No. 17 seed Caroline Garcia opened her 2022 US Open campaign with a 6-2, 6-4 scoreline over lucky loser Kamilla Rakhimova while Maria Sakkari survived a scare as she advanced with a three sets victory in early women's singles action here.
On Monday, Sakkari returned to the scene where she tore through the 2021 US Open wom'n's draw, riding on a high of a breakthrough season that saw her crack the Top 10 for the first time in her career, determined to change the narrative. She opened her 2022 campaign with an emphatic 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 win over Tatjana Maria of Germany.
Early on, a knee-high volley from midcourt caught Rakhimova by surprise and the stance and execution on return was particularly aggressive. Sprinkle in winners off each wing and 10 successive points, and it all enabled the Frenchwoman to surge 4-0 in front.
By this point, Garcia was serving superbly with two holds to love. It took 18 minutes for Rakhimova to claim a game, but it was pure dominance from Garcia.
An ace at 5-2 was called let by umpire James Keothavong, but Garcia didn't hear the call and celebrated posting a set lead. Back to the baseline for taking two, another well-constructed point, and Garcia secured a 6-2 advantage.
The power play, the transitioning up the court, and the net play was all on the song and the pressure finally took hold on the world No. 90. At 2-2, Garcia connected with a backhand return on the stretch, read her opponent's reply and hooked a forehand pass for a pivotal break.
Down 15-30 in the next game, Garcia stood firm in a bruising rally, skipping forward to clip away an acute volley and fend off any danger of a potential comeback.
A confident hold closed out victory to cue the trademark "Fly with Caro" celebration.
In 2021, Sakkari had played lights-out tennis through to the semifinals, but even that was not enough to get past the teen craze that took hold of last year's event. Just one win shy of her first major final, Sakkari's dream run came to an abrupt halt when she fell to eventual teenage champion Emma Raducanu in straight sets, leaving her stunned and fumbling for answers as to what went wrong.
The win was big for the No. 3 seed not only to stay alive in the draw but also because, well, vengeance is sweet. The last time these two players met was earlier this summer at Wimbledon, where Sakkari fell to then-No. 103 Maria in the third round. Monday's victory evened their scorecard to a 2-2 head-to-head record.
Maria used a variety of slice shots to take away the pace of the rallies early in the match, neutralizing Sakkari's biggest weapon. Within the first 10 minutes of play, the German was up 4-1. But it didn't take long for Sakkari to dial in and gain better control of her aggressive brand of tennis, as she reeled off the next five games to claim the first set, according to a report on the official website.
The second set played out identical to the first, with Maria jumping out to another 4-1 lead. This time, it was Sakkari's service woes that handcuffed her, committing six double faults in the set and allowing Maria to take the set and force a third.
With coaching now acceptable at the US Open, Sakkari took a few tips from her coach and cruised through the final frame, holding off Maria to sweep all six games and book a spot in the second round.