NEW YORK — Some busy bees made life difficult for two grizzled veterans and a pair of favorites were forced to work extra hard on steamy opening day at the U.S. Open tennis championships on Monday.
Eighth-seeded 2012 champion Andy Murray fought off cramps to beat Dutchman Robin Haase in four painful sets, while women’s second seed Simona Halep lost a first-set tiebreak to U.S. debutante Danielle Collins before claiming victory.
A fascinating match-up between 19th seed Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, the oldest players in the women’s draw, was joined by some pesky bees that refused to leave them alone.
First the 43-year-old Japanese player and later 34-year-old Williams dipped, ducked and danced away before ballgirls helped usher the determined bees off the baseline.
When finally left to play tennis on sun-bathed Arthur Ashe Stadium court, seven-time grand slam singles winner Williams stung Date-Krumm 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to advance.
Asked about who presented the peskier test in the two-hour match, two-time U.S. winner Williams said: “The bee was a challenge but easily the answer is Kimiko.
“The way she hits the ball is like no one else on tour and it’s never easy to get a rhythm with her, and all our matches have been tough. So I’m happy to have pulled it out.”
Murray looked on his way to an easy victory, before he fell victim to cramps that left him stretching and straining to get comfortable before clinching a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-5 victory over Haase.
“I cramped a little bit, in my forearms, it was not particularly comfortable and I just tried to hang around as best I could and managed to get through,” said Murray, who has been struggling to reach top form since last year’s back surgery.
“I was in good position at two sets up to none. I didn’t know whether to go for it in the third set or try to conserve energy at the beginning of the fourth.
“It was tough, but also very tough for Robin as well, but managed to get through.”
Two-time U.S. Open semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, the 21st seed, was not able to advance, falling to big-serving Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios 7-5, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-6 (1).
The 19-year-old Kyrgios, who made a Wimbledon splash by ousting Rafa Nadal in the fourth round to reach the quarter-finals, blasted in 26 aces.
The 60th-ranked Kyrgios advanced to a second-round match against Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.
Women’s second seed Simona Halep survived a scare in the tournament’s opening match on stadium court before overtaking Collins 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2.
The 22-year-old Romanian, a finalist at the French Open, admitted to a case of nerves in being thrust onto the big stage as the opening act of the season’s last grand slam.
“She played a tough match, I want to congratulate her,” Halep said about her 20-year-old opponent, who was given a wild card for winning the U.S. college championship.
“The first set I was a little bit nervous. This court is huge.
“I have to enjoy it, but it’s not easy. Everybody is telling me I have chances to win this title.”
She moves on to face Slovakian Jana Cepelova, a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 winner over Spain’s Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, in the second round of the season’s last grand slam.
Also advancing on the women’s side were fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who routed Canadian Sharon Fichman 6-1, 6-0 while sixth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, needed three sets to get past Russian Ksenia Pervak 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
OPEN NOTES: Ivan Lendl has opened up about splitting with Murray, citing extra family commitments and the difficulty of matching the emotional high of the Briton’s grand slam breakthroughs as factors in his decision. The 54-year-old, who coached Murray to the 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon crowns after he had lost all four of his previous grand slam finals, ended one of tennis’s most effective partnerships over dinner in March. “It was lots of little things combined. Like playing more on the vets tour, and one of my daughters returned home,” the eight-time grand slam champion told British media at Flushing Meadows. “The youngest one is 16 and she had been away at horse riding school and but now she has come back to live with us. My mum is now 79 and lives in Prague, I need to go more to the Czech Republic than I used to. The planes are a pain in the arse. The places, the hotels — England was good, Australia was good, here it was alright. It was the smaller trips I didn’t like. All these things combined. And you know with Andy, after his surgery and after winning Wimbledon and all that, I felt that if anything he needed more time rather than less time.”