The Russian opened his campaign against Stefan Kozlov on Monday
World number one Daniil Medvedev began his US Open title defense with a straight-sets win over America’s Stefan Kozlov on Monday, easing to a 6-2 6-4 6-0 victory.
Medvedev, 26, is aiming to become the first man since Roger Federer in 2008 to defend his singles crown in New York.
While not entirely plain sailing, the Russian’s meeting with the Macedonian-born Kozlov, 24, was ultimately a routine one for the 2021 champion.
Facing each other for the first time since their Wimbledon qualifying meeting in 2016 – a contest also won by the big Russian – former junior rivals Medvedev and Kozlov traded breaks in the opening set at Arthur Ashe Stadium before the top seed reeled off four games in a row to take the set.
Set two went with serve before Medvedev broke in game seven – only for Kozlov to show some tenacity by striking back straight away.
Medvedev, however, went through the gears to break again immediately to love and then served out the set without dropping a point.
The gulf in class between Medvedev and his rival – ranked 111 in the world – began to tell in the third set as Medvedev handed Kozlov a bagel and took the match in two hours and one minute of play.
The Russian will next face Arthur Rinderknech after he overcame Quentin Halys in four sets in an all-French first-round clash.
Medvedev was returning to Grand Slam action in New York after being banned from Wimbledon along with his compatriots in June and July because of the conflict in Ukraine.
As well as defending the title he won by beating Novak Djokovic in last year’s Flushing Meadows final, Medvedev knows that a second Grand Slam title of his career would ensure he remains at the top of the ATP rankings.
The biggest threat to his status will be seen by many as coming from Spanish great Rafael Nadal, who starts his campaign for a fifth US Open title and 23rd Grand Slam crown overall against Australia’s Rinky Hijikata on Tuesday.
World number two Alexander Zverev was forced to withdraw from New York on the eve of the tournament after failing to regain fitness following surgery on the ankle injury he suffered at the French Open.
Wimbledon champion Djokovic, meanwhile, is again unable to contest a Grand Slam due to American border rules preventing entry to non-citizens who are unvaccinated against Covid-19.