J.J. Wolf gave the American charge at this year’s US Open a stunning start on Monday afternoon, when the World No. 87 cruised past 16th seed Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the second round at Flushing Meadows.
The 23-year-old wild card produced a dominant serving performance in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory, firing 14 aces and winning 88 per cent (50/57) of points behind his first delivery against Bautista Agut.
Wolf has made good progress this season. He broke the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time on 1 August and celebrated that achievement by reaching his maiden tour-level quarter-final in Washington that same week.
The former Ohio State Buckeye reached the third round in New York on main-draw debut in 2020. He will attempt to match that run against Alejandro Tabilo in the second round this year, after the Chilean defeated Kamil Majchrzak 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1.
Things were a little more complicated for Wolf’s countryman Tommy Paul in his opening match. The 29th seed was pushed the distance by Bernabe Zapata Miralles but finished strong on Court 11 to record a 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-0, 7-5 first-round victory.
Home favourite Paul twice fell behind in his first ATP Head2Head meeting against Zapata Miralles, but found frequent success behind his return as he broke his opponent’s serve seven times en route to a three-hour, 10-minute win.
Paul next faces a blockbuster all-American clash with Sebastian Korda, who prevailed 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-1 against Argentine qualifier Facundo Bagnis. The World No. 52 Korda, who sits 18 places below Paul in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, leads his countryman 3-0 in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.
Wolf was not the only home wild card to progress on Day 1 at Flushing Meadows, after #NextGenATP star Emilio Nava defeated John Millman 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-1. Nava’s reward for his maiden US Open win Is a second-round clash against 2012 champion and former World No. 1 Andy Murray.
There was opening-day disappointment for a trio of home players in Ben Shelton, Denis Kudla and Maxime Cressy. The 19-year-old #NextGenATP Shelton fell just short of victory in his first match since announcing he was turning pro last week. Shelton saved a match point in the fourth-set tie-break to force a deciding set against Nuno Borges, but the Portuguese held firm to clinch a marathon 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-7(8), 6-3 victory.
The World No. 96 Kudla could not maintain his bright start against Karen Khachanov, with the 27th seed prevailing 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, while Marton Fucsovics advanced to the second round after 30th seed Cressy retired from the pair’s first-round clash with the Hungarian leading 6-7(4), 7-5, 5-1.