Over the first two days of the U.S. Open, the world’s largest tennis stadium turned into the world’s biggest bore.
There were 10 matches in 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, all of them decided in straight sets.
There were 24 sets, only three of them as close as 6-4.
There were 191 games, 144 of them won by the players who advanced.
After one of Tuesday’s more emphatic blowouts, defending champion Novak Djokovic summed up the No. 1 mission for favorites in their early matches at the year’s final Grand Slam.
“It’s important for me,” he said, “to try to be as economical with the time I spend on the court as possible.”
Not a problem so far.
The No. 2 seed defeated Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 — a match in which Djokovic lost serve in the first game, then rolled off the next 12 to turn it into a laugher.
It was so bad that when Lorenzi broke through again to start the third set, he raised his hands to celebrate as if he’d just won the tournament. A brief moment of levity in an otherwise predictable night.
“It was very difficult to get into a point,” Lorenzi said. “If I tried to go forward, he passed very well. When I tried to play defense at the baseline, he missed very little. He always got the ball back. And so I never had anything to go on. And when he got going with his winners, he caused me other problems.”
Serena Williams followed the Djokovic match with a 6-1, 6-1 pasting of CoCo Vandeweghe. That capped off an evening that featured a grand total of 2 hours, 8 minutes of tennis on the main court. The last ball was hit shortly before 10 p.m. in a stadium famous for matches that often run well past midnight.
Williams, her hair jutting wildly from her headband, said it was hard to gauge how well she played given the blustery conditions on this brief night of tennis.
“I couldn’t really play my game. She couldn’t really play her game. It’s not the best opportunity to grade yourself,” she said.
On Wednesday, the search for drama continues when No. 23 Kim Clijsters, and No. 3 seeds Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray — who lost a combined 15 games in their first-round matches in Ashe — return to the show court.
No. 9 seed John Isner plays his first-round match in the stadium while fourth-seeded David Ferrer opens his tournament next door, in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
As it turned out, the build-up to Tuesday’s first-round matches was more interesting than the matches themselves:
—How would Venus Williams look in her return to Flushing Meadows after withdrawing abruptly last year, diagnosed with strength-sapping Sjogren’s syndrome? Fine. She defeated American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-1.
“Everybody has their lot in life, and I’ve had mine,” Venus Williams said. “I’ve had an unbelievable lot. I’m living my dream every day for the last 15 years, so I can’t complain.”
—Would 21-year-old qualifier Rhyne Williams, playing his first Grand Slam match, be awed by No. 20 Andy Roddick to put up a real fight? Not really. Williams’ 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Roddick was a nail-biter compared to everything else that’s gone on in the stadium thus far. Roddick broke Williams once in each set but with a serve topping out at 131 mph, Williams made his opponent work to the end for his win.
“He has a good base,” Roddick said of the 2011 NCAA runner-up. “He can create something. Now, it’s just a matter of, he has to be a little bit quicker. … But if you can win free points off your serve, it’s a good start.”
The day’s most dramatic match came on the Grandstand Court, where 68th-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez came back against 10th-seeded Juan Monaco for a 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) victory that took 4 hours, 31 minutes.
“There’s just this bitter taste right now, I feel awful,” Monaco said. “I had my chances and I let the match slip away. I don’t want to say that I had it in the pocket. But if you don’t shut it down, you’re leaving an opening to your opponent.”
Later, Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands bounced 21st-seeded American Christina McHale 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Also falling was eighth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, still slowed from a right knee injury she endured last week at the tournament in New Haven. She lost 6-2, 6-2 to 96th-ranked Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania and had little patience for a reporter who asked her how much the injury robbed her of her trademark side-to-side speed.
“I don’t know,” Wozniacki said. “I haven’t really had a machine out there measuring.”
On Tuesday, the most telling numbers were on the scoreboard, and those numbers did not lie.
Play in the main stadium began with second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska’s 6-1, 6-1 victory over Nina Bratchikova and ended less than 11 hours later with Williams beating Vandeweghe by the same score.
“Beatdown city so far on ASHE,” former U.S. David Cup captain Patrick McEnroe tweeted at day’s end. “Will it change tomorrow??”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.