Daniil Medvedev began his US Open title defense with a straight-set victory over American Stefan Kozlov on Monday, edging out a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 victory.

Medvedev, 26, is aiming to become the first man since Roger Federer in 2008 to defend his singles crown in New York.

While not entirely smooth sailing, the Russian’s meeting with the 24-year-old Macedonian Kozlov was ultimately a grind for the 2021 champion.

Meeting for the first time since their 2016 Wimbledon qualifying meeting – a contest the great Russian also won – former youth rivals Medvedev and Kozlov traded breaks in the first set at Arthur Ashe Stadium before the top seed won four games. in a match. queue to take the set.

The second set was served before Medvedev broke in game seven, only for Kozlov to show some tenacity by hitting back immediately.

Medvedev, however, went through the gears to immediately break again and then served out the set without dropping a point.

The gulf in class between Medvedev and his rival, ranked 111th in the world, began to show in the third set when Medvedev handed Kozlov a bagel and took the match in two hours and one minute of play.

The Russian will face Arthur Rinderknech after he beat Quentin Halys in four sets in a first-round clash between the French.

Medvedev was returning to Grand Slam action in New York after being banned from Wimbledon along with his compatriots in June and July due to the conflict in Ukraine.

As well as defending the title he won by beating Novak Djokovic in the Flushing Meadows final last year, Medvedev knows that a second career Grand Slam title would ensure he remains atop the ATP rankings.

Many will see the biggest threat to his status coming from Spanish great Rafael Nadal, who begins his campaign for a fifth US Open title and 23rd Grand Slam crown overall against Australian Rinky Hijikata on Tuesday.

World number two Alexander Zverev was forced to withdraw from New York on the eve of the tournament after failing to recover following surgery for the ankle injury he sustained at the French Open.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon champion Djokovic is again unable to contest a Grand Slam due to US border rules that prevent entry to non-citizens who are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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