NEW YORK – Kei Nishikori defeated American Wayne Odesnik in straight sets Tuesday to advance to the second round of the U.S. Open, the year’s final Grand Slam event.
Nishikori, who missed two ATP tournaments after having a cyst removed from his right big toe on Aug. 4, displayed excellent speed and mobility as he returned to action with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win.
“Everything worked well today,” said Nishikori, who amassed 37 winners with superb ground strokes and won 11 of 13 points at the net.
“I had a bit of concern about my stamina (after missing nearly a month), but I was able to get back to competitive tennis and win the match.”
Nishikori finished off Odesnik with an ace at the 2 hour, 5 minute mark. He faces Pablo Andujar of Spain in the second round.
“I love playing (in the U.S. Open),” the 10th seed Nishikori said. “I made the round of 16 (in 2008) and I have good memories here. Hopefully I can do well.”
Elsewhere for Japan, 18-year-old qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka retired from his first-round match against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi while trailing 6-1, 6-2, 2-1.
“I have had a fever since the day before yesterday. I was unable to keep moving midway through the match and pulled out,” said Nishioka, who had made the main draw of a Grand Slam event for the first time.
“I’d given myself the chance to play in the main competition so it is very disappointing for things to end like this.”
In the women’s draw, Misaki Doi fell to 16th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1.
Elsewhere, the father of 15-year-old American CiCi Bellis did his best to conceal his emotions courtside as his daughter was in the process of stunning a Grand Slam finalist to become the youngest player to win a U.S. Open match since 1996.
Like many a teen, CiCi has strict rules for Dad in public — even if his 1,208th-ranked daughter is pulling out a back-and-forth 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory Tuesday over 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round.
“I’m told I cannot sigh and I cannot move or say anything (because) that distracts her, so I just have to sit there like a Sphinx and just smile and pray,” the elder Bellis, Gordon, explained with a deadpan delivery. “She hears me when I sigh. So I can’t sigh.”
Ah, yes, the joys of raising kids. And make no mistake, Bellis is a kid. She is home-schooled and about to start 10th grade. Her first memory of the U.S. Open is watching on TV while Maria Sharapova played. She likes to hang out at the mall with friends back home in California. Asked whether she’s a fan of pop star Justin Bieber, Bellis answered, “I used to like him when I was younger, a couple years ago.”
Her victory was part of a 9-4 showing by American women Tuesday, including 8-0 against unseeded opponents. In an all-American match at night, another teen, Taylor Townsend, lost quickly to two-time defending champion Serena Williams 6-3, 6-1.
“We have such an amazing future,” Williams said about U.S. women’s tennis. “We have so much to look forward to.”
Jordan watches Federer
New York — His Airness is now a member of Club Fed.
Michael Jordan was a special guest in Roger Federer’s courtside box at the U.S. Open on Tuesday night, providing the rare spectacle of an all-time great in one sport cheering on an all-time great from another.
“I know nothing about tennis,” Jordan said in an interview with ESPN, adding that he was nevertheless fascinated by how smooth Federer looked on court. “He’s a good athlete. I know he played basketball a bit.”
Jordan, seated in the same row with Vogue editor and longtime Federer friend Anna Wintour, clapped wildly when Federer ran down a drop shot for a winner in his 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) first-round victory over Marinko Matosevic. Jordan then got cheers of his own when his image was flashed on Arthur Ashe Stadium’s massive screens.
The Federer-Jordan friendship was apparently a match made in Nike heaven. The two longtime endorsers got together recently to help design a new Federer shoe inspired by a classic 1988 Air Jordan model. Federer was wearing the white and gray sneaker on the court.
“It’s just amazing having Michael here,” Federer said after the match. “Growing up he was my big sporting idol. Having him here is unbelievably special and the collaboration is unique, so I love it.”