The toughest of Monday’s opening matches at the U.S. Open went 12th-seeded Simona Halep’s way. She posted a 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory over Camila Giorgi on the Grandstand court.
Halep, a two-time Grand Slam tournament champion, had not won a match since May after tearing a left calf muscle during the Italian Open in Rome. Afterward, she missed the French Open and her title defense at Wimbledon. She returned to the tour in Montreal this month, but lost her first match there to Danielle Collins and then pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters event before her second-round match against Jessica Pegula.
Giorgi’s recent form made her one of the least desirable opening-round draws among unseeded players.
Giorgi has been known for her power for years — she stunned sixth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the third round of the 2013 U.S. Open — but there have been as many misses as hits for most of her career. This summer, however, she won the WTA 1000 event in Montreal with a run through a loaded field. All six of her Montreal opponents — Elise Mertens, Nadia Podoroska, Petra Kvitova, Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and Karolina Pliskova — have reached at least the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam within the last year.
Giorgi surprisingly had an advantage in longer rallies against Halep’s counterpunching, winning 20 of the 35 exchanges that lasted five or more shots. But a string of unforced errors in the last three points derailed Giorgi’s chances, and sent Halep into the second round.
Another two-time Grand Slam event champion, Garbiñe Muguruza, won an opening match on Monday afternoon, on Armstrong. The ninth-seeded Muguruza defeated Donna Vekic, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). Vekic is coached by Muguruza’s former coach Sam Sumyk.
The first seeded player knocked out of the U.S. Open was 31st-seeded Yulia Putintseva, a quarterfinalist here last year, who fell, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, to the Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi.
Kanepi, 36, has reached six Grand Slam quarterfinals in her career.
Fans entering the grounds of the U.S. Open faced long lines and heavy delays in the first hour of the tournament.
The tournament began Monday at 11 a.m. and fans were queuing from the moment they stepped out of the Willets Point subway station. Some said they had been in line for two hours.
Betty Gruber, from Chelmsford, Mass., was toward the back of the line and said she had been waiting 35 minutes with a long way to go before reaching the checkpoints.
“And then they let hundreds of people go right past us,” she said. “I’m 82, and there are kids here and people who need to use the bathroom. It is very poorly organized.”
Some of the delay could be because of the extra time required to check proof of coronavirus vaccinations. Tournament officials had not made that a requirement for entry until Friday, but fans like Gruber said they were vaccinated and carried their cards with them, anyway.
Fans lining up at the South entrance said they had joined the back of the line, which was behind the giant globe monument in Flushing Meadows Park, over an hour earlier. By 1:30 p.m. the bottleneck had cleared.
Looking for some good matches on Monday, the first day of the U.S. Open? Naomi Osaka will open the defense of her women’s title to lead off the night session, and Andy Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, will play third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in an afternoon match.
Here are previews of those matches and a few others to keep an eye on (all times are Eastern and approximate, except for Halep’s and Osaka’s).
Grandstand | 11 a.m.
Simona Halep vs. Camila Giorgi
Simona Halep, the 12th seed, pulled out of the Western & Southern Open this month citing a tear in her right abductor. A two-time major champion, Halep is a tough competitor when healthy, but multiple injuries this year kept her out of the French Open and Wimbledon.
Camila Giorgi, ranked 36th, is on an upswing, having won her first Masters 1000 event at the National Bank Open in August. Giorgi has an aggressive baseline game that will put Halep on defensive footing, and for both players it will be a proper test of their capabilities to make a deep run at the U.S. Open.
ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM | 2 p.m.
Andy Murray vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Andy Murray, who won the U.S. Open in 2012, has struggled with injuries since 2018, playing on the tour intermittently between surgeries. Still, Murray has been able to compete well enough, reaching the third round at Wimbledon in July.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the third seed, crashed out of Wimbledon in the first round after a charge to the finals at the French Open. His consistency is often challenged by experienced players, and he will be in for a grinding match against a three-time major tournament champion in their first meeting.
ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM | 7 p.m.
Naomi Osaka vs. Marie Bouzkova
Naomi Osaka, the third seed, won the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020, and will be looking to start her title defense with a convincing first-round victory. Osaka lost in the third round of the Olympics to the eventual silver medalist, Marketa Vondrousova. The disappointing result in Tokyo can surely be put behind her as she returns in front of the adoring crowds of New York.
Marie Bouzkova reached her second career WTA final in February on the hardcourts of Melbourne leading up to the Australian Open. A 23-year-old Czech, she won the girls’ U.S. Open title in 2014 but has not replicated that success on the pro tour. An upset against Osaka would be her biggest win.
ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM | 9 p.m.
Daniil Medvedev vs. Richard Gasquet
Daniil Medvedev, the second seed, will face off against Richard Gasquet, a veteran of the ATP Tour, to cap the night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Medvedev won the National Bank Open this month, and is a favorite to make the final on Sept. 12. Gasquet has not been past the third round of a major tournament since 2016, and an upset seems unlikely as Medvedev will look to repeat or better his finals run from 2019.
The first match in Arthur Ashe Stadium at this year’s U.S. Open is a star-studded rematch of the women’s singles final from four years ago. It is also a match between two unseeded players.
The 2017 women’s singles champion, Sloane Stephens, will face the 2017 runner-up, Madison Keys, on Monday at noon, an early meeting between close friends seeking traction as they slide in the rankings.
Stephens won that 2017 final, 6-3, 6-0, and greeted Keys at the net with a tight embrace. Keys joined Stephens’s celebration later that evening in Manhattan. Stephens’s steady counterpunching suffocated Keys, giving her only six unforced errors in the match. In her news conference afterward, Stephens joked Keys would cope with the loss well.
“She was in the finals, too, what do you mean? Did you see the check she’s about to get?” Stephens said, laughing. “I’m sure she’ll be just fine.”
Stephens won another meeting between the two Americans in the 2018 French Open semifinals. Keys has won two of their last three matches and scored her first win over Stephens on the way to a title in Charleston in 2019. That meeting came when both were ranked in the top 20; now, neither is in the top 40.
Stephens has the lower ranking of the two at No. 64, but is showing better form. She had a run in June to the fourth round of the French Open, where a lopsided loss to Barbora Krejcikova became less deflating when Krejcikova won the event.
Keys, ranked 41st, fell out of the top 30 this month for the first time in over six years, after losing the ranking points she had from her title at the Western & Southern Open near Cincinnati two years ago. This is her first time being unseeded at a Grand Slam event since she made a breakthrough run to the Australian Open semifinals in 2015.
Though North American hardcourts have been a happy hunting ground for Keys, she lost her first matches in San Jose, Montreal and Mason, Ohio, this summer, all in straight sets.
Surprisingly, given their shared prowess on hardcourts, the last four meetings between the two have been on clay, including two this year. Stephens beat Keys in Charleston in April, while Keys came back from a set down to beat Stephens in Rome.