|Novak Djokovic hits a return to Conor Niland during their match at the U.S. Open in New York on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
NEW YORK - World No. 1 star Novak Djokovic and reigning champion Rafael Nadal were opening-round winners Tuesday at the 2011 U.S. Open.
Djokovic was destroying Irishman Conor Niland, 6-0, 5-1, when the qualifier quit due to an illness. The 29-year-old Niland had been battling an illness over the past few days.
The brief dismantling was over in 44 minutes at Ashe Stadium, as Djokovic improved to an incredible 58-2 this year, which includes Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and five ATP Masters shields. He's 19-1 in the 2011 majors, with his only loss coming against Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals.
"I think I've played well for these 45, 50 minutes that we had on the court," Djokovic said. "It's unfortunate for my opponent, obviously. He had food poisoning he told me after the match. But I felt great on the court, and that's something that's really important for the start of the tournament."
The 24-year-old Serbian Djokovic is a two-time U.S. Open runner-up, including last year when he succumbed to former No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the finale in Flushing.
The high-flying Djokovic has amassed nine titles already this season, which is shaping up to be one of the best-ever campaigns on the ATP circuit.
Nadal, also the reigning French Open champion and a 10-time Grand Slam winner, had a bit more trouble against Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev.
They had never played each other before, and Nadal had to rally for a 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), 7-5 victory. Golubev committed 59 unforced errors, but the Spanish Nadal was broken six times before recording the victory.
Meanwhile, fifth seed David Ferrer was a come-from-behind winner on Tuesday.
The Spaniard dropped the first set of his opening-round match before rallying for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 victory over former top-20 Russian veteran Igor Andreev at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Flashy Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga eased into the second round with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Taipei's Yen-Hsun Lu. The 11th-seeded Tsonga, who missed last year's U.S. Open due to injury, is a former Australian Open runner-up and reached a Wimbledon semifinal last month.
Tsonga's second-round opponent will be big-serving Ukrainian Sergei Bubka, who is the son of legendary Olympic pole-vaulter, Sergiy Bubka.
A mild upset came when talented Latvian Ernests Gulbis ousted 16th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. The two-time U.S. Open semifinalist Youzhny reached the final four here a year ago.
Also on Day 2, 14th-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka overcame Argentine Maximo Gonzalez 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3; 17th-seeded Austrian Jurgen Melzer moved on with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 victory over France's Eric Prodon; 19th-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco came back to best Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4; 24th-seeded Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela celebrated his 32nd birthday with a 3-1 victory over Aussie Marinko Matosevic, who retired with an injury; 26th-seeded German Florian Mayer mauled France's Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-0, 6-1; 30th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia was a 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 winner against Slovenian Blaz Kavcic; and former top-five star Nikolay Davydenko bumped 32nd-seeded Croat Ivan Dodig 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 6-0, 2-6, 6-2.
Several other men posted first-round wins, including Americans James Blake and Donald Young. Blake beat the Netherlands' Jesse Huta Galung 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, while Young straight-setted Slovakian Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
This year's men's U.S. Open champion will pocket at least $1.8 million.