Halep, Muguruza among early winners at US Open

AP/New York
Filed on August 30, 2021
Simona Halep of Romania plays a return against Camila Giorgi of Italy. (AFP)

The tournament welcomed back spectators after being played last year without fans

Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, a pair of two-time Grand Slam champions who have had their difficulties in New York, pulled out tough two-set victories on Monday in the opening round of the US Open.

Halep, who had consecutive first-round exits in the 2017 and 2018 US Opens, held off Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-6 (3). Muguruza, the No. 9 seed, advanced with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) victory over Donna Vekic.

Those were two of the earliest victories as the tournament welcomed back spectators after being played last year without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The grounds were packed throughout the day and figured to be again at night when defending women’s champion Naomi Osaka played her first-round match.

Halep missed the French Open and Wimbledon — the two major tournaments she has won — with a left calf injury, and her return to Grand Slam tennis came at the one where she’s had her least success.

Her loss to Kaia Kanepi in 2018 was the first time the No. 1 seed lost in the first round of the US Open in the professional era. She acknowledged after that defeat that maybe the noise of New York just wasn’t her scene, and the sounds were back on Monday with the stands again allowed to be filled to full capacity.

Long lines and big crowds were a readjustment for any players. Madison Keys had to wait while serving midway through the second set of her match against Sloane Stephens, the first of the tournament on Arthur Ashe Stadium, as fans were late returning to their seats after a changeover.

Halep was in some danger again against Giorgi, an Italian who recently won a hard-court title in Montreal for the biggest victory of her career. The No. 12 seed was broken while serving for the match at 5-4 but recovered to win the final four points of the tiebreaker.

Muguruza has also won the French Open and Wimbledon, but the US Open is the only major where she hasn’t reached the quarterfinals. She was knocked out in the first round just two years ago.

But she steadied herself in both tiebreakers against Vekic, who reached the quarterfinals in 2019.

On the men’s side, No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman rolled into the second round by beating Ricardas Berankis in straight sets.

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