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U.S. Open updates: Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka advance before rain stalls play

Naomi Osaka walks onto the court for her first-round U.S. Open match against Marie Bouzkova on Monday in New York.
Naomi Osaka walks onto the court for her first-round U.S. Open match against Marie Bouzkova on Monday in New York.
(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Play began on the outdoor courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center but was suspended by rain at about 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium No. 12 Simona Halep easily got past Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-1 to advance to the third round for the first time since she reached the quarterfinals in 2016. Halep said she was “a little bit lucky today” that her match was moved from an outdoor court to Ashe as the result of Olga Danilovic’s withdrawal from a scheduled second-round match against No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka. Danilovic said via Instagram that she had been battling a non-COVID-related viral illness.

Halep missed Wimbledon and the French Open this year because of a calf muscle tear and she said she wasn’t sure how she would fare here. Two matches in, she’s happy with how she has done. “I’m more confident,” she said. “I think I did well the first two matches.”

Garbine Muguruza of Spain, seeded No. 9, defeated friend and frequent practice partner Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-4, 6-2 under the roof at Louis Armstrong Stadium. She said playing with the roof closed meant “less wind, probably less light,” but she had no trouble with the conditions.

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Naomi Osaka advances via walkover

Defending U.S. Open women’s champion Naomi Osaka advanced to the third round of this year’s tournament via a walkover when her scheduled opponent on Wednesday, Olga Danilovic of Serbia, withdrew because of an unspecified medical reason before their match.

Tournament organizers then moved the match between No. 12 seed Simona Halep and Kristina Kucova from an outside court to Arthur Ashe Stadium for a noon Eastern time start. Ashe Stadium has a roof, as does Louis Armstrong Stadium. The roof was closed on each stadium following morning rain showers that delayed play on the outdoor courts.

Forecasts called for rain throughout the day as the second round of singles competition and first round of doubles play began.

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.

According to the U.S. Tennis Assn., 13 American men advanced to the second round of the Open, the most since 15 did so in 1994. Many have California connections.

They are:

Zach Svadja, 18, of San Diego; Jenson Brooksby, 20, of Sacramento; Brandon Nakashima, 20, of San Diego; Taylor Fritz, 23, of Rancho Palos Verdes; Frances Tiafoe, 23; Reilly Opelka, 24; Maxime Cressy, 24, of Hermosa Beach and UCLA; Ernesto Escobedo, 25, of Los Angeles; Mackenzie McDonald, 26, of Piedmont and UCLA; Jack Sock, 28; Marcos Giron, 28, of Thousand Oaks and UCLA; Denis Kudla, 29, and Steve Johnson, 31, who both played at USC.

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune did more than put a respectable fight against No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic on Tuesday at the U.S. Open.

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Rain stalls play

Rain returned about 5 p.m. EDT, suspending the doubles matches that were in progress as well as the singles match between No. 8 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Christina McHale of the U.S. Krejcikova, this year’s French Open winner, was up a set and leading 2-1 in the second set.

Before the rains came, two players with Southern California ties were eliminated in second-round action. No. 24 seed Dan Evans defeated Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks and UCLA 6-4, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3 and Alex Molcan of Slovakia defeated Brandon Nakashima of San Diego 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4.

In other completed men’s matches, No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev took out Dominik Koepfer of German in straight sets, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia split two tiebreakers with Pedro Martinez of Spain before pulling away to win in four sets, American Frances Tiafoe defeated Guido Pella of Argentina 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 and 18-year-old Carlos Alcarez of Spain needed four sets to defeat Arthur Rinderknech of France.

In notable women’s matches, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus lost only four games in defeating Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia and No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine defeated Rebeka Masarova 6-2, 7-5.

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Players share their thoughts on the COVID-19 vaccine

Players have been expressing their delight at seeing fans in the stands at this year’s U.S. Open after spectators were banned from the 2020 tournament because of COVID concerns. Victoria Azarenka echoed that during an on-court interview after her 6-3, 6-7 (1) second-round victory over Jasmine Paolini at Louis Armstrong Stadium and added she was glad to know everyone there had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Showing proof of at least one vaccination is required for spectators to enter the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but there’s no requirement for players to be vaccinated. Some — including Stefanos Tsitsipas — have said they have not done so. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has said he prefers that players retain the right to choose if they want to get the vaccine.

Azarenka said she’s aware of debate over the vaccine mandate imposed on spectators and would like to see it extended to players.

“I think that it’s such a question that is like going back and forth with a lot of people, although I think that majority of people still are trying to be progressive and trying to be, you know, find a solution moving forward, which is in my opinion is part of being vaccinated,” she said. “I want to start this conversation between our players, because to me that’s a bit bizarre that fans have to be vaccinated and players are not. So I think that in my opinion, it’s inevitable that it will be mandated at some point, like other leagues are doing. I don’t see the point of stalling it, really, because I think we all want to be safe, we all want to continue doing our jobs, and I know there is a lot of discussions about it.

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“But to me, I respect everybody’s opinion as long as it’s not conspiracy theory. You know, if you actually have decent knowledge and looked into research and have your facts and stats and research, that’s a different conversation. But I feel that that part of conversation that really you need to be knowledgeable to what you’re saying is missing in a lot of players. I hope that as [members of the Women’s Tennis Assn.] we make the best decision for our business, for our health, for the tournaments, for public. And I think that we need to start this conversation, because as I said, in my opinion it’s just inevitable.”


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