August 27, 2018
Defending champion Rafael Nadal progressed to the second round of the US Open on Monday after fellow Spaniard David Ferrer retired midway through the second set due to a calf injury.
Nadal, the world No.1, breezed through the first set without facing a break point but the 36-year-old Ferrer fought back in the second, breaking Nadal twice before the injury forced him to stop with the score at 6-3 3-4.
Ferrer, whose decision to retire brings the curtain down on his final appearance at a grand slam, said he had taken an injection before the match but was in obvious discomfort and need treatment courtside before he decided to quit.
"I feel bad," he said in a courtside interview. "I had one shot in my calf and there was pain. I tried to play. I tried.
"I'm so sorry because I can't finish the match, but anyway, thanks a lot."
Nadal, who like his opponent was sweating profusely in the oppressively humid conditions, paid tribute to Ferrer, whom he beat in the 2013 French Open final.
"I'm very sorry for him. He's one of my closest friends on the tour and we faced many amazing moments together," Nadal said. "It's sad for him to finish like this."
US Open: Ferrer retires in final grand slam match, Halep the first top seed to lose in first round
Meanwhile, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center's newest stadium received a proper christening when world No.1 Simona Halep made history.
The reigning French Open champion became the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the US Open when she fell to No.44 Kaia Kanepi, 6-2, 6-4, in the tournament's first match in a newly renovated Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Halep, who lost her opening-round match in New York last year to Maria Sharapova, joins a small club of No.1 seeds who have lost in the first round of a grand slam in tennis' Open era, which began in 1968. Virginia Ruzici did so at the 1979 Australian Open, Steffi Graf lost at Wimbledon in 1994, Martina Hingis lost at Wimbledon in 1999 and in 2001, and Angelique Kerber lost as the top seed this year at Roland Garros.
Seeding aside, the last world No.1 to win the US Open was Serena Williams in 2014.
The Romanian known for her fight on court will not forfeit the No.1 ranking despite her loss, as for the first time since 2016 the WTA's top spot is not on the line during a grand slam. Last year, the US Open began with eight players vying for the No.1 ranking.
Halep's defeat does open what was perhaps the toughest quarter of the women's draw, however. She could have played Serena or Venus Williams in the fourth round.
Kanepi advances instead, moving on to play qualifier Jil Teichmann in the second round. The Estonian beat Halep with powerful groundstrokes and free-wheeling, risky tennis that paid off, logging 26 winners to Halep's nine. She never lost control of the match, even in the second set when Halep appeared to get into more of a rhythm.
US Open: Ferrer retires in final grand slam match, Halep the first top seed to lose in first round
The 33-year-old was a quarter-finalist in New York last year. Monday's victory was Kanepi's first win over a top-20 player since 2015.
Serena Williams took the first cautious step towards a record-equalling 24th grand slam title with a 6-4, 6-0 first-round win over Magda Linette.
It was not the imposing performance many are used to seeing from Williams on Arthur Ashe Stadium court as the six-time champion continued to shake the rust off her game on her comeback campaign after the birth of her first child.
Telling the crowd that her spirit was broken after not saying goodbye to her daughter before leaving for her match, Williams appeared distracted during an uneven opening set until she finally seized control with a break to go up 4-3.
Williams, the winner of 72 career singles titles, has the ability to sense when she has an opponent on the ropes and moved in quickly to deliver the knockout punch, breaking the 68th ranked Pole to open the second.
US Open: Ferrer retires in final grand slam match, Halep the first top seed to lose in first round
While her game might not have been firing on all cylinders her ruthlessness remained as the American showed no hesitation in storming through second set before finishing off her opponent with a thundering ace.
Venus Williams moved to the second round by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in a matchup of past US Open champions.
The No.16 seed, a semi-finalist last year at Flushing Meadows, could play younger sister Serena in the third round.
Also through to the second round is Sloane Stephens.
The defending champion, who is also the No.3 seed, defeated Evgeniya Rodina of Russia 6-1, 7-5 in the rebuilt Louis Armstrong Stadium.
In other results in the men's draw, Swiss wildcard Stan Wawrinka conjured up some of his old US Open magic to sweep past eighth-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
After winning the US Open in 2016 Wawrinka was unable to defend his title last year after two surgeries on his left knee.
But the Swiss, 101st in the world rankings, looked right at home on a steamy Monday as he opened his account with a ruthless 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 performance against one of the title contenders.
"The first time I came here last week, one week ago for practice, seeing, looking around a little bit," Wawrinka said.
"Two years ago was something very special, of course, amazing memories after the final.
"So it was great to come back, that’s for sure."
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