• The 2018 U.S. Open began with a shock on Monday, with the loss of top-ranked Simona Halep in one of the first matches of the day.
• Rafael Nadal advanced to the second round when David Ferrer retired with an injury in what Ferrer said was his last match at a Grand Slam tournament.
• Andy Murray won his first match at Grand Slam event in more than a year, but it wasn’t easy.
Here’s what happened on Day 1 of the U.S. Open:
Farewell, David Ferrer
When the draw for the U.S. Open was released last week and David Ferrer was matched against No. 1-seeded Rafael Nadal in the first round, Ferrer said that it would be an honor to play against his Spanish countryman and such a great champion in his final Grand Slam tournament, and that whatever the result he would fight to the end.
But midway through the second set on Monday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Ferrer’s long fight came to an end. Ferrer, 36, who turned professional in 2000, was forced to retire from the match because of a calf injury. Instead of a stunning upset — or at the very least a signature, tenacious match to end his Grand Slam career — Ferrer simply walked away, allowing Nadal to advance to the second round with a scoreline of 6-3, 3-4, ret.
“It was a gift to play on center court with Rafa,” Ferrer said, and added, “I’m proud of myself and proud of my career.”
Ferrer is one of a handful of players who have recently announced their intentions to end their careers, either immediately or in the coming months. The list includes Mikhail Youzhny of Russia and Julien Benneteau of France, two 36-year-olds who are scheduled to play on Tuesday, and Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, who was beaten by Lorenzo Sonego, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (9), 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-2, on Monday.
Ferrer, who was ranked No. 3 in the world five years ago, will retire without a Grand Slam title. When his career ends some time next year — he said it will be at one of the tour stops in Spain next spring — he will be remembered as one of the best players never to win a major tournament.
He did win 27 tour-level tournaments, and reached the final of the 2013 French Open, losing to Nadal in straight sets. Ferrer also reached five major semifinals, including at the U.S. Open in 2007 and 2012.
“I have really good memories here in the U.S. Open,” Ferrer said in an on-court interview with Brad Gilbert in front of a sparsely filled stadium late Monday night. “This is my last Grand Slam of my career. I am sorry because I can’t finish the match, but well, anyway, thanks a lot. I will miss you a lot.”
Opening Night at Armstrong
The first day of play at the new Louis Armstrong Stadium began with a huge upset: No. 1 Simona Halep’s loss to Kaia Kanepi.
For the first time, Armstrong also had a separate two-match night session, like Arthur Ashe Stadium does. Victoria Azarenka defeated Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-3, 7-5, in the first match, which was followed by third-seeded Juan Martin del Potro’s 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Donald Young.
Serena Williams Finds Her Rhythm
Following a ceremony that featured a Kelly Clarkson performance and included the three living singles finalists (Virginia Wade, Billie Jean King and Tom Okker) from the 1968 U.S. Open, Serena Williams put on a show of her own. She cranked into gear in the second set, steamrollering Magda Linette of Poland, 6-4, 6-0.
Williams missed last year’s Open because of the birth of her daughter. A finalist at Wimbledon last month, Williams is the No. 17 seed in New York. She will face Carina Witthöft in the second round before a possible meeting with her sister, Venus, in round three.
A Long Night for Anderson
Kevin Anderson played some marathon matches on his way to the Wimbledon final in July, and he started his U.S. Open campaign with one too.
The fifth-seeded Anderson, who reached the final here last year, fell behind two sets to one against the American Ryan Harrison, but prevailed, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in 4 hours 14 minutes.
Anderson needed treatment on his legs during the match, but Harrison was unable to take advantage.
Having reached two Grand Slam finals in the past year, Anderson is used to big moments at big tournaments now.
“Projecting forward to the U.S. Open and next year, I just feel a little more comfortable saying, ‘I’m here to compete for the win,’” Anderson said before the tournament. “I would have said it before, but now I can say it with more self-assurance.”
Friends to the End
The Canadian teenagers Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime have been playing tennis with and against each other for years. They believe they will be doing so for years to come.
But on Monday they met for the first time in a tour-level match.
Auger-Aliassime, who turned 18 this month, qualified for the Open and was playing his first main-draw singles match at a major. Unfortunately for him, he had to face his friend Shapovalov, 19, who was the breakout star of last year’s U.S. Open.
They delighted the Grandstand crowd for two and a half hours, with each player occasionally leaping to connect with powerful groundstrokes.
But after splitting the first two sets in muggy conditions, Auger-Aliassime began to falter. He considered retiring from the match early in the third set, only to have Shapovalov encourage him to keep going. But a few games later, with Shapovalov leading by 7-5, 5-7, 4-1, Auger-Aliassime could not go on.
As Auger-Aliassime began to cry, Shapovalov came over to embrace him and then sat down in the chair next to him to talk. He said he was having heart palpitations, and he had nearly fainted.
“I told him at the net hopefully one day we’ll be playing in the finals of this tournament,” Shapovalov, the No. 28 seed, said. “I told him to keep his head up. We’re going to have so many matches together. Obviously it’s never easy playing against him because he’s such a close friend of mine.”
Stephens Gets Off to a Good Start
Sloane Stephens began her title defense at the new Louis Armstrong Stadium with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Evgeniya Rodina.
She had said before the tournament began that there was “a lot of stress, a lot of pressure” as defending champion.
Stephens, the No. 3 seed, acknowledged she was a “little bit nervous” on Monday, but said she was “really happy” to get through the first day.
“First round of a Grand Slam is super tough, especially as defending champion,” she added. “Super excited to get the tournament going.”
Venus Williams Holds On Against Kuznetsova
Venus Williams is playing in her 20th U.S. Open. She has never lost in the first round.
She kept that distinction intact, holding off Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, in a nearly three-hour duel between former Open champions at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 16th-seeded Williams, 38, put away Kuznetsova, 33, in her fifth match point. Williams was up two breaks at 4-1 in the second set and had two match points with Kuznetsova serving at 3-5, but Kuznetsova won four games in a row to win the set.