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Photo Credit: Camerawork USA

US Open Highlights

Two-time US Open Champ Venus Williams Wins Highly-Anticipated Opening Match Against 2004 Champ Svetlana Kuznetsova
Naomi Osaka Advances to Second Round of Women's Singles

Kastles superstar Venus Williams passed a major test in her opening round match of the 2018 US Open Tennis Championships in New York. The two-time champion and former world #1 defeated 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in a hard-fought, three-set contest, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 to advance to the second round of the singles championship for the 20th time.

"I'm most pleased I won the match," said Williams in her post-match press conference. "I think I stayed pretty aggressive throughout the match, and that's how I want to play the tournament."

Seeded #16, Venus has never lost in the first round of the tournament, and against Kuznetsova, she kept that record intact. Venus dismissed the 2004 champ after two hours and 53 minutes in sweltering conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"I think that the stadium definitely kept a lot of the heat in," said Williams, "but it was also hot outside of the stadium. It was definitely interesting match for the US Open."

Click here to read more about Venus's first round Grand Slam triumph

Kuznetsova has struggled throughout much of the 2018 season with a wrist injury, but sealed her case for a US Open wildcard when she won her 18th career WTA title at the Citi Open in DC to kick off the US summer hard court season. She also had a good record against Williams heading into the match.

The Russian won five of her previous 10 encounters against Williams and started strong with an early break and points for a 3-1 lead, at which point Venus elevated her game. The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion won the next four games, saving a breakpoint in the fifth game and two more as she served out the opening set. She then surged ahead in the second, taking a double break lead, before Kuznetsova clawed back into the match, saving two match points to level the match at a set apiece.


WATCH Highlights: Venus Williams def. Svetlana Kuznetsova | 2018 US Open - ESPN

The heat rule was in effect and delayed the start of the third, but could not hold back Venus's determination to defeat her Grand Slam rival. Williams opened the deciding set with another double break lead. Kuznetsova battled back, saving two break points in a titanic seventh game, but ultimately Williams was too strong. The Kastle broke the Russian one more time to seal the match and advance to the second round.

Next up, Venus faces Wimbledon quarter-finalist Camila Giorgi, who ousted American wildcard Whitney Osuigwe in the first round. A big hitter off both sides, Giorgi stretched her sister Serena to three sets at the All England Club earlier this summer.

Venus is on the hunt to win her third US Open singles title. She first reached the final in her 1997 US Open debut and won back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. A potential third round showdown with her sister Serena is one of the most highly-anticipated matches of the tournament.

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Kastles rising star Naomi Osaka aims to become first Japanese US Open champion. (Photo: Camerawork USA)

Naomi Can Handle the Heat

In the bottom half of the draw, rising Kastles star Naomi Osaka appeared to be unphased by the late summer New York temperatures. Osaka cruised past her first round opponent, Laura Siegemund of Germany, 6-3, 6-2, despite soaring midday temperatures at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center yesterday.

"Since I train in Florida, I am kind of used to this heat," said the 20-year-old Japanese world #19 after the match. "This is a little bit unexpected, as I thought it would be a bit cooler in New York."

It took just 78 minutes for Osaka to dispatch Siegemund and even their career head-to-head record. The German led, 2-1, heading into the match. But Osaka has lifted her game within the last year and a half. She has reached the third round or better in her last five majors, including making the fourth round at the Australian Open earlier this year. And at last year's US Open, she opened the tournament by knocking off defending champion Angelique Kerber.

Next up, she'll take on Israeli qualifier and current world #162 Julia Glushko for a spot in the third round. Should Osaka prevail, she will match her career best performance at the US Open. She previously reached the third round in 2016 and 2017. But after an extraordinary season, in which she won the prestigious Indian Wells title, beating world #1 Simona Halep and former #1's Maria Sharapova and Karolina Pliskova, among others, Osaka has her sights set higher.

The Osaka, Japan native aims to become the first Japanese man or woman to win the US Open singles title.

Elsewhere for the Kastles, Madison Brengle lost her opening round match against Sofia Kenin, 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(4). Christina McHale also fell in the first round to Francesca Di Lorenzo, 6-1, 7-6(1)


Frances Tiafoe Notches First US Open Win Upsetting #29 Seed Adrian Mannarino
Tennys Sandgren Wins Opening Round Match and Plays Reigning Wimbledon Champ Novak Djokovic Next


DC phenom Frances Tiafoe achieves another career milestone. (Photo: Camerawork USA)

DC phenom Frances Tiafoe reached another career milestone yesterday in New York. The Kastles all-star upset #29 seed Adrian Mannarino of France, 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, to score his first career US Open win. Tiafoe thrilled fans at last year's US Open by pushing five-time champion Roger Federer to five pulsating sets in the opening round, but this is the first time the 20-year-old College Park native has advanced to the second round of the tournament.

"I didn't know how hard it is to win one," Tiafoe told the fans after his milestone win.  

Tiafoe and Mannarino played once before, in 2016, at the Citi Open in DC. On that occasion Mannarino won, 7-6(4), 7-5. But the Frenchman encountered a different opponent in New York.

Tiafoe, currently the #42 ranked player in the world, looked to wrap up the match in straight sets, after taking the opening two sets and breaking serve for a 2-1 third set lead. But the veteran Frenchman broke back immediately in the fourth game to even the set at 2-all, then broke Tiafoe again in the 10th game to claim the third set.


WATCH Highlights: Frances Tiafoe Earns First US Open Win vs. Adrian Mannarino at the 2018 US Open

Tiafoe shrugged off the set and reclaimed the momentum in the fourth, breaking and holding for 3-1 lead. He then held serve the rest of the set to wrap up the match, but not without a few tense moments. In the sixth game, he saved a breakpoint before taking a 4-2 advantage and in the last game, Mannarino saved one match point with a sharp backhand angle volley winner. Tiafoe ultimately closed out the match with a backhand winner on the baseline that was not confirmed until an official video review.

The victory continues a breakout year for Tiafoe. In addition to winning his first ATP Tour career title at Delray Beach, he also made the final at Estoril and the quarterfinals at New York and Queen's Club, before playing his second season with the Kastles.

"It's been one hell of a year," acknowledged Tiafoe.

Next up, Tiafoe plays another ATP Next-Gen star, 19-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur, who is having his own breakout year and is ranked one spot behind him.


Tennys Sandgren plays Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in the next round. (Photo: Camerawork USA)

Also in men's singles, Tennessee All-American and current world #61 Tennys Sandgren defeated former world #12 Viktor Troicki of Serbia in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, to advance to the second round. Next up, Sandgren will face another Serbian for a spot in the third round, #6 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic.

Elsewhere for the Kastles, Australian world #53, and Kastles substitute for two road matches this last season, Matthew Ebden defeated #32 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 4-6, 6-4, 4-1, to advance to the second round. Next up, Ebden plays former world #16 Philipp Kohlschreiber.

WATCH Your Kastles LIVE at the Open Daily on ESPN from 12-6 p.m., ESPN2 from 7-11 p.m. & ENCORE Coverage on Tennis Channel from 11 p.m. - 8 a.m.