Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina suffers a shock defeat by world number 131 Clara Burel in the US Open first round.
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina suffers a shock defeat by world number 131 Clara Burel in the US Open first round.
Cameron Norrie wasted no time bringing his impressive 2022 form to the US Open on Tuesday, when the sixth seed raced past Benoit Paire 6-0, 7-6(1), 6-0 to reach the second round in New York in style.
Norrie claimed the first and third sets of his second tour-level meeting with Paire in just 18 minutes and 15 minutes, respectively, as his consistency overwhelmed his opponent. He also held firm in a far tighter second set during which former World No. 18 Paire let slip the opportunity to level the first-round match when serving at 5-3.
Norrie fired 24 winners, including nine aces, to capitalise on a wayward performance by Paire, who reached the fourth round in New York in 2015. The win represented a comprehensive start for the Briton as he seeks to back up his run to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon in July.
The 27-year-old Norrie has pedigree on American hard courts. The former Texas Christian University Horned Frog lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Indian Wells in 2021 and also claimed the title in Delray Beach in February. Alongside his Wimbledon run, those triumphs have headlined a stellar 2022 for the Briton, who improved his season-record to 42-19 with Tuesday’s win.
Norrie will next face Joao Sousa or Mackenzie McDonald as he seeks to equal his best performance in New York, a third-round appearance in 2020. A deep run at Flushing Meadows would also boost his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for the second time — Norrie currently sits 11th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.
Rinky Hijikata had just landed in New York Thursday when the messages started lighting up his phone.
“The first one was from my manager, Kelly [Wolf], and she said something along the lines of ‘Welcome to the Big House!’” Hijikata told ATPTour.com. “There was no real context, so I really didn’t know what she was talking about. I thought maybe she was saying ‘Welcome to New York’.
“I got a few others like ‘I can’t believe your draw!’ so that’s when I went and had a look. Pretty exciting.”
When he called up the US Open draw he found his name on Line 127, one above second seed and 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal. The context was no longer lacking.
Hijikata could not have asked for a more illustrious opponent for his Grand Slam main draw debut, and the 21-year-old wild card eagerly awaits the moment when he steps on court alongside Nadal in New York on Tuesday.
“It’s not often you get to play a player of that calibre and I’m definitely pumped,” said Hijikata. “I can’t wait to go out there and give it my best shot.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to go out there on the biggest stages of tennis and try to have a big crack at players like that. I’m excited for the contest, I’m excited for the challenge. I want to go out there and represent everyone and try and give it my best shot.”
It is not the first time this season Hijikata has been thrown in at the deep end. In Los Cabos earlier this month, his reward for notching his maiden ATP Tour win was a second-round clash against World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The Australian was not overawed by the occasion despite falling to a 6-4, 6-3 defeat in Mexico, and he believes that experience will help him as he plots an upset against the four-time champion Nadal in New York.
“That was probably one of the biggest matches I’ve ever played,” said Hijikata. “That was a great experience for me, I think I learned a lot from that. The atmosphere and everything was a bit different than anything I’ve ever played in. Hopefully that will help me in good stead for what’s coming on Tuesday.
“I guess all the good players have a bit of an aura around them maybe and once you step out on-court, you don’t really know what to expect the first time. So, I went in a little clueless, but this time around hopefully I can settle the nerves a bit quicker.”
Born in Sydney after his parents emigrated from Japan, Hijikata grew up watching arguably the greatest generation of players the ATP Tour has ever seen. Yet while the likes of Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were obvious inspirations for the 21-year-old, it was a legendary home favourite who had him most captivated as a youngster.
“I think ‘Rusty’ (Lleyton Hewitt) was the guy I loved watching the most,” said Hijikata. “He’s an Aussie and the way he competed on the court, I thought was pretty cool.
“Then as I got a little bit older, I think Rafa and Roger when they had their big rivalry going that was pretty special. That was hard to beat, playing each other pretty much every Slam and the quality of their tennis was out of this world. Those two of mine have been idols of mine growing up and then obviously Novak as well, a bit more recently has been on a tear.”
Hijikata has so far trodden a slightly different path to those ATP Tour greats. He played two seasons in college tennis for the University of North Carolina before turning pro in 2021, but the Australian only ever had one final destination in mind.
“I definitely went over with the intentions of playing tennis after,” said Hijikata. “That was always my goal. That was one of my main reasons I chose North Carolina, I thought it would give me the best platform to get better and grow as a player and a person and hopefully hold me in good stead for the Tour and I think that’s exactly what it did. Those two years definitely helped me a lot.”
After qualifying for his first ATP Tour appearance at the ATP 250 event in Melbourne in January, Hijikata has worked his way up to his current career-high of No. 198 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings thanks to some strong performances at ATP Challenger Tour and Futures level. His next mission is to add greater consistency to his game.
“I think it’s been a little bit of an up-and-down season,” said Hijikata. “It’s my first full year on Tour so there’s a lot of learning that I’ve got to do, I think that’s been the story of the year.
“There’s been some really good patches and then there’s been some patches where I’ve been struggling a bit, but I guess that’s kind of life on Tour, you’re not going to be able to win and play well every week so it’s kind of just dealing with the losses and dealing with the weeks where you aren’t doing so well.
