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U.S. Open: Three-time major champion Angelique Kerber ousted in first round

Angelique Kerber reacts during her women's singles first-round

Angelique Kerber reacts during her women's singles first-round match against Kristina Mladenovic during Day 1 of the 2019 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Monday. Credit: Getty Images/Emilee Chinn

The U.S. Open, always with the heft of “War and Peace”—so many names, so much character evolution, enough going on to fill more than 1,200 pages — hadn’t even gotten to Chapter 1 on Monday when the plot thickened. (Or, more accurately, thinned.) Six of the tournament’s potential troublemakers already had withdrawn in the lead-up to the two-week test and, on the first day of action, another handful of the sport’s familiar names were sent packing.

That hardly ruined the narrative. Major headliners in Monday’s day session — defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic most prominent among them — either won routinely or awaited a first-round match on Tuesday. But already unpredictability had spiced the tale.

By sundown, among the beaten were Germany’s Angelique Kerber, three times a major-tournament winner, including the 2016 Open; Australia’s Samantha Stosur, the 2011 Open champ who is now 35 years old and ranked 136th; and Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, only 25 but long past her three straight Grand Slam semifinal appearances in 2014.

In the men’s draw, third-seeded Roger Federer dropped a set before beating qualifier Sumit Nagal of India, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. But seven-time Slam semifinalist and 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who has dropped to No. 98 at 33; and American Sam Querrey, a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist who has slipped from a high of 11th to 46th in the rankings, were dismissed as the world keeps turning.

All of that followed the pre-tournament pullout of Canada’s 22nd-ranked Milos Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up (glute muscle), South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, the 2017 Open and 2018 Wimbledon runner-up (knee) and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, last year’s Open runner-up to Djokovic and the 2009 winner here (knee).

Three women who might have created some drama also withdrew: Czech Marketa Vondrousova, the 20-year-old French Open runner-up this year (wrist) and Americans Amanda Anisomova, the 17-year-old semifinalist at this year’s French Open (father’s death) and CiCi Bellis, at 20 still recovering from multiple wrist operations and seeking the form of her 2014 Open breakthrough against then-Australian finalist Dominika Cibulkova.

Moving along, then, there was the new story line of 23-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev’s recent arrival among the tennis gentry, with two hardcourt titles and runner-up finish this summer and a career-high No. 5 ranking. On Monday, he marched through a straight-sets victory over India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran, ranked 88th, and acknowledged a building confidence.

“I mean, I’m making my opponents to doubt a lot what they should do to beat me,” Medvedev said. “These last three weeks they were, without a doubt, the best of my career. Because even this year, I still had my ups and downs in some tournaments, and these three weeks I basically didn’t’ have any downs, only great matches.

“I always say this moment in my career, I haven’t even been in the quarters of a Slam yet.”  In his first 11 majors, he reached as far as the fourth round just once, at this year’s Australian Open. “So that’s the first step to make,” he said, “and if I make this step, then I can talk about bigger goals and bigger achievements.”

Next chapter?

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