Defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal sent close friend David Ferrer into Grand Slam retirement on Monday when his veteran compatriot was forced to quit their first round match with injury, but former winners Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka made successful returns to New York.
In the women’s section, Serena Williams made a triumphant return, launching her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam victory with a straight-sets win as top-seeded Simona Halep made dubious history with a first-round exit.
Ferrer, a former world number three but now standing at a lowly 148, called it quits on a hot and humid night on Arthur Ashe Stadium despite leading 4-3 with a break in the second set after twice receiving treatment on a left leg injury.
Top seed Nadal had taken the opener 6-3.
Nadal, chasing his 18th Grand Slam title, will face Canada’s Vasek Pospisil for a place in the last 32.
Nadal’s potential semi-final opponent, Argentine third seed and 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro, also reached the second round with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 win over American qualifier Donald Young.
For Del Potro, whose career since his maiden Grand Slam triumph nine years ago has been decimated by wrist problems, it was his 30th career win at the tournament.
He next faces Denis Kudla of the United States who won his first match in five years at the tournament when he downed Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.
Former world number one Murray marked his first Grand Slam tournament in 14 months with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win over Australia’s James Duckworth.
Murray, the 2012 champion and playing just his fifth tournament of the year after undergoing hip surgery in January, last featured in a major at Wimbledon in 2017.
Like Murray, former champion Wawrinka also sat out the 2017 US Open -- in his case because of two knee surgeries.
But he showed no sign of rustiness on Monday, defeating eighth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria for the second successive Grand Slam.
Wawrinka, the 2016 champion, swept to a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory on Arthur Ashe Stadium to repeat his opening round triumph over Dimitrov at Wimbledon.
Williams, who counts six US Open titles among her 23 Grand Slams, can match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors with another title at Flushing Meadows.
She missed last year’s edition as she gave birth to daughter Olympia on September 1, but showed every indication she’s ready to make up for lost time in a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Poland’s Magda Linette.
Williams’ path may have been eased by Kaia Kanepi’s stunning upset of world number one Halep, who became the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the US Open.
It was the kind of Grand Slam history Halep could have done without as she tried to expunge the memory of her first round loss to Maria Sharapova at Flushing Meadows last year.
But the Romanian, who broke through for a first Grand Slam title at the French Open this year, had no answer for Kanepi’s power.
Venus, a seven-time Slam winner, outlasted another former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
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