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Saturday , October 24 2020

Nadal sends Millman to US Open exit, holder Osaka survives Blinkova test

Halep ends string of 1st-round losses; Kyrgios, Gauff advance as Stephens, Muguruza ousted

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, returns a shot to Anna Blinkova, of Russia, during the first round of the US Open tennis tournament on Aug 27 in New York. (AP)

NEW YORK, Aug 28, (RTRS): Three-times champion Rafa Nadal denied John Millman any chance of posting another fairytale run in New York as he cruised by the Australian 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the US Open.

Millman delivered the upset of the tournament last year when he beat five-times winner Roger Federer in a surprising run to the quarter-finals but he was unable to recreate the same magic against the relentless Spanish second seed.

Nadal, who last year retired from his semifinal with a knee injury after several gruelling matches, was a model of efficiency in his opening match of the year’s final Grand Slam.

The 33-year-old Spaniard, who snacked on some dates that were on a plate beside his courtside chair, seemed to get better as the match went on and made quick work of Millman in the final set where he went up an early double break for a 3-0 lead.

The only thing to rattle Nadal under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium came when he was getting ready to serve at 5-3 in the first set and the chair umpire issued a time violation that the Spaniard took issue with.

Nick Kyrgios delivered heaps of brilliant shotmaking and a sprinkle of controversy in a 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-4 win over American Steve Johnson that put the Australian into the second round of the US Open.

Kyrgios was laser focused for the first half of the match as he deployed a lethal mix of monster serves, stinging forehands and smart net play but nearly unravelled when he got agitated over a fan who interrupted his ball toss.

Vasek Pospisil picked the ideal time to secure his first win of the season as the Canadian upset Russian ninth seed Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the second round of the US Open.

 Dominic Thiem’s latest bid for Grand Slam glory came to an abrupt end at the US Open when he fell to unseeded Thomas Fabbiano 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a shock first-round exit, the biggest upset of the men’s competition so far.

The fourth-seeded Austrian’s blistering serve yielded 14 aces but it was not enough to overcome the 30-year-old Fabbiano, whose fearsome forehand helped him save nine out of the 10 break points he faced.

Naomi Osaka was given a testing workout by Anna Blinkova as she began the defence of her US Open title but the world number one’s power and shot making ultimately proved too much as she prevailed 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2.

The unseeded Blinkova raced into a 4-1 lead in the first set and a shock appeared to be in the works but Osaka cut down her errors to win five straight games and take the opener.

The tenacious Blinkova refused to back down, however, saving a match point on Osaka’s serve in the second before breaking her to set up a tiebreak, which the Russian won when Osaka sent a return into the net.

The 21-year-old Japanese responded by looking to her box and mimicked putting a gun to her head and pulling the trigger.

Osaka stayed composed in the third, however, breaking Blinkova to take a 3-1 lead before sealing the first-round win with a blistering forehand that caught the line.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep snapped a string of early US Open exits with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over American lucky loser Nicole Gibbs to reach the second round.

The Romanian fourth seed, who fell at the first hurdle in New York the last two years, looked to be heading for yet another early exit but came out firing after losing the second set to Gibbs.

Former champion Sloane Stephens was stunned by Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 6-3, 6-4 in the first round after an inconsistent display during which she was unable to find any sort of rhythm.

The American 11th seed, who triumphed here in 2017, fought off two match points but on the third was caught out of position behind the baseline when the Russian ripped a backhand that clipped the net chord and landed in.

Teen sensation Cori “Coco” Gauff lived up to the hype surrounding her US Open debut, battling back to beat Anastasia Potapova 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in a back-and-forth thriller.

The outlook appeared bleak for the 15-year-old American when she was broken to open the second set but Gauff broke back in the next game to seize the momentum and ultimately level up the contest in front of a supportive crowd.

American Alison Riske recovered to beat twice Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 and set up a second-round clash with another major winner Jelena Ostapenko.

Riske was her own worst enemy at the outset, committing 15 unforced errors and four double faults in a shaky first set, but settled down and finished with 39 winners to the Spaniard’s 24.

Russian Andrey Rublev used a steady stream of power from the baseline to upset eighth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 7-5 reach the second round.

Canada’s rising talent Bianca Andreescu was cheered to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over 17-year-old American Katie Volynets in the first round on a noisy Court 10.

The 15th seed kept her 413th ranked opponent on the run with superior net play and fended off four of five break points in a gritty defensive performance in front of her supporters.

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