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Rome rundown Nishikori wins the first game in a year; Mertens rebounds |



How would US Open players deal with a quick move to the clay court in Rome?

That question was answered for the first time on Monday, when several WTA and ATP players stepped on the red sand. We’ll run down some storylines to emerge from the opening day of the main table action at the Internazional BNL d’Italia.

Krajinovic wins the starting battle

In the men’s match of the day on paper, Filip Krajinovic outclassed No. 16 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5, after winning 27 of his 30 points for the first serve. Krajinovic defeated Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-1, in the Western & Southern Open hosted in Flushing Meadows, before the Austrian won his first major trophy at the US Open. Auger-Aliassime achieved his best big result, a round-of-16 show in New York.

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Mertens back to winning ways

After ousting Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin by returning to the US Open quarter-finals, Elise Mertens posted a single match against eventual number two Victoria Azarenka. She bounced back nicely and sent Hsieh Su-wei away in 72 minutes 6-3, 6-1. Mertens took 57 percent of her return points to improve to 3-1 against Hsieh, who played her first event since winning the doubles crown in Doha on February 28 with Barbora Strycova. The Belgian has scored 13 victories since the WTA tour resumed in Palermo.

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Nishikori wins the first game since signing COVID-19

Unable to participate in the venue of his only Grand Slam final after a positive coronavirus test, Kei Nishikori was forced to make his return on clay courts in Kitzbuhel last week during the second week of the US Open. In his first event in a year, due to a right elbow injury, Nishikori lost a tough opener in three to Miomir Kecmanovic, who went on to claim his first ATP title. He took a step forward on Monday, beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the pairs’ first meeting since the 2016 Rio Olympics. Gael Monfils is now waiting for the Japanese star.

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Yastremska avenges the defeat of Palermo

Dayana Yastremska played her first tournament without coach Sascha Bajin and made sure that history did not repeat itself. In August, she wasted two match points in her quarter-final loss in Palermo to Camila Giorgi after dropping a tight second set tiebreaker. This time, after again failing to finish the Italian with a match point in the second set, Yastremska recovered and ended up with a forehand on the line that had enough to surprise her opponent. Next up: Amanda Anisimova, a 7-6, (4), 7-6 (6) winner of over 16th seed Donna Vekic.

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Either Jannik Sinner or Benoit Paire would see a positive result from their change of scenery after difficult exit from the US Open. Sinner lost by two sets to No. 11 seed Karen Khachanov in his New York opener, but Paire never got a chance to go to court as he was pulled from the draw after a positive COVID-19 test before the game began . Forced to keep isolating himself in his hotel room for the majority of the hard court major, Paires’ stay in Rome will not be extended as Sinner broke the Frenchman four times to continue, 6-2, 6-1.

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The two best seeds, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova, learned who they would be dealing with to start their campaigns. Halep withdrew from the US Open after triumphing in Prague, while defending champion Pliskova enters after a disappointing second round exit to Caroline Garcia in Queens. Halep will face wildcard Jasmine Paolini, who impressed by eliminating Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 6-3. Pliskova gets countrywoman Barbora Strycova, whose 2020 retirement plans have gone on the air following the five-month shutdown. Strycova defeated Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 6-3.

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