defense with an almost-routine win over Evgeniya Rodina, 6-1, 7-5, in their first career meeting. 

The American couldn’t have wished for a better start as she closed out the first set in less than 30 minutes. The world No. 80 didn’t truly settle in until she was down 4-2 in the second set, which helped Stephens shake off some early nerves.

"I was a little bit nervous. I think obviously it's never easy as an American playing in the US Open," Stephens said. "I think I've felt worse nerves than that, playing here before in previous years."

Things are very different for Stephens this time around in New York. The 25-year-old returns as a US Open and Miami Open champion, a world No. 3 and a Nike star, decked out in a bright orange dress.

Another change for Stephens was playing in the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, complete with a retractable roof. It's quite breezy inside thanks to its open-air setup, designed so that when the roof is closed, there’s still a natural atmosphere on court. The new breezeway allows fans to walk and talk during play, and since the slot of open air is barely above eye level, it adds a new challenge for players trying to tune out the noise and movement. 

"It was just loud," Stephens said. "There was a lot going on between the airplanes and the subway behind the court, the concessions being in the lower bowl, and people walking in the games at, like, 2-all, 3-all. Yes, it was fun to play first day on a brand-new stadium court. But there was a lot happening."

After waking up at 4-2 down in the second set, Rodina reeled off three straight games to inch ahead 5-4. A third set loomed, but Stephens held for 5-5, letting out an emphatic “Come on!” before handily winning the next two games. Surviving adversity as confidently as she did should boost Stephens all fortnight long. 

"I mean, obviously I've been playing well," she said. "I'm happy the way my game is now. Just getting through little things like that builds your confidence, makes you feel better."


Wake up every morning with Tennis Channel Live at the US Open starting at 8 a.m. ET. For three hours leading up to the start of play, Tennis Channel’s team will break down upcoming matches, review tournament storylines, breaking news and player developments.

Tennis Channel’s encore, all-night match coverage will begin every evening at 11 p.m. ET, with the exception of earlier starts on Saturday and Sunday of championship weekend.

Watch the best matches from the first three Grand Slams on Tennis Channel PLUS. From Federer’s historic win at the Australian Open to Halep’s breakthrough at Roland Garros. It all starts Monday, August 27th.  

Follow the Race to ATP Finals this fall on Tennis Channel PLUS. Live coverage from the biggest stops including Beijing, Tokyo, Shanghai & Paris.

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email

More Stories

What Alexander Zverev achieved in London with his ATP Finals title

For one, it was the first time Sascha has beaten two Top 5 players in the same tournament.

ATP Finals: Where do Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev go from here?

The German's win can be seen as a stepping stone to success at the Slams.

With the way Zverev beat Djokovic in London, the future is his

The 21-year-old beat Federer and Djokovic back-to-back en route to his stunning victory.