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US Open 2020: Novak Djokovic Cruises; Osaka Toils; Gauff Bows Out and More

Novak Djokovic sails past Dzumhur | Naomi Osaka honors Breonna Taylor with mask, wins US Open opener | Zverev Rises To Anderson Challenge In New York | Coco Gauff suffers early exit | Serena Williams begins her quest for 24th Grand Slam title against Kristie Ahn.
Naomi Osaka at US Open wearing mask with Breonna Taylor written on it.

Ahead of her opening-round US Open match against Misaki Doi, Naomi Osaka entered the court wearing a face mask with the words "Breonna Taylor" on it.

World No 1 Novak Djokovic claimed a quick fire  6-1, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Damir Dzumhur at the US Open on late yesterday, to keep his unbeaten 2020 on track. Djokovic, the overwhelming favourite to win the title is 24-0 this year on the Tour. 

"He's one of the quickest players on the Tour. He played some really good shots and it was anybody's game midway through the second set," Djokovic said post match. "I was pleased to close out the second set and then stepped it up [by] a couple of levels.”

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Despite his relatively easy victory, Djokovic admitted to concerns about his recovery especially considering the glut of matches over the past week. “I did struggle a bit [with] the semi-finals and final back to back [last week at the Western & Southern Open], but I had 48 hours. Not so much [time], but still enough time to recover. I felt good on the court today. The good thing about a Slam is that you only play every two days, so you have at least one day of rest and recovery. I’m going to try to use that as much as I can and gather all my energy and strength for the next one,” he added.

Osaka’s Tough Win

Naomi Osaka has vowed to keep raising her voice against racial inequality and injustice after a hard fought 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 first round win over compatriot Misaki Doi in New York. The former US Open champion and fourth seed this year wore a mask with Breonna Taylor’s name on it on the court. Taylor was shot dead by police in Louisville in March this year. 

The 22-year-old said she planned to wear a mask bearing the name of a different shooting victim for each round that she remains in this year’s tournament. "Actually I have seven masks," Osaka said. "It's quite sad that seven isn't enough given the number of names. Hopefully I'll make the final and you can see them all."

Osaka had initially pulled out of the Western & Southern Open last week in protest before reversing her decision after conversations with the organisers and the WTA Tour. She subsequently won her semi final but withdrew from the final due to an injury. 

The effects of her injury were on display in the first round match against an opponent who had only ever won once in the US Open main draw in seven appearances. Osaka is considered among the favourites, but the injury and the its effects may temper expectations.

“It was very difficult and I kind of expected it because I know she’s a tough opponent,” Osaka said. “I knew there was a chance it would get really long and I’ll just have to see how I feel tomorrow.”

Zverev Edges Anderson

In sharp contrast to Djokovic, Alexander Zverev was made to sweat by Kevin Anderson in his first round match before finally recording a 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5  victory in a three hour long ordeal at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. 

This was Zverev’s first win since the resumption of the ATP Tour. The German lost to Andy Murray in the first round of the Western and Southern Open. 

“I am actually quite happy with a first round like that,” Alexander Zverev said after the match. “Kevin is not someone you usually play in the first round. This is a fourth round, quarter-final, semi-final match normally against him. I am extremely happy to be through.”

Although not among the favourites in New York, Zverev, once considered among the hottest prospects on Tour has slowly pulled himself back into contention after an indifferent couple of years. He made it to the semi finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. 

”[My volley] is something that I worked on in these six months,” said Zverev. “It was my serve, my volleys that I worked on. In the [Western & Southern Open] match, I thought I did those two things well until the really important moments and I wanted to do it differently to finish off the match today.”

Gauff Eliminated

Teenage sensation Coco Gauff made an early exit at the first round of the US Open knocked out by Anastasija Sevastova in three sets, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. 

Gauff, who had previously participated in three Grand Slams and also reached the fourth round at the Australian Open suffered a big blow after she was eliminated at an early stage.

“Just the beginning,” Gauff said Monday. “I just got on Tour a little over a year ago, so I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.”

Gauff double faulted 13 times and saw her serve broken seven times against Sevastova. Despite her efforts to avoid double faults in the final game of the match, the American could not sustain her momentum and ended up making errors that lead her to being eliminated from the tournament. 

“I wish I would play like this when I was 16 years old,” Sevastova said, in praise of Gauff’s efforts. “Great player. Nothing more to say. I think she maybe started a bit slower than me, but she was getting better as the match went on. That’s so important I think in tennis.”

Williams to Face Ahn

Serena Williams is all set to face Kristie Ahn to begin her quest to claim a record equalling 24th Grand Slam at Arthur Ashe Stadium today. Williams hasn’t won the US Open in six years and hasn’t actually won a Grand Slam since she won the Australian Open in 2017 in the early stages of her pregnancy.

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"Playing in New York is going to be interesting, because the stadium is huge," Williams said in response to playing in what is perhaps the biggest stadium in tennis — which will be rendered empty. "But I do practice in empty stadiums, so I played in New York on Arthur Ashe Stadium when it was empty and it was great.

Williams admitted to finding empty stadiums abnormal but did not disavow them, lending support to the organisers’ decision to restart the Tour. "I don't dislike it and that's weird because I am a player that is so emotional and so, like, a crowd player," Williams said. "Kind of reminds me of the junior days. There is something nostalgic about that."

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