The men’s singles formbook continued to be largely respected at the US Open on Tuesday with second seed Andy Murray and fourth seed Novak Djokovic both cruising into the second round.
There were straight-sets wins too for seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 10th seed Fernando Verdasco, 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez and 17th seed Thomas Berdych, as, for once, most of the day’s drama was being played out in the women’s tournament.
Murray, losing finalist here last year to Roger Federer, was below his best, especially on serve, but still was a class above Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis, winning 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 in the featured night match on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
But he was left knowing that he will have to move up a gear or two if he is to win six more games and become the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam tournament.
Murray has always said that Flushing Meadows is his best chance of doing so.
”I had a good experience here last year and enjoy playing on that court,” he said.
”It’s the coolest atmosphere of all of the Slams and hopefully I will play all my matches there.
”When I needed to I upped my game but my concentration could have been better.
Serbia’s Djokovic, who lost to Federer in the 2007 final, was too powerful for a fading Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, winning at a canter 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
The 2008 Australian Open champion revealed afterward that his secret weapon this year is retired American player Todd Martin who has joined his coaching team for Flushing Meadows.
”We had a lot of hours on the court trying hard to improve my game so Todd, being a former top five player and in a couple of Grand Slam finals and much respected brought freshness to our team and things are functioning quite well.
”We always look for positives and that is exactly what I need.”
Tsonga was even more expedient, defeating American wildcard Chase Buchanan 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 in an early mismatch out on the Grandstand Court.
The 24-year-old from Le Mans failed to get past the third round in his two previous appearances at Flushing Meadows, but he won the boy’s title here in 2003 and he is the only player to defeat Roger Federer since May.
That came in the quarterfinals at the Montreal Masters, where he remarkably won from 1-5 down in the deciding set.
The Frenchman, runner-up to Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open, went through in 78 minutes and will next play the fit-again Marko Niemen of Finland, who defeated Fabio Fogging of Italy 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.
”I didn’t know what to expect of him [Buchanan] and I were wary as I remember when I was younger and had his ranking I was convinced me could beat anyone, anytime,” he said.
”It will be tough against Niemen as he is just coming back from injury and will be hungry to do well.
”But I am in good shape and playing well, so why not.”
Spain’s Verdasco served up 12 aces and hit 36 winners on the way to a 7-5, 6-4, 7-5 win over Benjamin Becker of Germany, while Berdych of the Czech Republic saw off Wayne Doeskin of the United States 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
Gonzalez, whose best showing at the US Open was a quarter-final appearance in 2002, saw off Nicolas Massa 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in an all-Chilean clash.
There were only two slight diversions from the script.
Veteran Ecuadorian Nicolas Layette upset Federer’s Swiss doubles partner and close friend Stanislaw Wawrinka, the 19th seed, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3
American qualifier Jesse Witten, a former collegiate standout, had earlier stunned 29th-seeded Russian Igor Andreev 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
”It’s my first ATP victory — it has been a lot of years,” he said.
”The last couple of weeks I’ve been playing well and I am not even sure why, but I am just going to roll with it.”
Top seed and defending champion Federer comfortably won through to the second round on Monday while third seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal is not in action until Wednesday when he takes on Richard Gasquet.
The French former top tenner will be playing his first match since purging a two and a half months’ suspension imposed for testing positive for cocaine.
In the women’s competition, former champion Maria Sharapova returned to Flushing Meadows with an impressive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria on Tuesday.
Several hours after her Russian compatriot Dinara Safina went perilously close to becoming the first No. 1-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the Open, 2006 champion Sharapova gave a much stronger performance.
The three-time Grand Slam titlist produced 29 winners — 23 more than her 98th-ranked opponent.
Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, seeded 11th, was bundled out in the first round by 52nd-ranked Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7).
The Serbian player had the worst showing ever by a top-seeded woman in New York last year when she exited in the second round. — Sapa-AP-AFP