(Reuters) – Third seed Daniil Medvedev launched the defence of his Western and Southern Open title with a tidy 6-4 6-4 second round win over Marcos Giron on Monday, getting his U.S. Open preparations off to an upbeat start.
The subdued atmosphere and empty stands at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center were far removed from a year ago when Medvedev entertained a capacity crowd with a startling fight back in the U.S. Open final against Rafa Nadal before falling to the Spaniard in five-sets.
Playing in the shadow of the massive Arthur Ashe Stadium that will be center stage when the U.S. Open gets underway next week, Medvedev delivered a workmanlike effort against the 101st ranked American on a Grandstand court, left empty by COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Mentally I didn’t prepare at all to play with no fans,” said Medvedev. “I would say it’s even easier to keep focused.
“But of course sometimes you can be down and the crowd starts supporting you so you can come back and maybe it’s tougher without the crowd in this way.
“But again, we have to get used to it. I think it’s going to be for some time that we’re not going to have crowds.”
Medvedev was rarely under pressure, saving all three break chances he faced while getting the one early break he needed in each set for an uncomplicated win.
The Russian world number five will next take on Slovenian qualifier Aljaz Bedene, who was 7-6 (5) 7-5 winner over American Taylor Fritz.
In other early action, big-hitting Canadian Milos Raonic blasted 23 aces in 6-3 7-5 victory over Briton Daniel Evans.
But it was a bad day for the rest of the Canadian contingent, 12th seed Denis Shapovalov falling 7-6(4) 3-6 6-4 to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff while 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime was stopped 6-7(4) 6-2 7-6(5) by American Tennys Sandgren.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Pritha Sarkar)