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Simona Halep passes first-round test against Nicole Gibbs at U.S. Open

Nicole Gibbs hits a return.
Nicole Gibbs returns a shot during her first-round match against Simona Halep at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.
(Associated Press)

After two straight years of going one-and-done at the U.S. Open, No. 4 women’s seed Simona Halep was relieved to survive her first-round match.

Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion, was pressed by Nicole Gibbs of Venice on Tuesday but pulled away in the third set for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory at Louis Armstrong Stadium. “Definitely I feel lighter now. I feel much better that I could win a match finally in this tournament,” she said. “I’m moving well. I just need a little bit of, you know, [mental] confidence.”

Gibbs underwent surgery in May after a growth in her mouth was diagnosed as a cancerous tumor and she acknowledged she hasn’t fully regained her strength or the weight she lost. Fatigue and Halep’s skills were too much for Gibbs in the third set, but simply getting here was a victory.

“I think I’ve always known that I’m a fighter. But to be through the journey I’ve been through over the past few months, to land myself on Armstrong playing against one of the best in the game, and going the distance, I think that really just reinforces it for me,” she said. “I’m going to take a lot of inspiration from this and try to carry it forward into what’s left in my year and my tennis career.”

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The mighty have fallen

No. 4 Dominic Thiem of Austria was one of four top-10 men’s seeds who were eliminated on Tuesday. Thiem lost in four sets to world No. 87 Thomas Fabbiano of Italy, No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece lost in four sets to unseeded Russian Andrey Rublev, No. 9 Karen Khachanov lost in five sets to Canada’s Vasek Pospisil and No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut—a semifinalist at Wimbledon—was ousted in five sets by Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

Naomi Osaka sees glimpses of herself in Coco Gauff as the two players’ tennis careers continue to rise together at the U.S. Open.

No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who advanced with a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 over John Millman, wasn’t aware so many seeds had lost. “Tsitsipas had a very tough first round. Of course, Karen is a surprise. I think Thiem [was] very sick for the last 10 days. I feel very sorry for him,” Nadal said. “Roberto was a surprise. Honestly, I’m very sad for him.”

Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017 and was seeded 25th here, was overtaken by American Alison Riske, who came back for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory. Muguruza said the depth in the women’s ranks makes it difficult to keep a top ranking. “Now you feel like if you’re not 100% every day you have matches like today, you know, opponents play just great,” she said. Riske, who began the tournament with a career-best ranking of No. 36, said she was happy she overcame her first-set mistakes. “Just winning one round at the U.S. Open wasn’t the intention. I’m looking forward to it and I’m just really excited that I have given myself a chance to play another match,” said Riske, who next will face Jelena Ostapenko.

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No. 11 Sloane Stephens, who has struggled since she won here in 2017, was ousted by qualifier Anna Kalinskaya, 6-3, 6-4. “I was playing one good point, one bad point, one good point. The inconsistency doesn’t help me at all,” Stephens said. “She did a good job just staying there, keep fighting. She never really let me in. Kudos to her.”

Etc.

John Isner, the top-seeded American man at No. 14, served 29 aces in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over qualifier Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain...Hyeon Chung of South Korea was pushed hard by wild-card entrant Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina but pulled out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 win on Court 10….American Frances Tiafoe, 21, advanced to the men’s second round when 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic of Croatia retired during their third set. Tiafoe won the first two sets.... Nick Kyrgios defeated Steve Johnson, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-4.


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