“I think that’s been one of the main things I’ve learned this year; not every week is going to be pretty, if you string a few good weeks together then it ends up being a pretty good year.”
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There may be plenty of lessons left to learn, but Hijikata has no shortage of role models to learn from as he finds his way on Tour. Fellow Australian John Millman in particular has been a source of sage advice for the youngster.
“He’s always been a big one,” said Hijikata of World No. 104 Millman. “He came and chatted when we were on the Junior Davis Cup team and he just said that you’re never going to be able to play at a level if you don’t believe that you belong there.
“That’s something that I’ve taken to heart, and I guess every level that I step up, I try to back the work you’ve put in and all the hard work you’ve done in your training. Hope that puts you in good stead and have the belief that you deserve your spot here and you do deserve to be there. I think it’s easy to get swept away with guys’ rankings, their achievements. Stepping up levels, it can be tough.”
Relatively straightforward yet effective advice from Millman, and Hijikata is taking the same approach as he prepares for the biggest match of his career against Nadal. “Try not to drop anything too short and in the middle of the court,” said the Australian of his gameplan for taking on the second seed. “That’s a good start.”
British number one Emma Raducanu says “using the positive energy from the place” is the best way to approach the defence of her US Open title.
Serena Williams admits she has been “pretty vague” about her retirement plans, fuelling doubt about whether this year’s US Open will be her final tournament.
When the US Open draw was released, one of the matches that stood out was a clash between Nick Kyrgios and close friend Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kyrgios made sure the blockbuster matchup did not turn into an epic battle.
The 23rd seed defeated Kokkinakis 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4) to reach the second round at Flushing Meadows. He will play Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi for a place in the third round.
Kyrgios has shown the best form of his career in recent months, reaching the Wimbledon final, winning the Washington title and defeating World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in Montreal. He maintained that form inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday evening following Serena Williams’ match, triumphing after two hours and one minute.
The seven-time ATP Tour titlist raced through the first two sets in just more than an hour, using his serve to dominate play. There were few long rallies in the match, with both men looking to dictate the action with their forehand.
Kokkinakis did not earn a break point, but he made things interesting by holding from 0/40 in the third set and pushing the set to a tie-break. At 4/4, Kokkinakis just missed a forehand down the line wide, which proved a fatal mistake. Kyrgios won the next two points on his serve to clinch his victory just two minutes short of midnight.
Kyrgios’ next opponent, Bonzi, outlasted fellow Frenchman Ugo Humbert 7-6(1), 6-1, 5-7, 3-6, 6-2. It was the World No. 50’s first main draw match at the US Open.
Did You Know?
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis have enjoyed success as a doubles tandem this year, becoming known as the “Special Ks”. The friends won the Australian Open title together.
Serena Williams extends her US Open farewell after a gritty opening win on an entertaining night packed with hope and celebration in New York.
As if a shock first-round exit at the US Open wasn’t painful enough, Stefanos Tsitsipas was also left ruing his lost shot at World No. 1 in the wake of his four-set defeat to Colombian qualifier Daniel Elahi Galan on Monday night.
The Greek was one of five players who had the opportunity at Flushing Meadows to hold the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking at the end of the tournament, but that dream is now gone.
“I was very motivated and pumped before the US Open started because I knew I could use this tournament to get closer to the No. 1 spot,” Tsitsipas said. “It would be very weird and very unusual if it didn’t cross my mind, because this is something I wanted since I was a kid and I know this is my chance now to step it up.
“It just didn’t go as planned. Sometimes you just need to let it go, you don’t need to overthink it, you don’t need to push yourself too hard but at the same time it’s difficult because there’s this open opportunity right in front of you, you don’t want to mess it up, you don’t want to waste it.
“My chances, I guess, are a bit smaller. The margin is not as thin as it used to be now after the US Open but I’m still going to try and add points to my ranking, as much as I can until the end of the year, I really want to perhaps finish in the Top 3… more opportunities ahead.”
Tsitsipas’ loss leaves defending champion Daniil Medvedev, Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud as the four players who now have a chance to be ranked No. 1 after the Open.
Tsitsipas received treatment during the match on his upper right arm but said that Galan’s ultra-aggressive play – especially on the return – was the bigger factor in the 6-0, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 defeat, during which he lost the first 11 games of the match.
“My arm was pretty tight, nothing was coming off my strokes. I felt like my serve was very slow today, but it was close to the 120s, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was. But he returned great, extremely well. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the altitude where he grew up for sure helps a lot with this kind of stuff.
“It crossed my mind when I started playing him that might be due to that. He did a great job, he dominated the game completely. I just couldn’t get into the match at all, it was as if I was half-dead.”
Tsitsipas, who has never reached the second week at the US Open, is No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, while Galan surges 14 places to No. 80.
“He played like a world-class player and I played like close to an amateur, not very nice to say that, but that’s what happened,” the two-time Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion said.
“I was very well prepared, I was playing very well in practice, had some really good matches against different kinds of players. I felt like the momentum was in my favour, I just might’ve felt a little tense going into the match. US Open, I never really had a good history here but I do like the tournament a lot. Just need to work on the negative thoughts a bit more and not let them affect me and not get in my head, because I’m better than that, I’m a much better player and athlete, but definitely not today.”
Romanian seventh seed Simona Halep suffers a shock first-round exit at the US Open against Ukrainian qualifier Daria Snigur.