NEW YORK – World number one Karolina Pliskova, bidding to back up her lofty status with a maiden first Grand Slam title, made a winning start at a soggy US Open on Tuesday as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer waited to begin their campaigns.
Czech 25-year-old Pliskova, the runner-up to Angelique Kerber in 2016, eased past Poland’s Magda Linette 6-2 6-1 on the back of eight aces and 29 winners.
“I felt a little bit nervous walking on this court, especially after last year and the memories I have here,” said Pliskova, whose progression to the second round was only briefly halted by the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium being closed as rain swept the Flushing Meadows site.
With showers halting play on the outside courts, Nadal and Federer at least had the comfort of knowing that they would begin under the Ashe roof later on Tuesday.
World number one Nadal, the 2010 and 2013 champion, starts his campaign for a 16th major against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, the world number 85.
The signs are that it should be a quick afternoon’s work for the 31-year-old Spaniard, who dropped just four games in the pair’s only other meeting at the 2014 French Open.
Nadal has been seeded to face old rival Federer in the semi-finals in New York, a potentially epic confrontation which would also represent their first ever meeting at the tournament in their 13-year rivalry.
Should Nadal see off Lajovic, then Federer would have to reach the last-four to have any chance of taking the Spaniard’s world number one ranking.
Nadal, this year’s French Open champion, is 12-0 in first round meetings in New York while Federer is 16-0.
The 36-year-old Federer, whose capture of the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles in 2017 has taken his Slam count up to 19, is bidding for a record sixth crown in New York.
The Swiss, who missed the 2016 US Open to rest a knee injury, takes on US teenager Frances Tiafoe under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In the women’s event, Kerber has a tough opener against Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the 19-year-old who made the third round in 2016.
Osaka lost to Madison Keys last year but had led 5-1 in the final set before her nerve failed.