The U.S. Open, which officially runs from Aug. 24 through Sept. 12, began play this past Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing-Meadows, Queens. Some of the sport’s marquee names will not be competing. Venus and Serena Williams, three-time Grand Slam finalist Dominic Thiem, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are all out as a result of injury. And there may not be record-breaking crowds attending the tournament this year, but with fans back after an absence last year due to COVID, the U.S. Open has its swag again.
Serena Williams, Venus’s younger sister and a six-time U.S. Open singles champion, is still pursuing Margaret Court’s all-time singles Grand Slam record of 24. She is one victory away from tying Court, but won’t match history in Flushing-Meadows this go-around. She injured a hamstring at Wimbledon.
“After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the U.S. Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring,” she posted on Instagram last week. Williams will turn 40 on Sept. 26. Venus is out due to an unspecified leg injury. Thiem pulled out because of a right wrist injury, and will not play the rest of the year.
Nadal is sidelined because of a left foot issue that has been problematic for about a year. Federer is sidelined due to a recent surgery on his right knee, his third procedure on the knee. This leaves Novak Djokovic, the top seeded men’s player, without the possibility of playing against his top two rivals. All have won 20 Grand Slam singles titles.
Opening day featured an unexpected upset of three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 2-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that lasted close to five hours.
Murray was angered by the amount of time that Tsitsipas spent off the court taking two bathroom breaks that lasted more than seven minutes, as well as a medical time-out.
According to Grand Slam rules, a player in a five-set match is entitled to two breaks to use the bathroom or to change shoes and clothing. The breaks can only be taken between sets. The rules do not specify a time limit, only that it should be done within a reasonable amount of time.
“I feel it influenced the outcome of the match,” said Murray. “I’m not saying I necessarily win that match for sure, but it had influence on what was happening after those breaks.”
Several prominent players of color also were on the court in the first round of matches. Former U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens defeated Madison Keys 6-3, 1-6, 7-6. Stephens beat her good friend Keyes in the 2017 U.S. Open finals to win her first women’s singles championship.
Naomi Osaka, the two-time tournament champion, and 17-year-old Coco Gauff both moved on to the next round after victories on Monday.
On the men’s side, Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime took his match over Evgeny Donskoy to start the Open, as did Frances Tiafoe, who defeated Christopher Eubanks. Frenchmen Gael Monfils, who played in the first round of matches that began Tuesday, also advanced, dominating Argentenian Federico Coria, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.