NEW YORK, NY, USA -- French Open champion and No.12 seed Jelena Ostapenko fended off two obstacles -- a determined opponent, and the rain -- to advance to the second round of the 2017 US Open on Tuesday.
The Latvian survived a disastrous second set and two weather delays to see off Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1, in one hour and 40 minutes.
"It was tough," Ostapenko said in her post-match presser. "The first set I played really well. The second set I stepped back a little bit. She played well. Then we had to wait not the whole day but couple of hours if we have to play or not."
"Then when Rafa [Nadal] finished the match, he had to finish before 5:15. We went on court and played a match. I'm really happy that I could have a chance to play on a big court."
Ostapenko’s power game was too much for Arruabarrena in the early going, as she took the Spaniard’s first two service games to take a 3-0 lead.
Arruabarrena changed her tactics, taking more aggressive cuts at the ball and making forays towards the net, and was able to reclaim one break back and cut the lead to 3-2.
A plethora of winners from Ostapenko, however, helped her take the final three games of the set. The 20-year-old had 16 winners and only 15 unforced errors in the set, while Arruabarrena was not credited with a single winner, and lost 71 percent of her service points.
It was a complete reversal in the second set, as the precipitation started to make its presence felt, and had Ostapenko often testing the slick lines out of frustration. The amount of winners off of Ostapenko’s racquet plummeted to seven, and Arruabarrena came up with eight of her own.
After a short rain delay at 5-1, the Latvian had five break points to extend the set, but could not convert any, and after a long game, Arruabarrena took the second set when she watched an Ostapenko service return go wide.
Ostapenko leapt out to a good start in the deciding set, blasting forehand winners for 2-0. She was broken again on a costly double fault, but jumped ahead 3-1 as an effective forehand forced an error from the Spanish World No.60.
It was at this point that the lengthier rain delay started, which washed out all other play on the outside courts for the day. But these two combatants were moved under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium to complete their battle.
The stagnant conditions under the roof benefitted the big-hitting Latvian, and she rolled to victory from there, closing out the match with an ace. She dropped only two points after the match resumed.
"Today was advantage for me to finish the match under the roof because the court is kind of faster," Ostapenko claimed after the match. "So, yeah, but I finished great those two games -- three games."
Ostapenko will have another tough task ahead of her if she wants to advance further in the draw, as she will take on World No.54 Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the second round.
Other results: Despite the inclement weather, it was still an eventful day session in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Play opened with World No.1 and last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic advancing past Poland’s Magda Linette, 6-2, 6-1.
That match was followed by Naomi Osaka’s stunning dismissal of defending US Open champion and No.6 seed Angelique Kerber. The 19-year-old Japanese player shocked the German, who ended 2016 ranked World No.1, 6-3, 6-1.
A handful of matches were completed on the outer courts before the rains came. One seed was upset, as 2009 US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium eliminated No.28 Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-1.
Czech No.23 seed Barbora Strycova was more successful, defeating Misaki Doi of Japan, 6-1, 6-3. Romania’s Sorana Cirstea also advanced to the second round, besting Dutch qualifier Lesley Kerkhove, 6-1, 6-3.
No.4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine led Czech Katerina Siniakova, 6-0, 6-6, when the match was suspended during their second-set tiebreak. Also, Romania’s Monica Niculescu was leading No.14 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-3, 1-1 when the rain delay occurred.