NEW YORK, NY, USA -- Jennifer Brady continued her surging season at the US Open on Monday night, as the No.28 seed from the United States earned a 6-3, 6-2, first-round victory over Russia’s Anna Blinkova.
In their only prior meeting, Blinkova had beaten Brady decisively en route to the title at the WTA 125K Series event in New Haven last year. This time around, though, Brady exacted her revenge with a 76-minute victory.
"I thought [Blinkova] played pretty well," Brady told the press, after her win. "She came out and she was aggressive, she was swinging."
"It was a tough match," the American added. "If you look at the score, it doesn’t look very competitive, but I think it was a pretty tough match today."
Prior to the tour hiatus, World No.40 Brady had notched a number of milestones in 2020: claiming her first two Top 10 wins (including a defeat of World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane) and reaching her first-ever Premier-level semifinal in Dubai.
Despite the lengthy layoff forced upon the tennis season, Brady’s rise stayed continuous, as she came back with a bang by winning her first WTA singles title in Lexington to open the American summer hardcourt season.
The powerful American fired 23 winners to just 14 unforced errors in her win over World No.62 Blinkova, and she won nearly three-quarters of points off of her first-serve in the clash.
The hard-hitting Blinkova's 24 unforced errors outpaced her 18 winners on the day, as the Russian fell to 0-4 lifetime in the US Open main draw with first-round losses in each of the past four seasons.
Brady took control of the first set with an early service break at 2-1. In that game, the American fired a forehand return winner down the line to earn two break points, and on the first one, Blinkova double faulted -- the only double fault by either player in the opening frame.
That error was costly for the Russian, as that break proved to be decisive. Blinkova had a break point in the following game, but Brady erased it with another down-the-line forehand winner, and ended up squeaking out a close game for a 4-1 lead. The American held on through the remainder of the set, claiming the 6-3 lead with her fourth ace up to that point.
Blinkova seemingly turned the tables in the second set, opening with a love hold, then breaking Brady for 2-0 with a pinpoint return winner on the sideline. However, the American gritted through a tough subsequent game, finally converting the break on her third chance to immediately pull back on serve at 2-1.
From there, Brady reeled off six straight games, though not without some resistance from the powerful Russian. Nevertheless, Brady came through on the big points in the set, and an ace at 5-2 gave her triple match point. On her second, Brady fired a forehand which forced a netted error from her opponent, and the American had claimed another win in 2020.
Brady will face a fellow American in the second round: her friend and occasional practice partner CiCi Bellis, who lost an epic opening-set tiebreak before prevailing over Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch, 6-7(13), 6-3, 6-2.
"[Bellis is] obviously a young, up-and-coming player," said Brady. "She had a great breakout year here at the US Open a couple years back. I think it will be a pretty tough match."
"We've practiced a lot together," Brady continued. "She's had some injuries, unfortunately. It's really good to see her back out here competing, she loves the game of tennis, she works really hard out here from what I've seen."
Brady was joined in the second round by a number of other seeded players, although many took divergent paths to get there. No.11 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, for example, had no problems winning her opening-round match over Grand Slam debutante Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-0 in 67 minutes.
Rybakina had 21 winners, triple Zavatska's total of seven, and their even number of unforced errors (21 apiece) meant that Zavatska was on the back foot for the majority of the encounter. Rybakina, who won the Hobart title and reached three other finals already this season, never faced a break point as she slid into the US Open second round for the first time.
No.12 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic also made quick work of her first-round match, as she dispatched Greet Minnen of Belgium, 6-1, 6-4 in 63 minutes. Vondrousova was the first player to win a match at the 2020 US Open, as she triumphed just after noon.
The Czech left-hander, who made her first Grand Slam final at the French Open last year, had 16 winners on the day, while Minnen had just nine. The Belgian was also undone by 25 unforced errors.
No.19 seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, though, had to go down to the wire to claim her first-round victory, edging Australia's Astra Sharma, 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-6(2).
The nearly two-and-a-half-hour battle was exemplified by the 55-minute final set, where neither player could break serve. It was Yastremska who had the chances in the decider, as she held four break points in that set without ever facing one, but Sharma held firm to force the final-set tiebreak. In the breaker, though, it was the Ukrainian who finally eased to the hard-fought win.