Buzz: Bee that almost got Venus
NEW YORK -- Transitions can be awkward, and Day 1 of the US Open was marvelously choppy -- and weirdly tantalizing, too.
The first night match, between of pair of stylish 27-year-old Marias from Russia who have known each other since they were 12, looked like a mismatch: Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, ranked No. 6 in the world versus Maria Kirilenko, a former top-20 player, who came in at No. 113 after suffering through a nasty string of injuries.
But for a set, anyway, they gave a performance that rivaled the brief set Fitz and the Tantrums threw out there earlier on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Sharapova came back after trailing 4-2 to win 10 straight games and take care of Kirilenko 6-4, 6-0. And regain some equilibrium for the unstable tournament.
The second match, between No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic and a fellow named Diego Schwartzman was devoid of drama, but not entertainment. Schwartzman -- with that name he could be a New Yorker -- drew a thumbs up from Djokovic for a successful lob. Schwartzman immediately put his hand behind his ear in a gesture for applause. When he passed Djokovic to earn his first break point, Schwartzman did it again -- and got a rousing ovation from the crowd. Djokovic ultimately won 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
Earlier, some of the top women's seeds -- hello, there, No. 2 Simona Halep -- nearly got bounced and the same was true for 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray, who survived a strange series of rogue cramps in various parts of his body.
All in all, a fun day and night. There's only 14 left.
ESPN.com tennis editor Matt Wilansky and senior writer Greg Garber thrash through the highlights in our spirited Baseline Buzz series.
Greg Garber: I was convinced Sharapova was going to take it to three sets. That's what she does. Sharapova has already played 16 three-setters this year; Alize Cornet (who beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon) is next with 14. Order, however, was restored. Give Sharapova credit -- she wins the matches she's supposed to. It took 90 minutes but she has now won 41 of her past 42 first-round Grand Slam matches. The irony? It was Kirilenko who beat her at the 2010 Australian Open. She was in New York last year but didn't play after hip and shoulder injuries limited her to one post-Wimbledon match. She said she was "too sad to follow tennis," but his year we'll be following her.
Matt Wilansky: The first set was a bit of a surprise considering Kirilenko has played only one Grand Slam match since Wimbledon last year. Sharapova cleaned up her game in a big way in the second set, winning 11 of 13 points on her first serve. And let's face it, her serve isn't exactly something we'd call reliable. But a routine win from a player who needs routine wins. Unlike, say, Simona Halep, who labored in her opener. But I love what the No. 2 seed did after dropping the opening set. She took a bathroom break, looked in the mirror and gave herself a pep talk. I'm not going to say she did so with the same zeal as Ray Lewis, but still, that's a solid effort.
Greg Garber: After going over the schedule, the one thing I wanted to do today was make the long walk to Court 17 and watch Nick Kyrgios, the Australian teenager. I wasn't disappointed. There were times when he looked like a 19-year-old, racking up three code violations for, uh, exuberant behavior. And times when he looked like an established veteran out there, cracking 130-mph serves, including 26 aces. Now, can the Rafa-slayer keep himself together and get past 30-year-old Andreas Seppi of Italy?
Matt Wilansky: The short answer is yes. Turns out the long answer is also yes. I'm with you, though. Kyrgios is one of the most arresting players out there. He's young, brash and flashy. And seriously, doesn't this game need a bad boy? Make that a bad boy with game. The dude smacked 68 winners, which means he has some serious gumption. I'd love other players (hey there, Andy Murray) to hit with the same sense of freedom. Seriously, imagine what Murray would do if he employed that mindset.
Greg Garber: It has been a rough year -- relatively speaking -- for Murray, but even he wasn't prepared for what went down Monday against Robin Haase. After a decent start, his body started going haywire 90 minutes in. He eventually won the three-hour-plus match, but has to be concerned going forward how his cramping-prone body is going to react. He said he was going to sit down with a nutritionist and see if he should make changes to his pregame eating and drinking regimen.
Matt Wilansky: May I suggest a quiet night reading Novak Djokovic's book, "Serve to win: The 14-day gluten-free plan for physical and mental illness." Seriously, I read it, heeded some of Djokovic's advice and saw a marked decrease in my grammatical snafus this season. Here's the deal: Murray has gone well more than a year without a title, and yet we still consider him one of tennis' big four. As you would say, Mr. Garber, there's something a little incongruous about that. Imagine what a Murray resurgence would do for these two weeks. The buzz might be as loud as the rogue bee that temporarily stopped the Venus Williams-Kimiko Date-Krumm three times Monday.
Greg Garber: Oh, boy. We've degenerated to this. It's almost midnight -- see you tomorrow, I'm out. We've got a nice little Arthur Ashe card Tuesday featuring Ivanovic, Isner, Kvitova, Federer and Serena. That should give us enough fodder for a whole hive.