Two top-10 men fall in the first round.
At a Grand Slam tournament, the quarter of the men’s draw without any of the Big 3 (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) is always laden with opportunity. Now there’s even more after the exit of two top-10 players in the first round.
No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas succumbed to cramping and Andrey Rublev, losing, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 7-5, after 3 hours 55 minutes. Tsitsipas, who also lost in the first round of Wimbledon last month, had a set point in the third-set tiebreaker. Rublev, a 21-year-old Russian ranked No. 43, beat Federer in Cincinnati this month.
Though disappointed, Tsitsipas did not have the same sullen and morose reaction as he did after his Wimbledon loss. When he sat in the interview room Tuesday, the first thing he said was, “I’m not going to react again like in Wimbledon, that’s the only thing I know.”
“I saw myself in that interview a couple of days later, and it didn’t feel right,” Tsitsipas said of Wimbledon. “My reaction was too much. I mean, there are far worse things in life than losses, and that day felt like someone was in the grave.”
Still, Tsitsipas, 21, expressed considerable existential ennui.
“I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again, and my brain can’t really take it anymore,” he said. “I feel like I’m doing the same routines on the court, the same execution, the same strategies and everything. And I feel like my mind is just — I don’t feel inspired. I play out on the court, and I don’t feel like I’m chasing something.”
No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut, a Wimbledon semifinalist last month, suffered a more surprising upset at the hands of 47th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
With Tsitsipas and Bautista out, the only seeds remaining in their section of the draw are No. 24 Matteo Berrettini, who won in four sets over Richard Gasquet, and No. 28 Nick Kyrgios, who plays his first match Tuesday night.
Fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem, the top player in that quarter, is currently playing his first-round match against Homas Fabbiano at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Playing Now: Simona Halep vs. Nicole Gibbs
The fourth-seeded Simona Halep, who won Wimbledon in July, has not looked particularly dominant in her two hardcourts tournaments since then. She has made it as far as the semifinals at the U.S. Open only once, and has lost in the first round the past two years — as the No. 1 and No. 2 seed. At Armstrong Stadium, Halep will face Nicole Gibbs, who recently returned from treatment for salivary gland cancer. She entered the main draw as a lucky loser after losing in the final round of the qualifying tournament.
Osaka escapes with a first-round victory.
Around noon on Tuesday, Naomi Osaka walked onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium to begin defending her women’s singles title at the United States Open.
The scene was far different from the last time she played a match on that court, in last year’s controversy-riddled final against Serena Williams. Osaka was in tears at that award ceremony as boos filled the stadium in response to a dispute between Williams and the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos.
The early-afternoon crowd for her match on Tuesday against Anna Blinkova was sparse and largely quiet, as is often the case in cavernous Ashe Stadium at this time of day.
Osaka followed her title in New York last September with a championship at the Australian Open in January, but she has struggled to play at the same level since then. She has shown spark in the hardcourts season this summer, reaching the quarterfinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
Osaka trailed by 1-4 in the first set before reeling off five straight games to claim it. The second had a topsy-turvy finish: Osaka saved three set points on her serve at 4-5, then broke Blinkova at love to put herself in position to serve for the win.
Osaka earned a match point at 6-5, 40-30, but then committed three unforced errors to put herself into a tiebreaker, which Blinkova won, 7-5, on her second set point.
Osaka saved two break points at 2-1 in the third set and then broke Blinkova in the next game. Osaka broke her again to end the match.
Alison Riske continues her summer surge.
Alison Riske of Pittsburgh backed up her Wimbledon breakthrough with a strong start to her U.S. Open with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over the former No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion.
Riske, who beat then-No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last month, is ranked 36th, and could be one of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw. Riske, known as a grass-court specialist, had not won a match at the U.S. Open in six years.
Since Wimbledon, Riske married into an Indian tennis dynasty, wedding Stephen Amritraj last month. Muguruza, a champion at the French Open three years ago and at Wimbledon two years ago, was playing her first Grand Slam event after separating from her longtime coach Sam Sumyk.
Next generation of men take the stage.
Dominic Thiem, the fourth seed in the men’s draw, has looked to be the most promising threat to the dominance of the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer over the past few years. But he has struggled to threaten them on surfaces other than clay. His hardcourts title in March at Indian Wells was one step in proving he can be taken seriously, but he played only one hardcourts warm-up tournament before the Open. He plays the second match at Ashe Stadium on Tuesday, facing Thomas Fabbiano.
Thiem, 25, is among the top players in the next generation of men’s tennis who are in action Tuesday. Eighth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas is taking on a talented young Russian, Andrey Rublev, who upset Roger Federer in Cincinnati this month. Sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev plays Radu Albot. Thiem, Tsitsipas and Zverev all lost in the first round of Wimbledon last month.
In a highly anticipated rematch, Denis Shapovalov, 20 and Felix Auger-Aliassime, 19, will face each other in the same round, on the same court (Grandstand), in the same time slot (fourth match), as they did last year. But the two young Canadians have switched roles. Last year, Shapovalov was the 28th seed and Auger-Aliassime was ranked 117th. Now Auger-Aliassime is ranked higher, at No. 18 to Shapovalov’s No. 33.
Coco Gauff is back in action Tuesday.
Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old breakout star at Wimbledon, was awarded a wild card to play in the U.S. Open. She will face Anastasia Potapova, 18 and ranked No. 72, at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Tuesday afternoon (not before 3 p.m.). Potapova may not be as intimidating a first-round prospect as Venus Williams was at the All England Club, but Gauff has spoken frequently about staying grounded and playing each match in isolation. Can she can handle the loud roars of Queens as well as she did the polite rustles of Wimbledon?
Rafael Nadal leads the night session.
Rafael Nadal vs. John Millman, 7 p.m.
Millman reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open last year after beating Roger Federer in the fourth round under the lights at Ashe Stadium. Nadal’s physical brand of tennis has hurt him on the hardcourts of Flushing Meadows in the past, though he has won three U.S. Opens among his 18 Grand Slam titles. He had to pull out of his semifinal against Juan Martín del Potro last year because of a knee injury. He’ll hope to keep those troubles at bay as long as possible this year. This month, he won the only U.S. Open tuneup event he entered, in Montreal.
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka, 7 p.m.
Look for an exciting match filled with big serves and hard-hitting rallies between these two Belarussians. Sabalenka, who reached the fourth round last year, is ranked No. 14 after a strong hardcourts season, reaching the final at the Silicon Valley Classic. Although Azarenka has reached the U.S. Open final twice, she has not been able to recapture her excellent form since her return from injuries and a pregnancy hiatus in 2016.