Venus Williams glad to be back at US Open
First round wins for Britain’s Laura Robson and Dan Evans at Flushing Meadows
Venus Williams signs autographs after her victory over Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium in New York Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
Birmingham’s Dan Evans his win over Kei Nishikori of Japan during their first round match on Day One of the 2013 US Open. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Getty Images
Venus Williams rolled back the years to beat Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in the first round of the US Open on Monday as the final grand slam of the year burst into life.
Roared on by an energetic New York crowd on a blustery day at Flushing Meadows, Williams showed no signs of the back problems that have sidelined her for most of the year as she demolished her younger opponent 6-1 6-2.
The 33-year-old American, the second oldest player in the women’s singles draw, provided a glimpse of the form that saw her win the US Open in 2000 and 2001 as she romped to victory in just one hour and 24 minutes. “It’s good to be back,” she said.
Williams has only played 18 matches this year and slipped to 60th place in the world rankings while Flipkens is enjoying the best season of her career. The 27-year-old made the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July, her best result at any grand slam, and was seeded 12th for the US Open. Earlier this month, she beat Williams in Toronto after losing the first set 6-0. “I was glad to close it out today,” said Williams.
Flipkens was the first notable casualty in a wide open women’s draw that promises to be one of the most competitive years.
China’s Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion and runner-up in Australia this year, needed just 64 minutes to crush Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-2 6-2. And Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, the third seed, was even more ruthless, thumping Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1 6-2 in 63 minutes in the opening match on the centre court.
Laura Robson showed her battling qualities to get her US Open campaign off to a flying start in New York.
The 19-year-old reached the fourth round here last year but expectations of a repeat have been tempered by a wrist injury that forced her out of her last three tournaments. Her right wrist was strapped but it did not appear to hamper Robson as she fought through a difficult first set against Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino before running away with the second to win 7-5 6-0.
Robson had lost both her previous matches against the tricky Dominguez Lino, whose excellent retrieving and mix of spins and slices made her something of a nightmare opponent for the attack-minded British teenager.
The first set was definitely not one for the purists, with both players throwing in a lot of double faults and breaks aplenty. Twice Robson trailed by a break but both times hit back straightaway, which was imperative when Dominguez Lino served for the first set at 5-4.
The British number one’s greater power and crisp ball striking meant she was usually dictating the rallies, but finishing them off was a different story.
She was forced to save three more break points in the 11th game before finally nudging ahead, and she made it count by breaking to take the set, her powerful groundstrokes making the difference.
Robson is the 30th seed, the first British woman to be seeded at a grand slam since Jo Durie at the 1987 Australian Open, and, the pressure released, she showed her superiority in the second set with a flurry of winners.
There was an early upset in the men’s draw when Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Asia’s highest-ranked man, was beaten by British qualifier Dan Evans. The Englishman, ranked 179th, stormed to a 6-4 6-4 6-2 win over the 11th seed to set up a second round meeting with combative Australian Bernard Tomic, who won a five-set slugfest with Spain’s Albert Ramos.