Day 1 at the US Open

Day 1 of the U.S. Open Championships featured Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and defending champion, Serena Williams all in action across the grounds.

Venus Williams in opening day action. (Photo Credit: Margot Jordan)

Venus Williams in opening day action. (Photo Credit: Margot Jordan)

Two-time US Open champion Venus Williams kicked off her campaign on center court against Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in Ashe stadium (which sported new framework for a forthcoming retractable roof). She started out cracking big serves to instill a little fear in her opponent, but was immediately broken; the gears hadn’t quite got going yet. When they did, however, an easy service of three aces got her back in the match with some off-the-ground aggression to boot, leading to recovery of that opening break and a level score at 3 all. She went on to ride that wave of aggression on to take the first set, 6-4.

In the second set, the veteran twice got in a spot of service trouble, but she turned up the heat – to the tune of 120 mph and above serves – and saved herself for 2-1 and again for 4-3. The match was on her racquet at that point and she went up to serve for the match … but faltered and found herself in a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, she twice arrived at match point, but she squandered them both by backing off her serve and with an unforced error and had to go to a third set. In the third, she was able to start strong start and she never let up. She finally closed the match out at, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in front of a pro-Williams crowd.

“Yeah, I was kind of a little bit shocked that I was still out there. I thought I had the match wrapped,” she said about allowing the second set breaker then losing it.

“The third set I definitely felt some clarity and just wanted to take the opportunity to play better.

Sloane Stephens took to Armstrong Stadium in a late afternoon match to battle it out against fellow countrywoman, Coco Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe wasn’t seeded, but has the game to trouble even the tour’s top 10 players.

“Coco … is a fire player,” Serena said of Vandeweghe. “She’s a really good player. We’ve had a lot of tough matches together.”

Sloane Stephens in press conference after loss to Vandeweghe. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

Sloane Stephens in press conference after loss to Vandeweghe. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

With momentum leading into the Open from earning a quarterfinal berth at Wimbledon, she was ready to face Sloane with confidence – and she did just that. They’re from the same school of learning and were almost dead even with their skill sets – big serves and consistent groundstrokes, so going toe to toe for the 1 hour and 16 minutes that they played. The final result boiled down to who would blink first in the contest, and at 4-5 in the first, it was Stephens. Vanderweghe capitalized and took the first set 6-4 by breaking Sloane’s serve. After that, Stephens’ body language indicated she no longer believed and she never really found that extra push to sway the pendulum in her direction. Coco prevailed in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, over the no. 29 seed.

“Today just wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t my day,” she said of the loss. “Obviously I’m disappointed, but it won’t be the last tournament I ever play, and it certainly won’t be my last US Open”

Madison Keys gushes about first round win during press conference. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

Madison Keys gushes about first round win during press conference. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

Madison Keys, the charge of tennis legend Lindsay Davenport, took on Czech Klara Koukalova over on Grandstand and besides a dropped serve “hiccup” in the second set, the match was pretty routine: a straight sets win , 6-2, 6-4, over a lower ranked and over matched opponent.

“I’m pretty happy about it,” she said about her performance. “I think a really good first set, really good start. Then my level dropped a little bit in the second set , and I really just kind of dug deep and figured out a way to get back in the match.”

Vanessa Williams performs the National Anthem. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

Vanessa Williams performs the National Anthem. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

After an opening ceremony that featured an inspiring performance by Josh Groban and a poised Vanessa Williams singing the National Anthem, the woman of the fortnight, Serena Williams, entered the stadium to raucous applause and cheers. The song playing in the stadium as she made her way on court was “Do the Stanky Leg“ – which I don’t know if she chose it or some tournament music director, but I would’ve chosen for her, “All Eyez on Me,” by Tupac.

Nevertheless, the tournament darling was sporting a new black and pink Nike dress with a revealing back and a floral pattern dominating the front. It was a look befitting the 6-time US Open champion going for her 22 Slam – and likely met with the approval of friend Ana Wintour (along with Alec Baldwin and Martha Stewart) who was in the stands supporting.

After a brief warm-up, it was time for the Calendar Grand Slam hopeful to get the ball rolling on her campaign. But it turned out a little easier than expected. Her opponent on the day, Vitalia Diatchenko was likely and understandably – overwhelmed by the occasion and never really got started in the match. She called for the trainer 14 minutes in, down 0-5, which caused one commentator to humorously wonder if she “needed smelling salts.”

Serena Williams playing against her injured opponent. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

Serena Williams playing against her injured opponent. (photo credit: Margot Jordan)

“Yeah, it was definitely different and bizarre,” she said of the incident.  “But at the same time, I was still focused.”

The issue was apparently and injury to her ankle, however, and after the medical timeout was up and Serena closed the first set out 6-0 within a minute or so, the Russian again called the trainers out and decided to throw in the towel.

And just like that, Serena was one match closer to her dream.

Props to the Russian, though, for not stiffing the dense night crowd who paid to see Serena in all her athletic glory.

So, at the end of Day 1 at the US Open you had one less seeded American woman of color, Stephens, and six fewer seeded women, Ana Ivanovic (7); Karolina Pliskova (8); Carla Suarez Navarro (10); Svetlana Kuznetsova (30); Jelena Jankovic (21), in Serena’s half of the draw that could’ve stood in her way. Heather Watson, who was on the verge of denying her the Wimbledon win, was also eliminated from her side of the draw on the day.

Notable losses on the ATP side included last year’s finalist, Kei Nishikori, and Frenchman Gael Monfils, a tournament favorite, retired due to a back issue.

For more Day 1 results, check here.