New York : Novak Djokovic suffered in sweltering US Open conditions but held on to reach the second round with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
The Wimbledon champion, playing his first match on Athur Ashe Stadium since falling to Stan Wawrinka in the 2016 final, received a brutal welcome back as soaring temperatures and suffocating humidity prompted organizers to offer the men a 10-minute mid-match heat break for the first time ever.
“We obviously both struggled, you could see that, you could feel that, especially (over) two and a half sets, three sets,” said Djokovic, who called trainers who enveloped him in ice packed towels during a change over late in the second set.
Djokovic thanked organizers for allowing the break, during which no coaching was allowed. But he admitted it was odd to find himself sitting in an ice bath next to Fucsovics with their match still incomplete.
“We had the two ice baths next to each other,” he said. “We were naked in the ice baths … it was a magnificent feeling I must say.”
Five-time champion Roger Federer eased into the second round beating Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
The Swiss great, seeded second at Flushing Meadows behind defending champion and world No.1 Rafael Nadal, improved his perfect record in US Open first-round matches with his 18th win in 18 attempts.
He next faces France’s Benoit Paire, a 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) winner over Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak.
In the women’s section, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki (2), Germany’s Angelique Kerber (4) and France’s Caroline Garcia (6), easily made it through the first round.
Wozniacki, who is looking for her second Grand Slam title of the season, beat Australian Samantha Stosur, who won the 2011 US Open, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 23 minutes.
Wozniacki’s next opponent will be Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, world No. 42, who beat Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 6-3, 6-2.
Kerber had to do a bit more work in her debut in the tournament when she overcame a tie-break in the first set to eventually win the match 7-6 (5) and 6-3 against Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan.
Kerber, US Open champion in 2016, will have as her next opponent Sweden’s Johanna Larsson, No. 81 in the world rankings, who won 4-6, 6-3 and 6-2 against Alize Cornet.
India’s top singles player Yuki Bhambri once again failed to clear the first round hurdle of a Grand Slam losing to Frenchman Pierre Hugues Herbert in straight sets at the US Open.
Bhambri, who is world No 96 lost 3-6 6-7 (3-7) 5-7 to Herbert in a match that lasted nearly two and half hours.
The India No 1 did put up a fight in the second and third sets but that wasn’t enough to beat the world No 75, who had earlier got better of the Delhi boy during the Maharashtra Open.
There wasn’t much to choose statistically between the two players even though Herbert converted a couple of more breakpoints.
However what made the difference was the Frenchman being able to unleash winners at various key moments. In all, he hit 13 winners in three sets while Bhambri failed to hit any.