x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Murray and Del Potro win but Venus bows out of US Open tennis

Indian qualifier Devvarman wins his first-round encounter in three hours and 11 minutes; Blake retires; and Stephens continues march.

Andy Murray needed just 98 minutes to get past the 33-year-old Llodra.
Andy Murray needed just 98 minutes to get past the 33-year-old Llodra.

Andy Murray, the defending champion, raced into the US Open second round with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win over veteran Frenchman Michael Llodra on Wednesday.

The third seeded Murray, who snapped Britain's 76-year wait for a men's grand slam champion when he triumphed in New York last year, needed just 98 minutes to get past the 33-year-old Llodra.

The match only got underway at 9.55pm (6.25am, UAE time) – the third-latest start for a US Open night session – after a four-hour rain suspension earlier in the day caused havoc with the schedule.

But the Scot quickly made up for lost time.

Murray, also the Wimbledon champion, broke Llodra in the first and seventh games of the opening set before slipping 0-3 down in the second set against a man he had defeated in all three of their previous meetings.

But the 26 year old stopped the rot to put together five games in a row on his way to securing the second set.

He was a break to the good for 2-1 against serve-and-volleyer Llodra in the decider and went to match point after getting the better of a rally which started with his left-handed opponent sending over a cunning under-armed serve.

Murray hit 34 winners against just five unforced errors while Llodra committed 29 unforced errors.

Murray goes on to face Argentina's Leonardo Mayer for a place in the last 32.

Venus says she will be back

Walking out the door, Venus Williams vowed to be back.

The 33-year-old American lost a heartbreaker to China's Zheng Jie 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 in the second round before rejecting any possibility of retirement.

"Oh wow, I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere," she said. "I'll get there. I just have to keep working on it. I've had a tough set of circumstances to work through, especially this year, last year and the year before.

"I've been dealt some cards that aren't easy, but I have to play with them. I'm a fighter."

Williams suffers Sjogren's Syndrome, which causes fatigue and joint pain, and has been hampered this year by back pain.

Champion in New York in 2000 and 2001, Williams had a parochial crowd on her side as the match went down to the wire.

A rushed volley at five-all in the deciding tiebreaker proved costly.

"I should have made the shot," she said. "I rushed so badly and didn't make it. I had a lot of opportunities, I was always stepping up and putting myself in a good position ... but I just dug myself into so many holes.

"I fought as hard as I could to get out of them, but sometimes it just wasn't enough."

Williams will contest the doubles with her sister Serena.

Del Potro wins in four sets

Juan Martin del Potro, the dormer champion, outslugged a gritty Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a contentious four-set match to reach the second round.

Argentine Del Potro, who won his only grand slam at Flushing Meadows in 2009, beat the 74th-ranked Spaniard 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 on his fourth match point.

"Felt good because I won the big battle for the first round," Del Potro said. "He's a very tough opponent. He plays so solid on the baseline. He made a good forehands, backhands.

"We play like every time long rallies. I (had) to make three or four winners in the same point to win the point."

The match included a bad-tempered exchange between the towering sixth seed and the inspired Garcia-Lopez as the players bickered on a changeover when Del Potro questioned whether the Spaniard was entitled to treatment on his left leg.

Indian qualifier through

Somdev Devvarman, the Indian qualifier, needed five sets over eight hours between rain delays and a determined foe, but he reached the second round of the US Open on Wednesday with a clutch late performance.

The 28-year-old former US college star defeated Slovakia's Lukas Lacko 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and 11 minutes of match time, although rain halted the match for more than four hours after he won the third set.

"Bummer for me, momentum switch," Devvarman said. "But you have to pull your pants up and deal with it. Just the nature of the beast."

Devvarman made 36 unforced errors, fewer than half of Lacko's 73 such mistakes, and hung tough at the finish.

"When you are playing in the fifth set, a lot of it is you play with adrenaline at that point. I know both of us were dying at the end," Devvarman said.

"I was pretty antsy and he was too. The nervous energy affected the both of us. We were just trying to do our best."

Blake ends career on exit

James Blake walked off the court at the US Open for the last time as a singles player early on Thursday morning after blowing a two-set lead and losing in a fifth-set tieb-reaker.

The 33-year-old American fell 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 in the first round to Ivo Karlovic.

Blake had announced on Monday that this would be his last tournament, ready to spend more time with his wife and young daughter. He could not quite extend his stay another round. Blake will still play doubles.

He rallied from down a break in the final set to force the tiebreaker, but could not overcome the 6-foot-10 Croat's big serve at the end. Karlovic closed out the victory in three hours, 24 minutes with his 38th ace.

Blake threw his sweat bands, white shirt and black hat into the stands at Louis Armstrong Stadium, where the fans stayed late to try to will him to victory.

"That ovation makes me realise that everything I did, every bit of hard work, was worth it," he said in an on-court interview, his eyes welling up.

Stephens wins easily

Sloane Stephens' second-round match did not get started until nearly midnight, and the 15th-seeded American made sure she got off the court in a hurry.

Stephens needed only 58 minutes to reach the third round at Flushing Meadows for the second time by beating 38th-ranked Urszula Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 6-1 in a match that ended a little before 1 am on Thursday.

Stephens needed three sets and nearly three hours to win her opening match. But this one was far easier, as she hit 24 winners and only five unforced errors.


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