By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
The 126th edition of The Championships got off to a rousing start this week with several first-round upsets. On the men’s side, Sam Querrey’s first-round triumph over No.5 Dominic Thiem was among the highlights, as the American eliminated the French Open finalist in four sets.
Elsewhere on the men’s side, Citi Open headliners Kevin Anderson, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and David Goffin all cruised to straight-sets victories, while fellow-seeds John Isner, Karen Khachanov, Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime were also among those to advance.
In the women’s draw, American seeds Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Sofia Kenin were among the Citi Open players to easily advance to Round 2. No.13 Belinda Bencic was also a straight-sets winner.
Round 2 begins Wednesday at 6:00 a.m. Eastern with live coverage on ESPN.
Encore presentations of the day’s best matches can be seen on Tennis Channel with ‘Wimbledon Primetime’ beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
Below are five Citi Open storylines ahead of second-round play at the All-England Club:
QUERREY CONTINUES TO IMPRESS ON GRASS:
American Sam Querrey is seemingly making up for lost time. After missing 11 weeks this spring due to injury, the 31-year-old has looked fresh on the grass courts in England.
Three days removed from competing in the Eastbourne final, Querrey took the final nine games of his first-round match at Wimbledon as he eliminated No.5 Dominic Thiem 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Along the way, Querrey saved a pair of set points in the second. Had Thiem converted either of those points, he would have taken a commanding two-sets-to-love lead.
Querrey, who reached the 2016 quarterfinals and the 2017 semifinals at Wimbledon, said he played pressure-free against the two-time French Open finalist.
“He is ranked [four] in the world, and seeded here and had a great run at the French,” Querrey told reporters. “I know grass is not his preferred surface, but I felt the pressure is on him. It allowed me to swing freely.”
Querrey next faces 2018 Citi Open semifinalist Andrey Rublev in a second-round match on Thursday that will feature a pair of 2019 Citi Open commits.
TOUGH CHALLENGE AWAITS ARLINGTON’S KUDLA:
Arlington Va.’s Denis Kudla is back in the second round at Wimbledon after cruising past Malek Jaziri in straight-sets on Monday. Kudla’s reward for his first-round victory? How about a second-round center court showdown against Novak Djokovic?!
This marks the first time in Kudla’s career that he will face Djokovic- the defending Wimbledon champion and 15x Grand Slam champ, who hasn’t lost in the second round at The Championships since 2008.
This will be among the featured matches on ESPN on Wednesday with an approximate start time of 11:15 a.m. Eastern.
John Isner and Reilley Opelka are among the other American men who will be competing at the Citi Open later this month, who advanced to Round 2 at Wimbledon.
Isner, the No.9 seed, defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud in straight sets in his first match since March. The top-ranked American is on the comeback trail this summer after missing three months with a fractured foot.
Opelka faces No.22 Stan Wawrinka in the second round on Wednesday.
KRYGIOS SURVIVES THOMPSON; NEXT FACES NADAL:
One of the matches of the day Tuesday featured a pair of Citi Open players as Australia’s Nick Kyrgios outlasted countryman Jordan Thompson in five sets.
The Kyrgios win helped set up a blockbuster second-round showdown as the Washington Kastles star will next face No.3 Rafael Nadal on Thursday.
Kyrgios has historically held his own against the 18x Grand Slam champ, splitting their six previous meetings. Kyrgios won their most recent match- a Round-of-16 meeting at Acapulco in February.
Fellow Aussie and No.25 seed Alex de Minaur also won his first-round match Thursday. The 2018 Citi Open finalist will face American Steve Johnson in Round 2 on Thursday.
ANDERSON, NISHIKORI EASILY ADVANCE TO ROUND 2:
While a trio of Top-10 seeds were eliminated in the first round of the men’s draw, both No.4 Kevin Anderson and No.8 Kei Nishikori easily advanced with straight-sets victories.
Anderson, last year’s runner-up, was never broken as he beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The No.4 seed will next face veteran Janko Tipsarevic in a second-round match on Wednesday.
Nishikori, who has reached at least the quarterfinals in each of the last four Grand Slams, made quick work of Brazilian Thiago Monteiro with a 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 win in 2 hours 10 minutes.
The world No.7, who is competing for the first time since Roland Garros, next faces Britain’s Cameron Norrie in Round 2. Nishikori is a remarkable 14-1 lifetime against players competing in their home Grand Slam.
AUGER-ALIASSIME & RAONIC TRIUMPH ON CANADA DAY:
As Canada celebrated its 152nd birthday on Monday, the future of Canadian tennis earned a milestone win. Rising Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime earned his first career Grand Slam win on Canada Day as he defeated countryman and 2014 Citi Open finalist Vasek Pospisil in four sets.
Auger-Aliassime, 18, is the youngest player ranked inside the Top-25 since Lleyton Hewitt in 1999. Expectations are tremendously high for the No.19 seed at Wimbledon, who has already reached the finals of three tournaments in 2019 (Rio, Lyon, Stuttgart) and was a semifinalist at the Miami Masters.
‘King Felix’ will face Frenchman Corentin Moutet in Round 2 on Wednesday. Peaking further ahead at his draw, No.1 Novak Djokovic potentially looms in the Round-of-16.
Fellow Canadian and No.15 seed Milos Raonic cruised into the second round with a straight-sets win over India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran. Raonic, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2014 and runner-up in 2016, faces Robin Haase in Round 2.
STEPHENS, KEYS, KENIN ALL ADVANCE:
All five American seeds in the women’s draw advanced to the second round including a trio of Citi Open headliners.
No.9 Sloane Stephens, No.17 Madison Keys and No.27 Sofia Kenin all earned straight-sets victories in their opening matches.
Stephens needed just 68 minutes to dispatch Timea Bacsinszky 6-1, 6-4, as the 2017 U.S. Open champion advanced to the second round at the All-England Club for the first time since 2016.
Kenin, 20, also made quick work of her first-round opponent as she beat Australia’s Astra Sharma 6-4, 6-2. The No.27 seed is enjoying a breakthrough 2019, having already secured a pair of singles titles and a third-round upset of Serena Williams at Roland Garros.
Kenin next faces 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska in a second-round match Wednesday. Thanks to a surprising early exit for No.2 Naomi Osaka, Kenin would not face another seed until the Round-of-16 at the earliest (No.14 Caroline Wozniacki).