Osaka advances while Tsitsipas escapes Murray at US Open
New York: Defending champion Naomi Osaka stretched her Grand Slam win streak to 16 matches on Monday at the US Open while Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas struggled past Andy Murray in five sets. Osaka, seeking her third US Open crown in four years, defeated 87th-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-1 at a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium to book a second-round matchup with Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic. “It feels kind of crazy to play in front of everyone again,” Osaka said. “I feel really comfortable here. I’m just glad I won.” Osaka beat Bouzkova in their only prior meeting in the first round of this year’s Australian Open on the way to her fourth Grand Slam title. The 23-year-old Japanese star could become the first back-to-back US Open women’s champion since Serena Williams, out this year with a torn hamstring, won her third in a row in 2014. Osaka’s major win streak includes her most recent US and Australian Open wins and a first-round win at this year’s French Open before withdrawing over mental health issues. Osaka, who lit the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics, gave an Olympic pin to a young girl in the same venue where she won last year’s title when fans were banned due to Covid-19. “It felt quite lonely for me,” she said. “So I’m quite glad to see little kids in the audience and grown ups too. The energy here is unmatched.” Osaka saved a break point in the ninth game on a service winner and captured the first set by breaking Bouzkova in the 10th game when the Czech netted a backhand. In the second set, Osaka broke for a 2-0 lead, then saved three break points with winners and held in an eight-minute third game on the way to victory in 93 minutes. Tsitsipas outlasted Britain’s Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, by 2-6, 7-6 (9/7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after four hours and 49 minutes in surroundings more like an intense second-week showdown than a curtain-raiser for the fortnight. “To have an electric atmosphere out here is something we’ve been waiting for,” Tsitsipas said. Two-time Olympic champion Murray, ranked 112th lost for the first time in 15 first-round US Open matches. “It didn’t come easy,” Tsitsipas said. “Lots of sacrifices I had to make on the court to get back.” Tsitsipas, this year’s French Open runner-up, took a long break before the final set, frustrating Murray, who surrendered a break in the opening game. Delay tactics brought a frosty reception at the net after the match. – AFP