Armada sets sail at US Open

No Nadal, but Verdasco, Ramos and Granollers all through

Fernando Verdasco returns to Rui Machado.
Fernando Verdasco returns to Rui Machado.LARRY W. SMITH (EFE)

The final Grand Slam of the season got underway Monday at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, where the current king of the courts, Roger Federer, moved serenely into round two alongside Andy Murray, who defeated the Swiss maestro in the Olympic final earlier this month. The two are seeded to meet in the semifinal of the top half of the draw in the absence of Rafa Nadal, which handed Murray the third seeding.

Also a beneficiary of Nadal's withdrawal is David Ferrer, Spain's best chance of a finalist, who has been elevated to fourth seed. However, world number two and reigning US Open champion Novak Djokovic is his projected semifinal opponent.

Behind the four top seeds are a raft of Spanish players. Many were in action on a resounding opening day for the Armada, including Fernando Verdasco, a quarterfinalist in 2009 and 2010. Seeded 25 this year, Verdasco beat Monday's rain to put Rui Machado of Portugal to the sword 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. He will play compatriot Albert Ramos in the next round after the Barcelona-born player recovered from a set down against Robby Ginepri to win in four.

The reward for the victor will be a match against Federer, unless German number 83 Björn Phau is miraculously splashed across the world's back pages on Thursday morning.

Marcel Granollers also required four sets to see off the challenge of Denis Kudla, a 2010 US Open junior finalist. The world number 24 will play US veteran James Blake for a place in the third round.

Another veteran, 33-year-old Rubén Ramírez Hidalgo, reached the second round for the first time in his career after dispatching India's Somdev Devvarman in four sets. The world number 94 will probably face Farmers Classic champion Sam Querrey in round two.

Feliciano López, who courtesy of his serve is always a tricky outsider on hard and grass courts, had little trouble against Robin Haase and will now play another hard-hitting left-hander, Tomaz Bellucci, or compatriot Pablo Andujar.

In the women's draw, where Serena Williams is a firm favorite to be crowned queen of Queen's for a third time, Anabel Medina bowed out at the first hurdle to Lucie Hradecka while Lourdes Domínguez got the better of Sesil Karatantcheva.

On Tuesday, Carla Suárez reached round two courtesy of a win over Ksenia Pervak, who retired in the second with the Spaniard one set to the good.

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