Steve Johnson reacts during his Men's Singles first round match against John Isner at the 2020 US Open on Aug. 31, 2020 in New York City.
No one extends a tennis match quite like John Isner, and he was true to form as the US Open got underway Monday in New York.
The 35-year-old, hard-serving Isner opened the tournament by going straight to a tiebreaker in the opening set against fellow American Steve Johnson at Louis Armstrong Stadium. The two Olympians — Isner in 2012, Johnson in 2016 — then battled deep into the fifth set before the unseeded Johnson took the tiebreaker to upset his countryman 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(3).
The 16th-seeded Isner, whose 2010 Wimbledon match with Nicolas Mahut clocked in at more than 11 hours and remains the longest in the sport's history, used his powerful serve to record 52 aces to Johnson’s 22, but was undone by 46 unforced error to Johnson’s 23.
With the win, Johnson, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in men's doubles, advances beyond the first round for the fifth time in 10 US Opens.
Isner was one of two notable hometown favorites, along with teenage sensation Coco Gauff, to lose on a unique opening day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with no fans and strict social distancing precautions in place due to COVID-19.
A crowd favorite at last year’s US Open, when she was among the final 16, Gauff had reached at least the third round in all three of her Grand Slams to date. However, the 16-year-old opened with a tough test against No. 31 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.
Sevastova, a US Open semifinalist in 2018, started strong with a 6-3 win in the first set. Gauff then came back to win the second set 7-5 before Sevastova took the decider 6-4.
Despite the lack of fans, this year’s US Open features a heavy American flavor, with 31 women and 21 men among the singles fields that began play on Monday.
Taylor Fritz, the other seeded U.S. man at No. 19, opened with a comeback win against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer. After falling to Koepfer 7-6(7) in the first set, Fritz swept the next three 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Of the seven American women seeded among the top 32, five start play on Tuesday, including defending Australian Open champ Sofia Kenin, 23-time Grand Slam singles champ Serena Williams and Madison Keys. All three are seeded in the top 10.
No. 13 Alison Riske and No. 28 Jennifer Brady were scheduled to play later on Monday.
First round action wraps up on Tuesday, and the field narrows down to 32 by Thursday. The tournament continues through Sept. 13.