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Ashleigh Barty claws her way out of first round of U.S. Open

Ashleigh Barty returns a shot to Vera Zvonareva during the first round of the U.S. Open.
Ashleigh Barty returns a shot to Vera Zvonareva during the first round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday in New York.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

At this time last year, Ashleigh Barty was home in Australia sitting on the couch with her dogs and not watching the U.S. Open. Having decided that COVID concerns posed too big a risk for her to travel to the last Grand Slam event of 2020, she disconnected from tennis for a while and put the strange year behind her.

She and her team came into 2021 “with the idea it would be an adventure,” she said, and she has turned it into a thrill ride. Among her five titles this year was her first championship at Wimbledon, the one event she hadn’t previously dared say aloud that she wanted to win. She has no such hesitations anymore. There’s no reason for her to hold back.

Ranked No. 1 in the world, Barty began play at this year’s U.S. Open with an impeccable first set but had to claw through the second set for a 6-1, 7-6 (7) victory over Vera Zvonareva of Russia at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Barty had some fine moments but also some lapses, and she probably gained more match sharpness from fighting for the win than if she had continued to impose her will at ease.

“Vera, without a doubt, she’s an experienced campaigner, and she understood what she was doing in the first set wasn’t working for her and she was able to adapt and to change that,” Barty said. “I think in the first set, I served exceptionally well. She was a little bit loose off her racket, and she gave me a few cheapies. And in the second, the 2-1 game serving and 5-4 game serving I just played two poor service games. She was able to take advantage of some second serves and a few cheapies from my end.

“I think all in all, being able to work my way around that and kind of get through that in straight sets was really pleasing. I think when my back was against the wall late in that buster, I came up with some really good stuff. That’s all we can ask is when your back is against the wall, you trust yourself, you go out there and pick your spots and hit them.”

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Naomi Osaka won her opening match at the U.S. Open, and she is still finding her way forward as she sheds the doubts that affected her mental well-being.

Barty, who won her first Grand Slam event singles title at the 2019 French Open, will next face Danish teenager Clara Tauson in their first career meeting. Barty is looking at it as another happy adventure in a year that’s becoming full of joyful moments.

“I like all the challenges, all different challenges that come with tennis. I think a new one, a fresh one is exciting,” Barty said. “We go into it and hopefully we’re clear as a bell, and we can just go out and there and try and execute.”

Alexander Zverev beats Sam Querrey, extends winning streak to 12

Alexander Zverev serves to Sam Querrey during the first round of the US Open.
Alexander Zverev serves to Sam Querrey during the first round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday in New York.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, who won gold in the Tokyo Olympic tennis tournament, extended his winning streak to 12 with a solid 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Sam Querrey of Agoura Hills in a first-round match at the U.S. Open on Tuesday. “I hope in two weeks’ time I’ll be on an 18-match winning streak,” Zverev said.

He also weighed in on the potty break controversy ignited when Andy Murray accused Stefanos Tsitsipas of taking too long when he left the court during their first-round match Monday. On Tuesday, Murray followed up with a Twitter post that said: “Fact of the day. It takes Stefanos Tsitsipas twice as long to go to the bathroom as it takes Jeff Bazos[sic] to fly into space. Interesting.” Murray added emojis of a toilet seat and a rocket.

Zverev couldn’t resist referring to that Tuesday when responding to a question about who might challenge Novak Djokovic’s attempt to win the calendar Grand Slam. He mentioned Daniil Medvedev and added, “I think Stefanos can play well if he doesn’t go to the moon and back for a toilet break, that will also help,” he said, smiling. “I had to. I’m sorry.”

But Zverev agreed with that Tsitsipas is indulging in gamesmanship. “To be honest, he’s the No. 3 player in the world. He’s a top-three player in the world. He’s one of the best in the world at what he does. I do not believe that he needs to do that, because if you’re top three in the world, you’re one of the best in the sport,” Zverev said. “These kind of things happen at junior events, at futures, at challengers maybe, but not when you’re top three in the world. You are allowed to do that, but it’s like an unwritten rule between players.”

Former UCLA doubles champion Maxime Cressy upsets No. 9 seed Pablo Carreno Busta

Maxime Cressy returns a shot to Pablo Carreno Busta.
Maxime Cressy returns a shot to Pablo Carreno Busta during their first-round match.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

People he didn’t know were chanting Maxime Cressy’s name as he came back from two sets down to defeat No. 9 seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Tuesday within the cozy confines of Court 4. Cressy doesn’t have much experience on the men’s pro tour, but he has been serenaded like that before, remarkably enough.

Cressy, who was born in France but is American and lives in Hermosa Beach, played on some strong UCLA squads and teamed with Keegan Smith to win the 2019 NCAA doubles title. On Tuesday, after he served 44 aces and hit 81 winners in a stunning 5-7, 4-6. 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7) comeback against Carreno Busta, he remembered the last time he heard people sing his name in tribute to him.

“It happened at UCLA when I was playing in college,” he said. “I played USC, our rival school, twice, and I was able to clinch for them. That was the first time that people were chanting my name. I was able to clinch both matches.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, yep.”

Cressy, who earned a berth in the main draw at the Open through the qualifying tournament, said he never lost confidence when he fell behind Tuesday. He saved four match points — though he wasn’t sure of the number and guessed that it had been three.

“My main thought I kept telling myself was on really holding my serve efficiently,” he said. “One of my good qualities, I’m not really scared of my opponent or whoever I’m playing. I was just focused on me and holding serve. That gave me some confidence. I was able to really loosen up and make some great shots to break him.”

Cressy’s freshman roommate was Mackenzie McDonald, who won NCAA singles and doubles titles for UCLA in 2016. McDonald sprang an upset of his own Tuesday, defeating No. 27 seed David Goffin 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 on Court 5. It was the first career U.S. Open main-draw win for McDonald, who will next face Kei Nishikori of Japan. Another UCLA standout, Marcos Giron, won his first match Monday, giving the Bruins strong representation in the second round even though 2020 Open runner-up Jennifer Brady had to withdraw before the tournament because of an unspecified injury.

“I’ve had some unbelievable years at UCLA that I’ll keep in my heart,” Cressy said. “It’s been incredible seeing all the Bruins doing very well. Jennifer Brady, Marcos, Macky. I’m thrilled for them too.”


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