Three decorated Americans who are in the top section of the draw contested their opening matches at the US Open on Tuesday: 2017 champion Sloane Stephens, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and Amanda Anisimova, who has been having a career-best season.
Here are some takeaways from the trio's results on Day 2 of their home Grand Slam:
Sloane stellar at Slams: Stephens often finds a way to grit out wins at the biggest events on the calendar, regardless of preceding form. Consider earlier this year, when Stephens came into Roland Garros 0-4 on clay -- then made the quarterfinals at the clay-court major.
Stephens' 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win against Greet Minnen on Tuesday was a microcosm of that tendency. Minnen, who reached the US Open third round last year for her career-best major result, dominated the opening set, but Stephens calmly regrouped to take the second set.
US Open: Scores | Order of play | Draw
In the opening game of the decider, Stephens saw a 0-40 lead on the Minnen serve slide back to deuce -- no matter, she converted her fourth break point to take the early lead. Stephens rolled to 4-0, then staved off a late Minnen comeback to capture the victory.
See you in Round 2, @sloanestephens! pic.twitter.com/ys5Fu6YpqI— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 30, 2022
"It's nice to be able to come back here and just play, enjoy myself, and have matches like that where you fight through," Stephens said. "It's a little bit exciting -- not too exciting, but enough -- and then you move on. Obviously it's always incredible as an American playing here."
Stephens will now face World No.1 Iga Swiatek in a marquee second round. Stephens is currently 50 spots behind Swiatek in the rankings, but anything is possible once Stephens steps on court at a Grand Slam, especially at the site where she won the title five years ago.
"I thought [in Cincinnati] I played well," said Stephens, who lost to Swiatek in two close sets at that event earlier this month. "My level's getting better, which is good. It's unfortunate it's in the second round of a Slam, but I'm just going to go out there and fight and battle."
Injured Anisimova's resurgence hits a snag: Yulia Putintseva beat No.24 seed Anisimova 6-3, 6-3, and the American announced on social media afterward that she had broken her toe earlier this month in Cincinnati and was still receiving injections in her foot as she recovers:
August 31, 2022
"I'm proud of myself for giving myself a chance and playing the whole match," Anisimova posted. "I did all of this because I love this sport so much, even though it brings a lot of pain and disappointment. I hope I'll be back stronger next year[.]"
The loss does not negate the strides Anisimova has made in 2022. Anisimova won her second career title at Melbourne Summer Set 2 in January and made the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July. Her ranking has risen from No.78 to No.24 this year.
But the American could not make tactical headway while she struggled physically Tuesday, going 1-for-14 on break points. Anisimova had four fewer winners and 20 more unforced errors than Putintseva.
And any player has to be at top capacity to beat Putintseva. Fleet of foot and deft with the drop shot, Putintseva, like Stephens, typically summons her best at majors. Putintseva is a three-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, including at the 2020 US Open, and she will be a dangerous opponent for the rest of the draw.
Niemeier tops returning Kenin: Putintseva's next opponent, in fact, will be Jule Niemeier, after the German took down Kenin 7-6(3), 6-4. The 23-year-old Niemeier continues to see her game flourish after her breakthrough run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals this summer.
Niemeier had eight aces on the day as she toughed out two close sets to topple former World No.4 Kenin. Niemeier came back from 3-0 down to win seven points in a row in the first-set tiebreak, then gritted out the second set to triumph in just over two hours.
Still, Kenin demonstrated more signs that she is stepping back into form after a five-month absence from tour before returning earlier in August. Kenin found strong shots down the line at key moments but was ultimately pipped by powerful Niemeier.