Photo: Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Jerzy Janowicz of Poland during the 2016 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.
On a day of debuts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a few old favorites showed they still have what it takes to win US Open.
A pair of two-time men’s winners, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, each advanced, shaking off their respective left wrist injuries to ease into Round 2.
They were joined in the winner’s circle by fellow former champions Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004) and Marin Cilic (2014).
Other are two top-ranked women: No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber and No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza.
A few favorites weren’t as fortunate, with early trips out of town for 2015 quarterfinalist Richard Gasquet and Rio gold medalist Monica Puig.
And with that, the 2016 US Open was off and swinging.
The first official winner of the tournament was Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay, who dismissed American Irina Falconi, 6-2, 6-1, in just under an hour.
She kicked off the chase for this year’s men’s and women’s singles titles – with the final coronation looming at the long end of a fortnight that sports the well-earned moniker of the toughest two weeks in tennis.
The star of Day 1, however, was the site itself.
The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center received a nearly complete makeover for 2016, with a new retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was highlighted during the Opening Night Ceremony and a gleaming new Grandstand that was christened with two of the day’s best matches – comeback victories by Caroline Wozniacki and John Isner.
It only slightly outpaced the evening marathon in Louis Armstrong Stadium won by Jack Sock over Taylor Fritz.
In Arthur Ashe Stadium, meantime, order reigned, with 2015 finalist Roberta Vinci, Kerber and Nadal combining to lose no sets and just 13 games – or 13 fewer games than Isner dropped in his five-set win over Frances Tiafoe.
Or at least it did until the night session – a marathon of its own that ended with No. 8 seed Madison Keys finally outlasting fellow American Alison Riske at 1:48 a.m., the latest finish for a women’s match in recorded US Open history.
And so we move on to Tuesday – where, technically, we ended with Keys-Riske – and Serena Williams and Andy Murray kicking off their runs at the title as Flushing fans await the first major upset to rock the draw.
Here’s a recap of the day that was and a look ahead to Day 2 of the 2016 US Open.
MATCH OF THE DAY:
The new Grandstand made its formal introduction with the day’s finest encounter, a three-set barnburner between two fan-friendly combatants with contrasting styles.
The counter-punching, baseline-hugging Caroline Wozniacki is a two-time US Open finalist.
She has nonetheless struggled this year, first with injuries and then with consistency, entering the Open outside the Top 50 and sporting a 5-7 record since March.
Taylor Townsend, meantime, is a tennis throwback, an all-courter who mixes rushes to the net with a wild lefty forehand.
The result was pure entertainment in tennis’ youngest arena.
Townsend came out firing, flummoxing Wozniacki and taking the first set.
But the Dane found her game in the second stanza, measuring her backhand passing shots to force a decider that seesawed back and forth until Wozniacki won the final two games to close out the match, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Her reward? A date with 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in a match that could match this Day 1 treat.
PLAYER OF THE DAY:
A disappointing season for John Isner looked like it was about to hit bottom.
For the first time in three years, the North Carolina native lost his spot as the No. 1-ranked American man shortly before the Open.
He entered New York without a tournament title for the first time since 2009.
The Open, his last best chance to turn it around, unraveled quickly on Day 1.
The 31-year-old fell behind his 18-year-old compatriot, Frances Tiafoe, two sets to love, the big-serving big man seemingly out of juice on a hot August day in the new Grandstand.
But then he eked out the third set in a tiebreak and dominated the fourth to take control of the match – only to lose it again.
Tiafoe went up a break in the fifth and served for the match at 5-3, normally a comfortable position against a man not known for his return of serve.