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World number one Ashleigh Barty was happy to be back at the US Open and in front of the fans again after she booked her spot in the second round with a 6-1 7-6 (7) victory over Vera Zvonareva.
The Australian had missed the tournament at Flushing Meadows and the majority of other events in 2020 due to travel concerns over the coronavirus pandemic but has enjoyed a triumphant return to the tour this year.
Barty clinched Wimbledon success in July and got her hard-court season under way with victory at the Cincinnati Masters earlier in August before 11 aces and 31 winners saw her begin this latest quest for a Grand Slam begin in fine fashion at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I was disappointed not to be able to come and play last year but playing this time with the fans has made it all the better,” the 25-year-old said in her on-court interview.
“It is so much fun being back in New York and with the city is buzzing again as it should be so it’s really nice to be able to share this with everyone out here today.
“We made the right decisions for us. It was a unique year for everyone last year but we trained and got ready, we had a really long pre-season and came into this year with the attitude it would be a different adventure for us. It has been something different but a really enjoyable ride from the start.”
Next up for Barty is a second-round meeting with Danish teenager Clara Tauson while Emma Raducanu is also still in her side of the draw after she beat Stefanie Vogele in straight sets.
The Great Britain star came through three qualifying rounds to make the main draw for the first time and despite a late change of opponent, with 13th seed Jennifer Brady withdrawing on Monday, won 6-2 6-3 in one hour and 18 minutes.
Karolina Pliskova ended the hopes of another teen after she knocked out home favourite Caty McNally 6-3 6-4.
The former world number one created 11 break points during the first-round tie and managed to win five of them to comfortable reach the last 64.
Pliskova, who made the final at Flushing Meadows in 2016, will face another American next in the shape of Amanda Anisimova.
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic started her US Open campaign with a 6-4 6-4 win against Arantxa Rus.
“I’m still on cloud nine, I would say,” the Swiss 11th seed said with a smile.
“Of course I’m focusing on this tournament and just on playing well. But I feel like I want to be on cloud nine all the time.
“I feel like these memories I will have forever. And this Olympics experience, my first Olympics, and just how everything went with winning the gold, for me it’s forever and for me it’s probably going to be the biggest achievement I will ever have. I’m still very happy about it.”
Sixth seed Bianca Andreescu won in her first match on Arthur Ashe since claiming the title in 2019.
The 21-year-old Canadian seemed to be suffering from stomach cramps in the second set but battled to a 7-5 4-6 7-5 victory over Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic.
Seven seed Iga Swiatek beat Jamie Loeb in straight sets and American Jessica Pegula, the 23rd seed, made the second round with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Anastasia Potapova.