World number one Daniil Medvedev opened his U.S. Open title defence by walloping American Stefan Kozlov 6-2 6-4 6-0 in sweltering conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday. The Russian had an inconsistent run-up to Flushing Meadows but was back to top form on the court where he won his maiden Grand Slam title a year ago, sending across 10 aces and neutralising Kozlov’s serve.
“Most pleased to win first of all… not easy conditions,” said Medvedev, who repeatedly wrapped an ice towel around his neck to keep cool in the humid, 85-degree Fahrenheit (29.4 Celsius) conditions. “Serve was quite the key today.” The pair traded breaks early in the first set before Medvedev got his motor running, clinching the next four games as Kozlov won fewer than half of his first-serve points.
Kozlov was no match for Medvedev’s raw power in the second set. The American scraped his wrist and knee after he dived to retrieve the ball, but ended up falling to the ground heavily in the ninth game that saw Medvedev break him to love. He called on the trainer to tend to the injuries but Medvedev showed no mercy to his former juniors rival as he raced through the final set like a bullet train in just 27 minutes to set up a meeting with Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in the second round.
“He’s always tough to beat, so I’m happy that I managed to find the right rhythm today,” Medvedev told reporters. “I feel like I was serving not bad. My shots were not so bad. Few unforced errors here and there, but especially the third set was the best set from me.”
While some struggle with the pressure of being a defending champion, Medvedev is relishing the challenge. The 26-year-old was beaten by Nick Kyrgios in his opening match at the Canadian Masters but reached the Cincinnati semi-final earlier this month. “I know that I want to play well and if I don’t do it, I will not care that I won it last year, I will just be disappointed that this year didn’t work out my way,” he said.
“I remember last year were some crazy matches. I mean, to be honest, all of them were really high level from me. That’s what I want to continue doing this year.”
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