Venus Williams of the U.S. hits a return to Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan during their match at the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, August 25, 2014. Photo by Mike Segar, Reuters.
NEW YORK - Some busy bees made life difficult for two grizzled veterans and a pair of favorites were forced to work extra hard on a steamy opening day at the U.S. Open on Monday.
Eighth-seeded 2012 champion Andy Murray fought off cramps to beat Dutchman Robin Haase in four painful sets, while women's second seed Simona Halep lost a first-set tiebreak to U.S. debutante Danielle Collins before claiming victory.
And in a fascinating match-up between 19th seed Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, the oldest players in the women's draw, some pesky bees joined in and refused to leave them alone.
Murray looked on his way to an easy victory before he fell victim to cramps that left him stretching and straining to get comfortable before clinching a 6-3 7-6 (6) 1-6 7-5 victory over Haase.
"I felt extremely good before the match, and I did train very, very hard to get ready for the tournament," said Murray, one of the fittest players on the ATP Tour.
"My quads were cramping, then it started to get to my lats, then my forearms," he added. "I just tried to hang around and at the end I was trying to play without moving my legs much and managed to get through."
Murray said he might consult with a nutritionist before meeting his second-round opponent, Germany's Matthias Bachinger.
A less serious intrusion bugged the irresistible women's match between seven-times grand slam singles winner Venus Williams and Japan's remarkable Kimiko Date-Krumm, who were beset by bees.
First the 43-year-old Japanese player and later 34-year-old Williams dipped, ducked and danced away before ballgirls helped usher the determined bees off the baseline.
When finally left to play tennis on sun-bathed Arthur Ashe Stadium court, seven-time grand slam singles winner Williams stung Date-Krumm 2-6 6-3 6-3 to advance.
Asked about who presented the peskier test in the two-hour match, two-time U.S. winner Williams said: "The bee was a challenge but easily the answer is Kimiko.
"The way she hits the ball is like no one else on tour and it's never easy to get a rhythm with her, and all our matches have been tough. So I'm happy to have pulled it out."
In an upset on the men's side, twice U.S. Open semi-finalist Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, the 21st seed, fell to big-serving Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios 7-5 7-6 (4) 2-6 7-6 (1).
The 19-year-old Kyrgios, who made a Wimbledon splash by ousting Rafa Nadal in the fourth round to reach the quarter-finals, blasted in 26 aces.
The 60th-ranked Kyrgios advanced to a second-round match against Italy's Andreas Seppi.
Advancing with relative ease in straight sets were Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and fifth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic.
The Swiss third seed beat Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic to set up a second-round test against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, while big-serving Raonic defeated Japan's Taro Daniel to get to the next round against Peter Gojowczyk of Germany.
Halep survived a scare in the tournament's opening match on stadium court before overtaking Collins 6-7 (2) 6-1 6-2.
The 22-year-old Romanian, a finalist at the French Open, admitted to a case of nerves in being thrust onto the big stage as the opening act of the season's last grand slam.
"She played a tough match, I want to congratulate her," Halep said about her 20-year-old opponent, who was given a wild card for winning the U.S. college championship.
"The first set I was a little bit nervous. This court is huge.
"I have to enjoy it, but it's not easy. Everybody is telling me I have chances to win this title."
She moves on to face Slovakian Jana Cepelova, a 2-6 7-5 6-1 winner over Spain's Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, in the second round of the season's last grand slam.
Also advancing on the women's side were fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, sixth seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, and former world number one Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, the ninth seed. (Editing by Frank Pingue)