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Djokovic, former champs advance at US Open

NEW YORK -- Serbia's Novak Djokovic wasted no time in seeing off Argentinian challenger Diego Schwartzman on Monday as four former U.S. Open champions reached the second round with varying degrees of difficulty.

World number one and top seed Djokovic defeated 79th-ranked Schwartzman 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, wrapping up the marquee match on Arthur Ashe Stadium court minutes before midnight.

“I hope it was a midnight delight,” the reigning Wimbledon champion told fans, although in truth the contest offered little drama.

Schwartzman, playing just his second Grand Slam tournament and his first tour-level hardcourt event, pulled the Serbian star into rallies from the baseline, even breaking him for his only game of the opening set.

Trailing 2-3 in the third, Schwartzman broke Djokovic to knot the set at 3-3, but Djokovic, seeking to add a second U.S. Open title to the one he captured in 2011, promptly broke him at love for a 4-3 lead and sealed the victory on his second match point with a shot that clipped the net and fell his way.

“I thought I hit the ball very well throughout the whole match,” Djokovic said. “I'm very pleased. It's never easy to start a U.S. Open smoothly.”

That was the common refrain on the opening day, as former champions Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams also advanced, taking center stage with two-time defending champion Serena Williams and five-time champion Roger Federer due to launch their campaigns on Tuesday.

Murray lumbered through a 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 1-6, 7-5 victory over 70th-ranked Dutchman Robin Haase, battling painful muscle cramps that struck without warning.

“I could have easily lost that match,” said Murray, who thought he'd have been in real trouble in a fifth set. “I was very close to losing the match.”

Murray twice fought back from a break down in the fourth — Haase unable to press his advantage at 4-1 and again at 5-3 even as Murray could be seen clutching various areas of his body on shot after shot.

“I don't know exactly why it happened today,” said Murray, who trains in the steamy heat of Miami and didn't think the 30 C temperatures on Louis Armstrong Stadium were excessive. “At the time it happened I wasn't exhausted.”

Murray finally gained the decisive break for a 6-5 lead and finished off the match after just over three hours.

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Venus Williams, of the United States, lunges for a shot against Kimiko Date-Krumm, of Japan, during the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York on Monday. (AP)

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