Nadal sends friend Ferrer into Slam retirement

AFP
Rafael Nadal sent close friend David Ferrer into Grand Slam retirement on Monday when his veteran compatriot was forced to quit their first round match with injury in New York.
AFP
AFP

Rafael Nadal (right) and David Ferrer at the net on Monday during their 2018 US Open men’s singles match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

Defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal sent close friend David Ferrer into Grand Slam retirement on Monday when his veteran compatriot was forced to quit their first round match with injury in New York.

Ferrer, a former world number three but now standing at a lowly 148, called it quits on a hot and humid night on Arthur Ashe Stadium despite leading 4-3 with a break in the second set after twice receiving treatment on a left leg injury. Nadal had taken the opener 6-3.

“This is my last Grand Slam,” said Ferrer who was runner-up to Nadal in the 2013 French Open final. “I have great memories of this tournament and I am just sorry that I couldn’t finish it tonight.”

Ferrer, 36, will play his last tournament on home ground in Madrid next year.

“I am very sorry for David and sad for him,” said Nadal. “We are close friends and have shared great moments — the Roland Garros final and Davis Cup wins. He is one of the greatest players to have come from our country. He’s a great person and great player.”

Nadal, chasing his 18th Grand Slam title, will face Canada’s Vasek Pospisil for a place in the last 32. Nadal’s potential semi-final opponent, Argentine third seed and 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro, also reached the second round with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 win over American qualifier Donald Young.

For Del Potro, whose career since his maiden Grand Slam triumph nine years ago has been decimated by wrist problems, it was his 30th career win at the tournament.

He next faces Denis Kudla of the United States who downed Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

Former world number one Andy Murray marked his first Grand Slam tournament in 14 months with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win over Australia’s James Duckworth.

Murray, the 2012 champion and playing just his fifth tournament of the year after undergoing hip surgery in January, last featured in a major at Wimbledon in 2017.

Murray, whose world ranking has slumped to 382, goes on to face Fernando Verdasco, the Spanish 31st seed after seeing off the error-prone Duckworth, ranked at 448.

“He was serving big in the first set and the ball was flying around,” said 31-year-old Murray who only returned to the tour in June. “But I started to get into the return games, stood back a little more and that gave me more time to get in the rallies and find my range with my ground strokes.”

Like Murray, former champion Stan Wawrinka also sat out the 2017 US Open — in his case because of two knee surgeries.

But he showed no sign of rustiness on Monday, defeating eighth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria for the second successive Grand Slam.

Wawrinka, the 2016 champion, swept to a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory to repeat his opening round triumph over Dimitrov at Wimbledon. Wawrinka shrugged off having to take a medical time-out early in the third set.

South African fifth seed Kevin Anderson also needed a medical timeout for a leg injury in the third set of his clash with Ryan Harrison of the US. But Anderson, defeated in the Wimbledon final last month by Novak Djokovic, recovered to win 7-6 (4), 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Denis Shapovalov, the 19-year-old 28th seed, was 7-5, 5-7, 4-1 ahead of 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime when his Canadian teammate and close friend was forced to retire.

Auger-Aliassime, making his Slam debut after coming through qualifying, had needed a medical timeout for an irregular heartbeat in the third set.

Greek 15th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas saw off 36-year-old Tommy Robredo of Spain 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-4.

US hopes were buoyed by wins for 11th seed John Isner and 18th-ranked Jack Sock.

Serena Williams made a triumphant return to the US Open on Monday, launching her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam victory with a straight-sets win as top-seeded Simona Halep made dubious history with a first-round exit.

Williams can match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors with another title at Flushing Meadows. She recorded a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Poland’s Magda Linette.

“I think I’m getting there,” said William, who wore a black outfit featuring asymmetrical sleeves and a tulle skirt. Williams’ path may have been eased by Kaia Kanepi’s stunning upset of world No. 1 Halep, who became the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the US Open.

It was the kind of Grand Slam history Halep could have done without as she tried to expunge the memory of her first round loss to Maria Sharapova at Flushing Meadows last year.

But the Romanian had no answer for Kanepi’s power.

While Halep is no longer in her path, Williams could face another early test — a possible third-round clash with 16th-seeded sister Venus who outlasted another former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

Defending champion Sloane Stephens held on for a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Russian Evgeniya Rodina. Stephens, seeded third behind Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, looked to be cruising with a 3-1 lead in the second set. But unseeded Rodina had other ideas, turning the tables to take a 5-4 lead before Stephens reasserted herself.

Elsewhere on the opening day, seventh-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza advanced with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over China’s Zhang Shuai.

Two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka, a former world number one now ranked 80th in the world, defeated Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3, 7-5 to set up a meeting with Australian Daria Gavrilova, who steamrolled Sara Sorribes 6-0, 6-0.


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