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Murray leads veterans' charge

China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-03 09:25
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Andy and Serena advance but Clijsters' comeback falls short

Britain's Andy Murray serves to Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka during their US Open first-round match in New York on Tuesday. Murray, the 2012 champion, saved a match point and put together his 10th career comeback from two sets down to win his first Grand Slam contest in nearly 20 months, triumphing 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-4 in four hours and 39 minutes. USA TODAY SPORTS

NEW YORK-Serena Williams' quest for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam got off the mark as Andy Murray rolled back the years with a vintage comeback at the US Open on Tuesday.

Six-time winner Williams powered past 96th-ranked Kristie Ahn after Murray came from two sets down to win a five-set thriller in his first singles Slam match in 18 months.

The pair both progressed to the second round on day two of a US Open that is unrecognizable from previous tournaments, without spectators and with stringent measures in place to prevent COVID-19 infections.

Williams defeated Ahn 7-5, 6-3 as the American great started the latest bid of her protracted bid to match Margaret Court's Grand Slam record with a straight-sets win at Flushing Meadows.

The 38-year-old overcame the loss of her first service game in the opening set to advance at a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, where artwork by black artists is displayed in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice.

"I was really happy with how I just fought for every point no matter how I was playing," said Williams.

It has been more than three years since Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open-when she was already pregnant with daughter Olympia.

She has come close since, reaching four major finals only to come away empty-handed, but should have a better chance this time around with several top players absent because of coronavirus concerns or injury.

World No 1 Ashleigh Barty, the second-ranked Simona Halep and Canadian Bianca Andreescu-who stunned Williams in last year's final-are all absent from the behind-closed-doors tournament.

A title win for Williams would also see her become the most decorated women's player at the US Open in the modern era. She is currently tied with Chris Evert on six titles.

'Sleep fine tonight'

Murray secured a stunning 4-6,4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4 come-from-behind victory in an epic encounter against Japan's 49th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka that lasted four hours and 39 minutes.

The Scotsman, who has barely played in 2020, said he learned a lot about his physical condition and the metal hip he received during surgery last year.

"I've just played a four-and-a-half-hour match when I never thought I'd be able to," said the 33-year-old.

"I'm not sitting here with my hip throbbing and aching. I'll be able to sleep fine tonight."

Spanish 10th seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion and 2017 Wimbledon winner, advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Japan's Nao Havino.

She dedicated the win to compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro, who revealed on Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and will require six months of chemotherapy.

There was disappointment for 40-year-old Venus Williams, though, who bowed out in the first round for the first time in her career, losing in straight sets to Karolina Muchova.

Kim comes close

Another veteran, Belgium's 37-year-old Kim Clijsters, also fell at the first hurdle.

Clijsters making a comeback for the second time in her career and playing in her first Grand Slam since 2012, was beaten in three sets by Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova, losing 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

It was Clijsters' first match at a Grand Slam tournament since 2012, when she retired after the US Open. The mother of three and International Tennis Hall of Fame member has decided to resume her career this year, but is 0-3 so far.

"It's a process," she said. "That's what I told myself at the start when I took this challenge on-that it's going to take a lot of hard work and losses."

Clijsters said she trained hard for the US Open and was excited to play, even with no fans in the stands.

She has been hampered this year by injuries, most recently an abdominal ailment, but said they weren't an issue against Alexandrova, a tour veteran ranked 29th in the world.

"She started serving a lot better, I felt," said Clijsters, a former world No 1 and a US Open champion in 2005, 2009 and 2010.

"In the third set I just felt like she was seeing the ball very well and hitting her targets all the time."

Agence France-presse

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