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Defending U.S. Open champ Novak Djokovic cruises through first round

Novak Djokovic returns a shot during his first-round victory over Roberto Carballes Baena at the U.S. Open on Monday.
Novak Djokovic returns a shot during his first-round victory over Roberto Carballes Baena at the U.S. Open on Monday.
(Associated Press)

Before the U.S. Open began, top seed Novak Djokovic said winning more Grand Slam titles is his main focus at this stage of his career. He moved toward a 17th championship by dismissing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in a first-round match Monday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“They matter the most in the history of our sport. And certainly motivate me the most,” Djokovic, 32, said of the Slams. “Of course, I do value every tournament that I play in, especially the big ATP 1000 Masters events, try my best. These are the events where I want to perform my best.”

Djokovic said it was “a solid performance” for an opener. “I’m hoping that I can build from here,” he said. On Wednesday, he will face Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina, who defeated American Sam Querrey 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3), 7-5. Djokovic and Londero have never faced each other.

Ashleigh Barty makes successful comeback

Unhappy over a slow start, No. 2 women’s seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia fought back for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. “I think I just didn’t give myself a chance in that first set. Sort of appalling, probably made a set’s worth of errors,” Barty said of her 19 unforced errors and erratic serving. “I think it was just nice to kind of lock down a little bit. It took some time but kind of broke her down in the end.” Her next opponent will be Floridian Lauren Davis, a 7-5, 6-2 winner over Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

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Serena Williams didn’t have any problem beating Maria Sharapova for the 19th consecutive time, but Roger Federer didn’t have a smooth first-round match.

Althea Gibson honored

A statue of Althea Gibson, who in 1956 became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title and in 1957 became the first African American winner at Wimbledon and at the U.S championships, was unveiled Monday near Arthur Ashe Stadium. It features an interactive component that details her history. “I think it’s very important for people to know about Althea Gibson,” said Billie Jean King, a long-time advocate of the honor. “Not only who she is but what she represented to all of us, being the first African American to break the color line here at the U.S. nationals, as it was called then. ... People have to understand how she persevered and what she means to our sport, but not just to our sport — to society, to everyone.”

Venus Williams, who defeated Zheng Saisai of China 6-1, 6-0, applauded the addition of the statue. “It wasn’t easy to be African American in the ‘50s. It was actually, I wouldn’t even say easy, it was impossible to do that, and she did it and was a champion. I can’t even imagine what she went through,” said Williams, a two-time champion here who tied Martina Navratilova’s Open era record by making her 21st U.S. Open singles appearance. “She went through it so I didn’t have to. What she achieved, her story hasn’t been told, so that statue is the beginning of what we should be doing for Althea.”

Etc.

American Reilly Opelka upset No. 11 Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 in men’s first-round action. ... Taylor Fritz of Palos Verdes took the first set against Feliciano Lopez of Spain, but Lopez prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. ... Sixteen-year-old Zachary Svajda of San Diego won the first two sets against 37-year-old Paolo Lorenzi of Italy but became hobbled by cramps. Lorenzi outlasted him 3-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2. ... Qualifier Jenson Brooksby, an 18-year-old from Sacramento who is ranked 394th in the world, defeated former world No. 4 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 for his first win in a Grand Slam tournament.

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No. 3 women’s seed Karolina Pliskova was broken six times and committed 32 unforced errors but got past fellow Czech Tereza Martincova 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3). ... No. 14 Angelique Kerber of Germany, the 2016 winner here and a three-time Slam singles champion, was upset by unseeded Kristina Mladenovic of France, who prevailed 7-5, 0-6, 6-4 on the Grandstand court.


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