Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova survive opening-round matches to advance at the US Open

Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova survive opening-round matches to advance at the US Open

(CNN)There was almost a big surprise to begin the US Open in the women’s singles draw. But crisis was averted, and the chase for the world No. 1 ranking is underway.

No. 2 Ashleigh Barty overcame a dreadful start, bouncing back after being down a set, to defeat No. 80 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. The Australian is one of three women, joining No. 3 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania, in contention to regain the world No. 1 ranking, which is currently held by US Open defending champion Naomi Osaka of Japan.
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Barty, the French Open champion, is the frontrunner, trailing Osaka by just 105 points. She held the top spot for seven weeks earlier this summer.
    “Not the ideal start, not the perfect start, but it is what it is,” Barty, who had 36 unforced errors in the match, said. “We were able to find a way after that to get into the match and be more patient and really just kind of lock down and wait until I got the right balls and right patterns that I wanted.
    “That was probably the biggest change in the second and third is I was able to get more of those patterns more regularly and in the end build pressure to create more opportunities to break.”
    Meanwhile, Pliskova, who needs to reach at least the quarterfinals to have a chance at claiming the top spot, survived two tiebreaks against fellow Czech Tereza Martincova, who is ranked 138th, to advance to the second round.
    Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova survive opening-round matches to advance at the US Open
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    “Not perfect, but I’m through so that’s important,” Pliskova said. “Of course, as I said before, the first rounds they are always a little bit nervous, I would say, for most of the players. Doesn’t help that you play somebody from your country, because then it adds some extra nerves.”
    Osaka must defend her title to maintain the No. 1 ranking. She will play Russian Anna Blinkova on Tuesday.
    Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic win
    Another notable win on Monday came from Venus Williams, dominating China’s Zheng Saisai 6-1, 6-0. The American is now 21-0 in the first round of the US Open in her storied career. At 39 years old, she is the oldest player in the women’s singles draw by 24 years; Coco Gauff is the youngest at 15.
    “I love, love, love my job,” Venus Williams said to ESPN on court. “I get to work outside. My whole job is to stay fit and get a six pack. You don’t get better than that. I love what I do, and I’ll do it as long as a I can.” She will face No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the second round.
    Novak Djokovic, aiming to be the first man to win back-to-back titles at the US Open since Roger Federer in 2008, started his title defense Monday with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 win over Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain. The win improves Djokovic’s first-round record at the US Open to 14-0. The Serbian is now 34-1 in his last 35 matches at grand slam tournaments.
    “It was a solid performance,” Djokovic said. “I think I can still play better, but it’s kind of expected for the first match and then, you know, I’m hoping that I can build from here.”
      The remainder of Monday’s US Open singles lineup has several blockbuster names, including Serena Williams, who is returning to the site of her loss in the 2018 final to Osaka. Seeded eighth, Williams will face Maria Sharapova. The American has a 19-2 record against the Russian, who currently is No. 87 in the world.
      While Federer is one of the favorites, the third-seeded Swiss hasn’t won this grand slam event in 11 years. He’s scheduled to face India’s Sumit Nagal, a qualifier who has never won a tour-level match (0-4).