Daria Saville has made a flying start to the US Open to set up a second-round showdown with world No.1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek.
Australia’s former top-20 star looked anything but a player on the comeback trail from a serious knee injury as she routed American teenager Clervie Ngounoue 6-0 6-2 in little more than an hour.
Saville broke the 17-year-old seven times, never faced a single break point on her own serve and finished with 16 winners and just 13 unforced errors for the match.
“I was very composed,” Saville said after notching her first win at Flushing Meadows in five years.
“When the day started I was pretty relaxed. I don’t know why – it doesn’t really happen on day one of a grand slam.
“Warming up before the match I was like ‘umm, this feels like just a normal match’ and that felt nice and I think that is why I played well.”
Playing the Open on an injury-protected ranking after being sidelined for more than eight months, Saville knows she will need to find another level against Swiatek on Thursday (AEST).
“Well, the biggest goal is not to get double bagelled,” she said.
“I am excited. Hopefully we’ll get to play on the big court. When I was coming back from injuries that was like the goal – get to play on all the bigger courts at every slam and hopefully that will be ticked off.
“I think I can still make her life very uncomfortable. I will just play free and see what happens.
“Forehand is my weapon and, when it’s working, this is when I am dangerous.
“Obviously I have to move well to get to use my forehand but today I also served pretty well, hit my spots well. It is part of my game hunting forehands.”
While Saville marched on, fellow Australians Kim Birrell and wildcard Storm Hunter bowed out in the first round.
Birrell, a qualifying lucky loser, battled hard in a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) loss to 2021 Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady, while Hunter succumbed 6-4 6-0 to Czech 10th seed Karolina Muchova, the 2023 French Open runner-up.
Swiatek notched a 6-0 6-1 win getting her title defence off to the perfect start. The 22-year-old from Poland dropped just eight points as she took the first set to love against Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson on Monday.
Peterson did get on the board early in the second but Swiatek, bidding for a fifth grand-slam title, completed a comprehensive 6-0 6-1 victory in just 58 minutes.
“I really wanted to play solid and start the tournament with everything I practised on,” she said.
“I’m happy to play such a great game and despite all the pressure and expectation I can still have fun on the court.”
There was an early upset on day one at Flushing Meadows with eighth seed Maria Sakkari from Greece bowing out 6-4 6-4 to Spanish world No. 71 Rebeka Masarova.
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka downed Fiona Ferro of France 6-1 6-2 for her 15th first-round win at Flushing Meadows.
Swiss 15th seed Belinda Bencic put out Kamilla Rahkimova from Russia 6-2 6-4 to advance to the second round.
Holger’s tweet sledge left in ruins after loss
Fourth seed Holger Rune was left to regret tweeting a map of the US Open site to point spectators towards his first-round match.
The Dane now needs directions to the exit after crashing out in four sets to Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena, ranked 63rd.
Rune was clearly miffed at being shunted away on one of Flushing Meadows’ tiny outside courts and sarcastically wrote “in case you can find Court 5, this is where I play my first match Monday”.
The court is crammed in between the Arthur Ashe and Grandstand Stadiums, with pathways on either side where spectators can wander past.
And Rune’s cheeky tweet backfired as hundreds swarmed around the court, craning their necks and standing on benches, to see the 20-year-old slip to defeat.
To rub salt in the wound, Rune even complained to the umpire about one noisy fan before eventually going down 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Also on Monday, Dominic Thiem picked up his first win at Flushing Meadows since he won the title in 2020.
The 29-year-old Austrian, a former world No.3 who is working his way back up the rankings after a long spell out injured, beat 25th seed Alexander Bublik 6-3 6-2 6-4.