NEW YORK – The fact he’s number one in the world makes no difference to Rafael Nadal.
“I have the same goal,” he said Monday night. “When I was number two, the goal was the same, was win the US Open, The goal wasn’t win the US Open to be number one. The goal is win US Open, no?”
Coming off yet another title – the latest an Olympic gold medal in Beijing – Nadal opened his first Grand Slam tournament as the top-seeded player by beating back pesky qualifier Bjorn Phau of Germany 7 6 (4) 6 3 7 6 (4).
“He played well today, but I didn’t play with normal intensity,” Nadal said of Phau, who has spent a lot of time playing Challenger tournaments and not on the main tour. “Important thing, finally, is to win.”
One top player failed to make it past the opening day of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Tenth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze was ousted by fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 1-6 6-2 6-3.
Phau was a match for Nadal in speed and quickness. And his penetrating shots kept the Spaniard on the run. Still, while Phau matched Nadal with 37 winners each, the German doled out nine more errors than his higher-ranked opponent and continually had to battle to hold his own serve.
Nadal, on the other hand, held easily and faced only three break points in the match, losing serve just once.
“I am a little bit tired, yes, but it is US Open so I have to try my best here,” Nadal said. “I’m going to try to try my best for sure.”
Playing in only her second US Open main draw, Makarova pulled off the opening day’s biggest surprise by ousting Chakvetadze, who was a semifinalist here last year.
The 20-year-old Makarova, one year younger than Chakvetadze, won only one more point than her opponent. But her points came at the right time as she broke Chakvetadze twice in each of the last two sets.
Also losing her first-round match was Shahar Peer of Israel, who fell to Li Na of China 2-6 6-0 6-1. Peer was seeded 24th.
“She never miss,” Li said of Peer’s first-set play. “And in the second set I just tell myself, `OK, right now you just play your game. Don’t give up.’ I know every first round is tough for the player, so I just try my best.”
Li, who reached the semifinals at the Beijing Olympics, only to lose the bronze medal match, completely dominated after the opening set. She finished with 28 winners, compared to just seven for Peer.
Amira Paszek of Austria surprised 22nd seeded Maria Kirilenko 6-3 3-6 6-4.
In the men’s singes, two seeded players were eliminated.
Feliciano Lopez of Spain, the 27th seed, was beaten by Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in one of the day’s longest matches 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-2 2-6 6-4. And 29th-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina fell to Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-2 5-7 6-2.
“It was a great win, I think, because he’s a good player and seeded,” Nishikori said. “I didn’t think I was going to win, so I’m happy of it.”