Naomi Osaka kept her notorious nerves in check long enough to begin her US Open title defence with a struggling 6-4,6-7(5), 6-2 first-round win over Russian Anna Blinkova on Tuesday.
Japan’s world No. 1, whose top ranking is in danger this Grand Slam fortnight, confessed that her initial anxiety never left her despite the victory which took nearly two and a half hours.
“I felt nervous, for it’s definitely a new feeling,” the top seed said. “It never really went away.
“I didn’t really expect myself to play amazing today, I knew it was going to be a really tough battle.”
But the two-time Grand Slam winner did have one thing on her side: “There was a lot of experiences to draw on.
“I knew that she’s never played on Ashe. I have been lucky enough to play on Ashe a couple of times.”
“I feel like I’m more used to the big atmosphere. That definitely helped me in certain moments.
Osaka had to rev up after trailing 4-1 in the opening set against the No. 84.
The seed player who quit a Cincinnati quarter-final due to a thigh injury barely a week ago, won the last five games of the opener to take it, but lost the second in a tiebreaker.
Osaka finally prevailed in he third to survive as she attempts to become first woman to defend a title in New York since Serena Williams won three in a row 2012-2014.
15-year-old wild card Coco Gauff won a thriller in Louis Armstrong Stadium against Russian Anastasia Potapova.
From a set and a break down, Gauff rallied to lead and ultimately held off to win, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
“I just wanted to win so bad, I was trying to really dig deep. I was like, You got to make her play. She’s not going to hand it to you,” Gauff said afterwards.
Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep broke her duck after first-round defeats here at the past two editions, beating American Nicole Gibbs 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
“The pressure was tricky today. Winning one match in three years, it’s pretty tough,” Halep said. “But it’s good that I could go over that.
“I was stressed before the match, I lost on this court (Armstrong) last year. I’m really happy that I could manage in the end to play better than before.
“The third set it was really good.”
Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza continued her big-match flame-out, with the Spaniard losing in the fist round of a major for the second time in a row.
Not even two months after going out at the opening bell at Wimbledon, the former No. 1 was decked at Flushing Meadows by American Alison Riske, who produced a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 comeback.
The careers of the two look to be heading in opposite directions.
The slumping Muguruza lost in the first round of a Slam for only the fifth time in her career after 23 wins while the 36th-ranked Riske, a grass title winner this season, earned her first victory here since 2013.
“I’ve had tough draws, tough first rounds,” Muguruza said. “At the end I didn’t got the match probably because I don’t have many matches under the belt yet. I
“Sooner or later I’m going to go – but I’m not so far. ago. A few years ago, it was different.
“Now you feel like if you’re not 100 per cent in every match, the opponents are just playing great. It’s much more equal, definitely.”
There were opening wins for Caroline Wozniacki, Belinda Bencic, former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko and Canadian 15th seed Bianca Andreescu.