Federer, Serena win to begin title defenses
NEW YORK Roger Federer and Serena Williams began their U.S. Open title defenses Monday with easy wins in matches that will probably stick only in the memories of the players they beat.
Federer defeated NCAA champion Devin Britton, 6-1, 6-3, 7-5, and Williams rolled over wild card Alexa Glatch, 6-4,
6-1, to fashion a predictable start to the last major championship of 2009.
“My goal was to not get crushed,” Britton conceded, “and make it interesting for a little while.”
He did, even breaking Federer’s serve in the second and third sets, though he was unable to follow either by winning his own serve in the next game.
Glatch was in the same boat, pushing the second-seeded Williams in the first set before losing quickly in the second. One of America’s top juniors earlier in the decade, Glatch received a wild card for the U.S. Open, only to find she was playing one of the best Grand Slam players in history.
Williams, who has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, is going for her second straight and fourth U.S. Open title.
“You just try not to think about the occasion,” Glatch said. “You try to pretend it’s any other court and you’re playing against any other opponent. But it’s very hard to do, especially when it’s your first time out there in the biggest stadium there is.”
Other winners in the first round included eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, 12th-seeded Agnieszka Radwan-ska, 17th-seeded Amelie Mauresmo and 26th-seeded Francesca Schiavone. Paul-Henri Mathieu, No. 26 on the men’s side, was the first seeded player to lose, beaten by Mikhail Youzhny,
2-6, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2.
American John Isner won a 16-14 second-set tiebreaker, the highlight of a 6-1, 7-6 (14), 7-6 (5) upset over 28th-seeded Victor Hanescu.
Opening the day in Ashe Stadium was 2005 champion Kim Clijsters, who returned to competitive tennis this summer after taking two years off to start a family. She had a baby girl in May 2008.
Clijsters defeated Viktoriya Kutuzova, 6-1, 6-1, and didn’t show much rust.
“Now it’s a matter of trying to keep this going,” the Belgian said.
She won the first seven and last 11 points of the match and grinded through her few hiccups, including three double-faults in the third game of the opening set, which extended to seven deuces before she pulled it out.
The win guaranteed she’ll be ranked at least 148th after the Open, when she’ll have played the three required tournaments she needs to return to the list.
“I still feel like I can improve,” she said. “But I’m definitely comfortable where I am right now.”
As is Federer, who overcame a “slump” last year when he lost to Rafael Nadal in the French and Wimbledon finals, and has returned back to the top of his game. He won both those titles this year, holds the record with 15 Grand Slam championships and isn’t showing signs of tiring.
He is looking for his sixth straight U.S. Open title. Win or lose, the paycheck guaranteed by the opening-round victory made him the first player in tennis history to reach $50 million in prize money.
“I know tennis is not everything, so it’s not a problem,” said Federer, the father of 5-week-old twin girls. “But if I enjoy playing tennis, why should I stop just because I’ve beaten the all-time Grand Slam record? That’s not what tennis is all about.”
Easy for him to say.
While he moves on, Britton plans to hang around and see if he can pull one of the wild-card invites for the mixed doubles. He’s signed up with the women’s NCAA champion, Mallory Cecil, and is hoping the pairing of two college champions will interest the tournament organizers.
Either way, he’s had about as good a U.S. Open experience as a young player can get.
“It was so exciting to be out there,” Britton said. “Hopefully I get the chance to be out there again.”