By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Daniil Medvedev got off to an easy start in his U.S. Open title defense, beating Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 on Monday.
Simona Halep had another early start, this time in a memorable first tour-level win for Ukraine’s Daria Snigur.
Snigur upset the no. 7 seeded 6-2, 0-6, 6-4, then struggled through tears to explain what the victory meant for his family and his country, which is at war with Russia.
On the same pitch at Arthur Ashe Stadium where Serena Williams began what could be the final tournament of her career with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Danka Kovinic on Monday night, top-seeded Medvedev looked as strong as he did in beating Novak Djokovic in last year’s final for his first major title.
Medvedev advanced to face Arthur Rinderknech of France. The Russian is trying to become the first repeat champion at the US Open since Roger Federer won five in a row between 2004 and 2008.
“I need to be at my best on Wednesday and I’m going to try to do that,” Medvedev said.
Andy Murray was another early winner, 10 years after winning the first of his three Grand Slam titles at Flushing Meadows. He had one of the first upsets of the tournament as he defeated No. 24 seed Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
“It seems like a long time ago,” Murray said of his win over Djokovic in 2012. “A lot has happened since then in my career.”
Djokovic was unable to travel to the tournament this year because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas will not stay there after losing the first 11 games to qualifier Daniel Elahi Galan before falling 6-0, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5.
Many fans who arrived for the day session of the last Grand Slam event of the season focused on the match that would open the action in the evening. Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, has said that she is preparing to end her tennis career.
Coco Gauff was not going to miss it and said she would change her plans and attend instead of watching it on television in her hotel room.
“As I was thinking about it, I was like, I have to watch,” the 18-year-old American said after her straight-set victory. “I’m excited and, you know, it’s not often that we see games live, to be honest.”
Last year’s women’s finalist Leylah Fernandez and this year’s Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios were winners in night matches, and the Australian said he watched Williams’ ceremony on television before following her onto the court.
They faced more comfortable conditions after a strong start under sunny skies at Flushing Meadows. Leading 3-0 in the third set, Medvedev told the chair umpire that he wanted an ice pack so he could put it on his head.
“It was quite hot today and humid,” Medvedev said. “I see the other guys coming from five sets in the locker room, pretty red faces. That’s also fun in a way sometimes to overcome these conditions. Even today, the match maybe wasn’t that intense and long, but yes, I sweated a lot and it wasn’t easy.”
No. 10 Taylor Fritz said he struggled with windy conditions in his four-set loss to qualifier Brandon Holt, the son of two-time US Open women’s champion Tracy Austin.
Snigur was playing his first Grand Slam main draw match. The 20-year-old wore a bow with the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag on her chest, and she wrapped her hands around it after finishing off the victory.
He played last week in the “Tennis Games for Peace Exhibition” to raise funds to help Ukraine. That was at Louis Armstrong Stadium, which may have calmed her nerves a bit when she was sent back to the same court on Monday.
“I think it helped me because I was here at ‘Tennis Plays for Peace’ and I think it helped me a little bit,” Snigur said as she fought back tears during an on-court interview.
Halep had won 19 of her last 22 matches and recently returned to the top 10, but the US Open has been the most challenging major for the two-time Grand Slam champion. She is 21-11 in New York and has lost in the first round in three of her last five appearances.
Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, needed three sets to overcome Harmony Tan, the French player who beat Williams in the first round at Wimbledon.
Two other previous champions had short stays. Dominic Thiem, the 2020 champion who missed last year through injury, fell to Pablo Carreno Busta in four sets. 2016 winner Stan Wawrinka withdrew from his match against Corentin Moutet after losing a second-set tiebreak. He has been plagued by injuries in recent years.
No. 29th seed Tommy Paul beat the heat to overcome Bernabe Zapata Miralles 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-0, 7-5 in 3 hours, 10 minutes. His compatriot Sebastian Korda also earned his first win at his home slam, beating Facundo Bagnis in four sets.
Another American surprisingly advanced, with JJ Wolf ousting No. 16 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets.
Then, Wu Yibing became the first Chinese man to win a US Open match in the professional era, defeating No. 31 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. He had worked his way up the field through the qualifying tournament, joining compatriot and fellow qualifier Zhang Zhizhen as the first Chinese men in the US Open main draw since the open era began in 1968.
Zhang lost her first round match.
Third seed Maria Sakkari and No. 17 Caroline Garcia were among the early winners on the women’s side, with Sakkari edging Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria in straight sets.
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