US Open 2018: Nadal, Serena Cruise into Second Round

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Defending champion Rafael Nadal moved into the US Open second round after fellow Spaniard David Ferrer’s Grand Slam farewell was ruined by injury.

Nadal led 6-3 3-4 in Monday’s late tie on Arthur Ashe Stadium before Ferrer had to give up with a calf injury.

Ferrer, the 36-year-old former world number three, will retire after playing in Barcelona or Madrid next year, but says this will be his final Grand Slam.

“It is sad for me to see him finish like this,” said 32-year-old Nadal.

“I’m very very sorry for him, he is one of my closest friends on tour and we have shared amazing moments together, playing in French Open finals and playing together in the Davis Cup and Davis Cup finals.

Top seed Nadal is among the favourites to retain his crown and has a seemingly favourable draw at Flushing Meadows, with two top 10 players – Kevin Anderson and Dominic Thiem – in his quarter.

Anderson lost to Nadal in last year’s final and has never beaten him in five attempts, while Thiem has only won four matches since finishing runner-up to the Spaniard at the French Open in June.

Before looking that far ahead, Nadal must focus on beating Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, ranked 88th, in the second round today.

In the women’s section, six-time champion Serena Williams made her return to the US Open with a clinical first-round win over Poland’s Magda Linette.

Williams, 36, missed her home Slam last year, giving birth to daughter Olympia shortly after the tournament started.

Opening Monday’s night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium, she won 6-4 6-0 against her 68th-ranked opponent.

The 17th seed will meet Germany’s Carina Witthoeft in the second round.

Williams is still on course to meet older sister Venus in the third round, although the prospect of facing world number one Simona Halep – her projected last-16 opponent – has disappeared after the Romanian’s shock defeat by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.

Although she will face tougher challenges, Williams looks well placed to challenge for the record-equalling 24th Grand Slam on the evidence of her victory over Linette.

She put the Pole’s serve under pressure in a lengthy third game without being able to convert, going on to break it in the seventh.

After avoiding a brief scare when she was taken to deuce in the following game, she saw out the opening set without facing a break point.

The second set was a different story.

Linette could not cope with her power and accuracy in a 28-minute set, winning just nine points as Williams sealed victory with a 114mph ace out wide.

“It was such a good feeling to be back here – it is one of the best feelings in the world,” Williams said.

“The first set was tight, it was my first match back here in New York so it wasn’t the easiest.

“Once I got settled I started to do what I’ve been doing in practise and I felt better.

“I think I’m getting there – I’ve been feeling great in practice.”