On an exciting opening day of the US Open, it was JJ Wolf who set the tone. The American wild card defeated 16th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4 6-4 6-4 in front of a partisan crowd.
Feeding on the energetic crowd on Court 5, the 23-year-old from Ohio aggressively took the game to Agut and took out the Spaniard.
“I grew up as a team athlete, so I’m very good at feeding off the energy of others,” said Wolf, who played basketball, soccer, baseball and gymnastics before turning his attention to tennis.
“[Monday] was so much fun; I was pretty good here in 2020 too, but it wasn’t the same without the energy of the crowd that New York is famous for.”
Wolf pulled out all the arsenal to keep the 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist on the entire court. He hit 46 winners and put on a hard court clinic.
With the third set stuck at 1-all, Agut was up 40-15 on serve, but Wolf parried to break and go up 2-1. Then the former Buckeye stormed through the next service game to grab a 3-1 cushion.
“He played so many games and often came from behind; I never took that for granted,” Wolf said. “When I got the break in the third, I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is over.’ I still have to play every point as hard as I can because he’s able to come back and win no matter what until you shake his hand.
Break points on serve, 4-3, in the third, chants of “Let’s go JJ!” winged wolf. He held, and then he won the game with a love hold – the exclamation mark a hot ace, his 14th of the day.
Wolf jumped into the air and celebrated with a fist bump.
“I thought I was going to bust that game,” said Wolf, who turned pro in 2019. “I didn’t want it because I didn’t follow it and played it like I played every other point in the match. ”
In the next round, Wolf meets Chilean Alejandro Tabilo, who beat Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak 6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.
The win was just as promising as Wolf looked fit and athletic. After missing eight months due to two hernia surgeries — and a car accident the day after the first one — he made his comeback a year ago last month. He said he wasn’t able to “activate your abs or core as it was originally supposed to be just a four-month recovery.” The second operation came after the original one didn’t go as planned.
Wolf said it set him back, but he’s spent the last year sharpening his body.
“When I was supposed to start playing again, I thought: is it supposed to hurt like that?” said Wolf. “They said, ‘No, you shouldn’t be in pain.’ I went and had it checked and they said, “Yeah, that wasn’t done right.” So someone had to come back and do it all over again.”