Naomi Osaka was tested by Anna Blinkova in the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open on Tuesday, with the No. 1 seed and champion prevailing in three sets in New York.
Wimbledon champion Simona Halep was presented with a serious challenge by Nicole Gibbs, and the Romanian was taken to a third set before achieving victory.
Alexander Zverev defeated Radu Albot, with the No. 6 seed forced to play five sets during his first-round win.
No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem is out of the competition after tumbling to defeat against Thomas Fabbiano.
John Isner and Marin Cilic cruised through in straight sets against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Martin Klizan, respectively.
Tuesday's Early Results
Thomas Fabbiano def. (4) Dominic Thiem: 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
(6) Alexander Zverev def. Radu Albot: 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2
(14) John Isner def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
(22) Marin Cilic def. Martin Klizan: 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (8)
(1) Naomi Osaka def. Anna Blinkova: 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-2
(4) Simona Halep def. Nicole Gibbs: 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
(7) Kiki Bertens def. Paula Badosa: 6-4, 6-2
(6) Petra Kvitova def. Denisa Allertova: 6-2, 6-4
Visit the U.S. Open website to see the draw in full.
Reigning champion Osaka was drawn into a lengthy battle with Blinkova, but the Russian prodigy ran out of steam on court at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 20-year-old represented a tough opening draw for the Japanese star, and the world No. 84 gave a strong account of her talent.
Osaka appeared comfortable in the opening set, despite suffering an immediate break of serve, but the two-time Grand Slam winner hit back with consecutive breaks to close out the set. However, the Moscow-born player remained focus in the second set and kept apace with her opponent to force a tiebreak.
Blinkova edged the tiebreak 7-5, and Osaka appeared to be feeling the pressure with the match heading into a deciding set. However, the 21-year-old swiftly flexed her muscle, and Blinkova had no answer as she lost her serve twice, surrendering the chance of advancing.
The U.S, Open's official Twitter account shared the closing moments:
Osaka made 50 unforced errors in the match compared to Blinkova's 22, but the champion hit 29 more winners than her opponent, helping her claim victory.
Halep lost in the first round last year, but the Romanian didn't allow lightning to strike twice as she battled the determined lucky-loser qualifier. Gibbs was searching for her first tour-level victory after returning to tennis after undergoing successful treatment for cancer, and the 26-year-old gave a credible performance.
Halep won the opening set in 41 minutes, breaking Gibbs' serve three times and displaying her pedigree. However, the American managed a single break in the first against Halep's serve, and it spurred her on to greater things in the second set.
Gibbs immediate broke the Romanian's serve in the opening game of the second, earning a 4-1 advantage until Halep claimed a break of her own. However, Gibbs went on to level the match at one set apiece—impressively breaking Halep's serve four times.
The shock fired the world No. 4 back into action, and it was business as usual in the decider. Halep grabbed two breaks of serve to wrestle her way into the next round as she dug deep.
All stats via the tournament's official website.