Britain’s leading tennis players completed a giddy 36-hour spree on Tuesday which saw all seven entrants at the US Open win their first rounds in straight sets.
Hardly synonymous with blanket success, it became one of the remarkable days in the recent history of the British game as the contingent from Wimbledon’s underachieving host nation swept all before them.
By the time Jodie Burrage had made up a ranking deficit of nearly 60 places to upset Russian Anna Blinkova the sun had set and GBers had played 18 sets and taken all of them. It could almost have resembled Emma Raducanu, who won the 2021 title with dropping a single one.
This first round might not be Raducanu winning the title, or an Andy Murray triumph at Wimbledon, or Britain winning the Davis Cup in 2015, but it was exceptional nonetheless. ‘F****** hell!’ exclaimed Dan Evans, one of the victors, when informed of what had happened in his post-match interview.
The seven – six of them winning on Tuesday and Lily Miyazaki on Monday – took advantage of reasonable draws and all put recent fears over form and fitness behind them.
For Andy Murray it was a 200th win at a Grand Slam which contributed to the heady tally.
Andy Murray won his 200th Grand Slam match on a remarkable day for British players
Jack Draper made his return from injury to win in the US Open first round at Flushing Meadows
Jack Draper dispelled fears about his shoulder to ease past Radu Albot 6-1 6-4 6-3 to join Murray, Katie Boulter, Lily Miyazaki and Cam Norrie in the second round. Evans then overcame Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan 6-4 6-2 7-5, and Burrage progressed 6-4 6-4.
Murray managed to get past the highly skillful and sometimes temperamental Moutet 6-2 7-5 6-3 on his return to action after suffering a recent abdominal strain.
The 2012 champion needed to draw on all his experience to outsmart a flashy opponent, who fell heavily on his wrist at 2-2 in the third set and was then broken. In the final game there was also a first recourse to the new VAR-type system being used this year at Flushing Meadows.
Moutet appealed against being adjudged to have played a double bounce at 15-30 when Murray was trying to serve out the match. However, the replay was not showing up properly on the screen of umpire Louise Engzell, so the call stood and the Scottish veteran was able to close the match.
Murray was non-plussed about the VAR point, especially as everyone in the stadium could see what happened on the venue’s big screen: ‘ I don’t know exactly how it’s supposed to work, because it was quite clear that the ball had bounced twice, we watched it about ten times,’ he said. ‘It obviously didn’t go to plan in a pretty important moment of the match so it would be good if they could get that fixed.
‘Corentin has so many different ways to disrupt you and moves so well, always causes a bit of chaos, there were some fun points,’ added Murray, who will now play number 19 seed Grigor Dimitrov. ‘The preparation was tricky but the ab felt good, I could serve well and was happy with how I played.’
Dan Evans win over Daniel Galan meant there were five British winners in the first round
Before the night was out in New York, Jodie Burrage made it a sublime seven in a 6-3 6-4 win
Draper was delighted how his shoulder held up against Moldovan Albot, although he admitted he was reining his serve in:’ I’m not going after it 100%. I’m sort of trying to hit my spots and use my slices and try and get more consistency on my first serve. Luckily I’ve got quite a big serve so I can still hit it sort of 125 I think a few times. I knew not to maybe go full throttle with my arm.’
A return to the scene of his American college days had proved the perfect repair job Norrie, who snapped his post-Wimbledon losing streak that has been plaguing him.
Dejected after making a first round exit at the Cincinnati Open in mid-August, the British number one took himself back to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth to prepare for the main business in New York.
The result was a sharp upturn from recent performances, and his 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory over Russian Alex Shevchenko at Flushing Meadows was his quickest ever in a Major at just over an hour and a half.
It was the first time that Norrie, who is one of 27 players in the men’s and women’s draw who attended US college, had been back to TCU since leaving in 2017 to turn professional.
‘I was able to reset, go back to college and spend a few days there with some of my old coaches and practice a little bit,’ said Norrie. ‘It was insanely hot, over 40 every day. So I was trying to practice early in the day and then I came here, and it was, like, nothing. It was so easy to play in the heat here. It was a good few days, and really set the tone for my practice here.’
Katie Boulter celebrates her straight sets win at Flushing Meadows on a successful Tuesday
The British number one Cameron Norrie came out on top on a day where six Brits made it through to the second round
He also benefitted from having a session on Monday with Carlos Alcaraz, a player he actually beat earlier in the season to win the Rio de Janeiro title: ‘ I really enjoy playing points with him, because you can’t really leave the ball short or kind of take anything off the ball, because he’s going to be the one dictating play, so that helped.’
Prior to this event Norrie had declared that he fancied conditions at Flushing Meadows, which are generally reckoned to be slightly slower than recent editions. It certainly looked that way as he got past the world number 83 with a minimum of fuss, and he will now play little known Taiwanese qualifier Yu Hsiou Hsu, world number 247.
It shows how far Norrie has come that his recent slump was unexpected. Even after a relatively barren summer he has still won 33 matches to date in 2023 and remains at a ranking of sixteen.