NEW YORK: Five-time US Open champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams take center stage under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights on Tuesday, starting their bids to capture an 18th career major apiece.
Federer, seemingly down and out in New York 12 months ago after suffering his earliest loss at the tournament for a decade, begins his 15th US Open as one of the favorites.
The 33-year-old Swiss, bidding to become the oldest major winner in more than 40 years, faces explosive Australian Marinko Matosevic who he beat in their only other previous meeting at Brisbane earlier this year.
Playing in a record 60th consecutive major, Federer boasts a 22-1 record in New York night sessions.
World number one Williams failed to make it past the fourth round at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year.
Only twice in her storied career has she gone through a year without making the quarter-final of at least one of the Grand Slams.
The American star is bidding to join Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova as an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion and she starts her 2014 tournament against compatriot Taylor Townsend, a tough, 18-year-old left-hander who has lost in qualifying in the last two years.
Victory for Williams will give her a 73-9 career record in New York, taking her level with Steffi Graf.
In early action Tuesday, former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, the eighth seed, eased past Alison Riske of the United States, 6-3, 6-0 in a tie which featured eight breaks of serve in its 15 games.
“I just tried to take time off her in the second set,” said Ivanovic, a quarter-finalist in 2012.
Australia’s Samantha Stosur, the 2011 champion, went through with a 6-1, 6-4 wins over Lauren Davies of the United States.
Another former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 winner was also trying to make the second round against Marina Erakovic of New Zealand.
China’s Zhang Shuai can only dream of the success achieved by the likes of Williams, Ivanovic and Stosur.
The 32nd seed lost 6-1, 6-2 to Germany’s Mona Barthel leaving Zhang with a 0-12 career record at the Grand Slams.
British spirits were equally low as interest in the women’s singles came to an end with Heather Watson slumping to a 6-1, 6-1 defeat to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.