US Open 2015: Aljaz Bedene benefits from another of this year's long list of casualties

Briton's opponent Ernests Gulbis becomes ninth player to retire injured from first round

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The Independent Online

Aljaz Bedene was not complaining, but the Briton’s progress to the second round of the US Open here highlighted what has become an increasing problem for Grand Slam tournaments.

Bedene went through after his opponent, Ernests Gulbis, became the ninth player to retire injured from the first round. It was not long before Thanasi Kokkinakis and Aleksandr Nedovyesov became the 10th and 11th, against Richard Gasquet and Lleyton Hewitt respectively.

With several first-round matches still to be played, that had already broken the record number for a single round at a Grand Slam event, which was set here four years ago – when a total of 17 players retired, a record for a Grand Slam.

The widely accepted theory behind the figures is the big recent increases in prize money for early losers at Grand Slams. First-round losers here take home $39,500 £25,800). For many that will be the biggest pay cheque they will earn all year, which explains why some do not withdraw before their matches. That is frustrating for those who lose in the final round of qualifying and would be given places in the main draw if players pulled out before the opening matches.




In some cases it is clear that players carry injuries which might have led to their earlier withdrawal. Vitalia Diatchenko, Serena Williams’ first opponent here, was clearly troubled by an ankle problem and retired after less than half an hour, having won only five of the 37 points played.

Slovenian-born Bedene, who was granted a British passport earlier this year, lost the first set to Gulbis but was leading 3-6, 6-4, 3-0 when the Latvian retired. The world  No 57 now meets the American Donald Young, who made a spirited comeback to beat the No 11 seed, Gilles Simon, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Bedene is appealing against the International Tennis Federation’s decision not to allow him to play for Britain in the Davis Cup because he has already represented Slovenia. Given the current form of James Ward, Bedene might well have been selected as the second singles player behind Andy Murray for the Davis Cup semi-final against Australia later this month. Murray faced Nick Kyrgios in his opening match.

Ward suffered his eighth successive defeat when he was beaten 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 here by Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci, the world No 30. The Londoner has not won a match since reaching the third round at Wimbledon.

“I’ve played in six of the top tournaments in the world,” Ward said. “I’ve played some very good players, guys who maybe haven’t been ranked as high but have been in the past. Maybe a lot of the draws look all right on paper but actually it’s tougher than it looks. The last few weeks have been really good. I’ve been playing at a great level and practising really well.”

Roger Federer, the No 2 seed, began with a crushing 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Leonardo Mayer. Simona Halep, the No 2 women’s seed, also benefited from a retirement as Marina Erakovic quit when trailing 6-2, 3-0.