NEW YORK: Some busy bees made life difficult for two grizzly veterans, and a pair of favorites were forced to work extra hard on the steamy opening day at the U.S. Open tennis championships 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 ball girls 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 ... I managed to get through.”
Twice 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 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 beat Collins 6-7 (2) 6-1 6-2.
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.