NEW YORK // All eyes were on two of the most famous pairs of knees in tennis yesterday as Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams were back doing what they do best at the US Open - obliterating their opponents. As the cameras zoomed in on their stricken joints, with both former world number ones struggling with tendinitis in recent months, Williams skipped into round three with a 6-4 6-2 win over fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Less than two hours later a merciless Nadal subjected an unfortunate Richard Gasquet, who was making his own comeback following a doping ban, to a 6-2 6-2 6-3 first-round mauling. The grand slam stage, however, became a poorer place yesterday when Marat Safin walked out of Flushing Meadows - which he likened to a "zoo" - for the last time with a final wave to his adoring fans. Never again will spectators at the four majors catch a glimpse of the brilliance or entertaining antics of Safin after the 2000 champion bowed out in the first round following a 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 defeat by Austrian Juergen Melzer.
In a break with US Open traditions, the evening session kicked off with the men's match between five-times champion Federer and Simon Greul. The pesky German journeyman provided Federer with a few jitters when he held two set points in the second set and a 3-0 lead in the third but in the end could not prevent the Swiss from chalking up a 6-3 7-5 7-5 win. Women's holder Serena Williams was given the honour of closing the night's programme and the second seed was in no mood to hang around for too long as she overwhelmed Hungary's Melinda Czink 6-1 6-1.