Big surprises rock US Open day one as fourth and eighth places drop

Denmark's fourth-placed Holger Rune was eliminated from Monday's US Open, losing in four sets to Spanish journeyman Roberto Carballes Baena.

Rune, who was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, lost 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in just under three hours.

Carballes Baena, a clay-court specialist ranked at No. 63 in the world who has never advanced past the third round in a Grand Slam tournament, will face either Russia's Aslan Karatsev or Czech Jiri Lehecka in the second round.

The defeat was the latest in a series of disappointing early exits for Rune, and the 20-year-old is considered one of the brightest young talents in men's tennis.

Since his quarter-final loss to Alcaraz at Wimbledon, Rune has suffered first-round losses at the Canadian Open, the Cincinnati Open and now the US Open.

The young Dane, who reached the third round of last year's US Open, had hit out at organizers ahead of this tournament, complaining about the decision to place his opening match at No. 5 at the USTA's Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Rune always struggled to find his rhythm against Carballes Baena on Monday. He committed 43 unforced errors and saw his serve broken seven times by the 30-year-old Spaniard.

Swiatek crosses while Sakkari falls

Iga Swiatek started the defense of her US Open title with a eminent opening win, while Novak Djokovic was aiming for a return to the top of the men's world rankings on his long-awaited return to the tournament.

Swiatek, who wanted to be the first woman to successfully defend the US Open title since Serena Williams from 2012 to 2014, took less than an hour to defeat Sweden's Rebecca Peterson 6-0, 6-1.

The 22-year-old world number one from Poland overwhelmed her opponent with five breaks of serve and 20 winners to complete the win at Arthur Ashe Stadium in just 58 minutes.

“I wanted to start the tournament with everything I was focused on. I was happy to play a great game, I was happy with all the pressure and expectations on the pitch,” said Swiatek after her win.

Swiatek, who is aiming for her fifth Grand Slam title, meets Australia's Daria Saville in round two.

While Swiatek progressed safely, eighth-seeded Greek Maria Sakkari was not so lucky. She became the top-ranked victim of the first round, losing 6-4, 6-4 to Spain's Rebeka Masarova, who is ranked No. 71 in the world.

No. 18 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was among the first women to secure her place in the second round by defeating French wildcard Fiona Ferro 6-1, 6-2 in Monday's early game.

Tenth seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic also came through safely to defeat Australia's Storm Hunter 6-4, 6-0.

Monday's women's draw sees US teenager Coco Gauff take center stage with a night game against German qualifier Laura Siegemund hoping for a landmark first major win.

The 19-year-old American arrives in New York in fine form after winning titles in Washington and Cincinnati.

All eyes will be on Djokovic in the men's draw as the Serbian star returns to the US Open for the first time since losing in the 2021 final.

Djokovic, who is targeting a record-breaking 24th Grand Slam singles title in New York, opens his campaign with a night match in Arthur Ashe's main arena, knowing that a win will propel him back to world number one.

The 36-year-old, whose refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 prevented him from taking part in the 2022 tournament, meets France No. 84 in the world Alexandre Muller later on Monday.

A win guarantees Djokovic's return to the top of the global tennis rankings, regardless of how the remaining two weeks of the US Open play out.

Djokovic needs just 20 points to reclaim the No. 1 ranking after beating current No. 1 and reigning US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz at the Cincinnati Open earlier this month.

Alcaraz, who defeated Djokovic in a classic five-set Wimbledon final in July, opens his US Open season on Wednesday (AEST).

At the start of the men's draw, 2020 US Open winner Dominic Thiem ended a miserable run of six straight first-round eliminations in Grand Slam tournaments by beating 25th-seeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in straights Sentences defeated.

Thiem, whose career has been derailed by wrist and knee injuries since his only Grand Slam win three years ago, won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

“It took some time before I had self-confidence again, now I'm back on the right track,” Thiem said happily in an interview on the pitch.

“I feel like the game is back to normal and I couldn't be happier to win in straight sets today.”

In other men's matches on Monday, 10th-seeded American Frances Tiafoe and 9th-seeded Taylor Fritz open their seasons with dreams of ending the host country's two-decade wait for a Grand Slam title.

No American has won a Grand Slam singles crown since Andy Roddick won the US Open in 2003.

Tiafoe takes on fellow countryman Learner Tien, while Fritz takes on Steve Johnson in another all-American duel.


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