Sunday, September 5, 2010
Roddick heads list of Week 1 foibles
First it was the intense heat. Then rain was supposed to come. And on Saturday, the winds were overpowering.
The first week of tennis at the U.S. Open, like the weather, has been unpredictable. Out went the biggest domestic hope, Andy Roddick, and one of the tour's surging players, Tomas Berdych. However, Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki have breezed, no pun intended.
Melanie Oudin's disappointing loss was tempered by the sterling play of two other 18-year-old Americans, Ryan Harrison and Beatrice Capra.
As we assess the opening six days, Wozniacki leads the way.
Yes, Wozniacki has had a favorable draw through three rounds. A very favorable one, even. But you can't get much better than dropping a total of three games. Wozniacki certainly has beefed up her baseline play, which is a little more aggressive than it was last year, and she's still one of the best retrievers on the women's tour.
Going from facing zero competition to Maria Sharapova in the fourth round Monday is dangerous, though. Sharapova began with a nice win over the rising Aussie Jarmila Groth and inflicted a double bagel on Capra on Saturday. She's got the weapons.
Suffering a few aches and pains en route to reaching the final of Toronto's Rogers Cup in August, Federer wanted to coast early at Flushing Meadows. He's done that and hasn't dropped a set against the modest trio of Brian Dabul, Andreas Beck and Paul-Henri Mathieu. He's not messing around.
Novak Djokovic was on his way to an opening-round exit before fellow Serb and good buddy Viktor Troicki let him off the hook. In temperatures topping 100 degrees on the court, Djokovic rallied from two sets to one and a break down. With his confidence boosted, he failed to drop a set versus the dangerous duo of Philipp Petzschner and James Blake, who'd had a bit of steam after winning two rounds. All of a sudden, he's looking good to reach the semis -- at least.
Rafael Nadal didn't have easy foes in his first two rounds. Going for more on his serve, Nadal won all six sets against Teymuraz Gabashvili and Denis Istomin. He won the pivotal points, going 3-0 in tiebreakers. That's the Rafa we know.
Andy Murray was confronted with two different styles in Lukas Lacko and Dustin Brown, and he didn't flinch against either player. The hard work starts now for Murray, who will tangle with Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, a familiar combatant, in the third round.
Only a short time ago, Jelena Jankovic was the world No. 2. Really.
Jankovic, like the rest of the women's field, had an opportunity to take advantage of Serena Williams' absence. Withstanding, barely, the underwhelming duo of Simona Halep and the returning Mirjana Lucic, Jankovic was finally knocked out by Kaia Kanepi, the lone surprise Wimbledon quarterfinalist who has since prospered.
More was expected from Berdych. Even though his in-form conqueror, French magician Michael Llodra, can bamboozle the finest, Berdych fell in straight sets and largely was AWOL in the second and third sets.
Roddick's brush with mononucleosis left him susceptible at the U.S. Open, although his recent wins in Cincinnati suggested he had turned the corner. Worse than his defeat to Janko Tipsarevic was the way he continually badgered a linesman just to make a point. Another foot-fault controversy.
Predictably, the enigmatic Tipsarevic couldn't win his ensuing tussle.
On the home front
Mardy Fish is winning ugly; his level needs to elevate a notch if he wants to eliminate Djokovic in the fourth round. Meanwhile, fellow American John Isner surpassed expectations by advancing to the third round, considering how his ankle felt a week ago.
Harrison gave tennis fans more reason to get excited about his future, as he beat a seeded player, Ivan Ljubicic, in the first round and almost upset the talented Sergiy Stakhovsky. Capra, a grinder, will no doubt remember her victory over France's ball basher, Aravane Rezai, more than Saturday's third-round drubbing.
Federer stole the show on opening night, executing that between-the-legs effort against Dabul. He wasn't alone. French Open champion Francesca Schiavone replicated the feat -- it wasn't a winner -- in the third round, Istomin outhustled Nadal in the sixth point of their second-set tiebreaker, and Harrison pulled off a squashlike forehand with his back to the net as he chased down a Stakhovsky lob.
We can only hope there's more to come.
Worst, or best, question, depending on your perspective:
A reporter asked Ivan Ljubicic, a veteran, whether he thought players were using more hair gel.
Ljubicic has been bald for some time.
"Well, it's definitely a problem," the Croatian replied.
Cue the laughter.