Serena, Djokovic roll but Nishikori falls at US Open
The three-time defending champion won 6-0 2-0 after only 30 minutes at Arthur Ashe Stadium when Diatchenko retired with a left foot injury, advancing Williams into the second round at Flushing Meadows.
The 33-year-old American chases the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 and a 22nd career major title to match Graf’s Open Era record, two <g data-gr-id="51">shy</g> of Australian Margaret Court’s all-time mark.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic cruised into the men’s second <g data-gr-id="45">round</g> but Japanese fourth seed Kei Nishikori crashed out after his runner-up effort last year.
Williams praised the New York crowd, which has adored her since she captured her first major title at the 1999 US Open as a teen prodigy.
“I felt the support and love on this journey and milestone I’m trying to take one match at a time,” Williams said.
“I feel so good. I’m so ready. I’m at home, where it all began for me in ‘99. It all feels great.” Williams advanced to a second-round match against Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens, who eliminated Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“If I can just stay relaxed and stay in the points and stay calm and stay happy out there, I have to look at it as I have nothing to lose.”
Williams lost plenty of potential obstacles in her march to history on day one as top-10 women’s seeds Ana Ivanovic, Karolina Pliskova and Carla Suarez Navarro <g data-gr-id="54">exited</g> with <g data-gr-id="55">opening-match</g> losses.
That left 12th seed Belinda Bencic – who ousted Bulgarian Sesil Karatancheva 6-1, 6-2 – as the top-rated <g data-gr-id="57">foe</g> in Williams’ half of the draw. Williams, who lost to Bencic in the Toronto semi-finals, could see the Swiss teen again in a quarter-final.
Williams, who owns six US and Australian Open and Wimbledon titles plus three French Open crowns, won her 22nd US Open match in a row since her last loss, to Aussie Samantha Stosur in the 2011 final. Williams has won eight Slam titles since then.
Djokovic needed only one hour and 11 minutes to capture a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Brazil’s Joao Souza.
“There’s something I love about number one for sure. <g data-gr-id="56">Hopefully</g> I can keep it up,” said Djokovic.
“I’m just hoping I can continue to play this way and if I can, I feel I have a really good chance against anybody.”
Djokovic’s highest-ranked possible semi-final foe had been Nishikori, but last year’s runner-up exited the US Open at the first match for the third time in five years as France’s 41st-ranked Benoit Paire saved two match points and defeated the Japanese star 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.
“To beat Nishikori, for me, it was impossible to imagine this,” Paire said. “I’m really happy.”
Paire, who had never before beaten a top-five foe, fired 21 aces to only three for Nishikori and blasted 64 winners, 30 more than Nishikori, with 67 unforced errors, 31 more than the Asian number one.
Serena credits Graf influence for mental focus
Three-time defending champion Serena Williams, chasing tennis milestones set by Steffi Graf, credited the retired German star with inspiring her mental discipline after reaching the second round of the US Open.
World number one Williams needed only 30 minutes to advance 6-0, 2-0 over 86th-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko at Arthur Ashe Stadium, taking her 22nd consecutive US Open triumph since losing the 2011 final to Australian Samantha Stosur when the Russian retired with a left foot injury.
Williams is trying to complete the first calendar year Grand Slam since Graf did it in 1988 and match Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam singles crowns, two shy of Aussie Margaret Court’s all-time record.