No opening jitters

Top seeds navigate tricky opponents to advance into second round on Day One of the final Grand Slam of the 2014 season

New York

Novak Djokovic wasted no time in seeing off Argentinean challenger Diego Schwartzman as four former US Open champions reached the second round with varying degrees of difficulty.

World number one and top seed Djokovic defeated 79th-ranked Schwartzman 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, wrapping up the marquee match on Arthur Ashe Stadium court minutes before midnight.

“I hope it was a midnight delight,” the reigning Wimbledon champion told fans, although in truth the contest offered little drama.

Schwartzman, playing just his second Grand Slam tournament and his first tour-level hardcourt event, pulled the Serbian star into rallies from the baseline, even breaking him for his only game of the opening set.

Trailing 2-3 in the third, Schwartzman broke Djokovic to knot the set at 3-3, but Djokovic, seeking to add a second US Open title to the one he captured in 2011, promptly broke him at love for a 4-3 lead and sealed the victory on his second match point with a shot that clipped the net and fell his way.

“I thought I hit the ball very well throughout the whole match,” Djokovic said. “I’m very pleased. It’s never easy to start a US Open smoothly.”

That was the common refrain on the opening day, as former champions Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams also advanced, taking center stage with two-time defending champion Serena Williams and five-time champion Roger Federer due to launch their campaigns on Tuesday.

Murray lumbered through a 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 1-6, 7-5 victory over Dutchman Robin Haase, battling painful muscle cramps that struck without warning. “I could have easily lost that match,” said Murray, who thought he’d have been in real trouble in a fifth set. “I was very close to losing the match.”

Sharapova rallied with a vengeance from an early break against fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko. Trailing 2-4, Sharapova won the next 10 games to take the match. “It’s always tough to start here in New York,” said French Open champion Sharapova, who was just happy to be back under the lights on Ashe after missing last year’s edition with a season-ending shoulder injury.

“You feel the goosebumps when you go out in a night match on Ashe,” Sharapova said.

Venus Williams punched her second-rund ticket with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm.

Other notable names in action included Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, the men’s third seed who defeated Czech Jiri Vesely 6-2, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3).

Big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, the fifth seed, pelted Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel with 20 aces in a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) victory.

Women’s second seed Simona Halep shook off first-round jitters to defeat unranked US wildcard Danielle Collins 6-7 (2/7), 6-1, 6-2. —AFP

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