Who's who of women's tennis?

Updated: September 7, 2009

As the men's round of 16 stepped off on Monday, the top quarter was simply loaded from top to bottom, with No. 1 seed Roger Federer versus No. 14 Tommy Robredo and No. 8 seed Nikolay Davydenko versus No. 12 Robin Soderling.

The women's top quarter, once the domain of No. 1 seed Dinara Safina, was, like a tasty, easily eaten green grape, completely seedless. The highest-ranked of the four women appearing in the fourth round was Gisela Dulko, who sits at No. 40.

"I didn't have tons of confidence in the top seeds," said ESPN analyst Pam Shriver. "Given everyone's year, its not a stunner, this many upsets. The whole draw set up for a lot of upsets.

"Nobody had confidence in Safina or Sharapova's serve. Venus, with the way she started with the knee, it didn't look good. It's easy to say in retrospect, but you could see it coming."

Kateryna Bondarenko played Dulko for a spot in quarters. You would expect a match that produces a major quarterfinalist to be reasonably close, and it was -- until they actually started playing. Bondarenko, ranked 12 spots lower than Dulko, did not lose a single game. She posted the 22nd and 23rd bagels so far on the women's side; Dulko won all of 23 points in 47 minutes.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Kateryna Bondarenko reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 6-0, 6-0 pummeling of Gisela Dulko.

The other quarterfinalist from that section of the draw? It's Yanina Wickmayer, hardly a household name.

"I think everyone is playing so well," said No. 2 Serena Williams, the only top seed who is playing like one. "You can't underestimate anyone. You have to be ready for every match."

Thanks to some listless tennis from the top seeds and the remarkably effervescent Melanie Oudin -- who has now taken down Russians in four consecutive matches -- there was an amazing list of absentees: No.1 Safina, No. 3 Venus Williams, No. 4 Elena Dementieva, No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, No. 8 Victoria Azarenka, plus No. 11 Ana Ivanovic and No. 29 Maria Sharapova.

Now, of course, there were extenuating circumstances; Venus (knee) had a note from her doctor and Jankovic gets an emotional pass following the death of her grandmother. The 17-year-old Oudin was the person most responsible for the twisted wreckage that is the women's draw after sending home Dementieva, Sharapova and now Nadia Petrova

"I think she's just so excited after winning those matches," Petrova said. "She's on a roll. And she has nothing to lose. She goes, enjoys it, crowd is behind her.

"She's just having a blast out there."

This is in stark contrast to what is happening with the men. They have been more predictable than those IBM match clocks.

According to the International Tennis Federation, this is the first Grand Slam tournament in which all 16 of the top seeds advanced to at least the third round. On four previous occasions -- going back to the 1978 French Open -- 15 of 16 seeds advanced with two match wins.

This is the first time we've seen 14 of the top 16 seeds reach the fourth round, tying the major mark, set two years ago in Australia. Heading into the second week, the top 10 seeds have combined for a 28-2 match record with the only losses by No. 5 Andy Roddick and No. 9 Gilles Simon.

Five things we learned on Day 8

1. An historic failure for American men: Eighteen males from the United States began the tournament and, now what we have reached the quarterfinals, not one is left.

It's the first time, according to the International Tennis Federation, in the history of the U.S. Championships -- going back to 1881 and 129 events -- that has happened.

Doing what Andy Roddick couldn't, Fernando Verdasco sent the last hope, towering John Isner, packing 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. …

"I mean, it was tough draws," Isner said. "Sam [Querrey] lost to [Robin] Soderling. Taylor [Dent] lost to Andy Murray. Maybe James [Blake] had a really winnable match. He didn't pull it out. But we did well -- we had a handful of people in the round of 32. It's just unfortunate we couldn't get that many past that.

"If you would have told me I'd be the last American, only one American make the final 16, I probably would have thought maybe one or two more would have."

2. On the other hand, the junior girls rock: There are 10 -- count them, 10 -- U.S. juniors into the second round. They won six of seven matches on Monday, including No. 7 seed Lauren Embree.

On Sunday, Asia Muhammad, an 18-year-old from Las Vegas stunned No. 1 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-1, 6-4.

3. Roger Federer will play Robin Soderling in a third consecutive major: With an easy ace down the middle past a flat-footed Tommy Robredo, Federer advanced to a quarterfinal match with Soderling, a man who has stalked him with the tenacity of a bad cold.

Sodering, you may remember, was Federer's opponent in the French Open final (won in straight sets by Federer). They also collided in the fourth round at Wimbledon with a similar result. Back in May, they met in Madrid as well. Yup, straights.

"It's a tough challenge," Federer said. "I hope I can play well because it's always kind of close with him."

4. Melanie Oudin is not the only first-time quarterfinalist: She is 19 years old, hails from Deurne, Belgium, and is ranked No. 50 in the world. Yanina Wickmayer joined fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the quarters, which constitutes a major surprise.

Wickmayer has won all four of her matches here, after losing six of her first seven career Grand Slam singles matches. The most recent victim: Petra Kvitova, who had eliminated No. 1 seed Dinara Safina.

"I think if you've never played quarterfinals, if your furthest in a Grand Slam is second round, I don't think you can expect anything," Wickmayer observed. "Playing quarters in a Grand Slam for the first time is just, yeah, a special moment I guess."

5. Nadia Petrova has a sense of humor: Finding mirth amid the tragedy of becoming Melanie Oudin's most recent Russian upset, Petrova mused aloud about her next potential matchup.

"Now she gets hopefully a short and a little chubby Russian," Petrova said, referring to Svetlana Kuznetsova, drawing a laugh from the media. "See how she's going to handle that.

"That Russian, I don't think she's going to go away."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.


Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

Oudin does it -- again

Oudin

Some people avoid drama like the plague. Others, like Melanie Oudin, seem to court it -- and thrive.

On Monday, for the third match in a row, the 17-year-old from Marietta, Ga., knocked off a titan of Russian tennis in the maximum-allowable three sets. After sending Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova to the showers, she ran down No. 13 seed Nadia Petrova 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Oudin is the youngest American quarterfinalist, man or woman, here since Serena Williams broke through a decade ago. Among women, she is the youngest player of any nation to get to the elite eight since Serena's first major title run in 1999.

"My first Grand Slam quarterfinal -- everrrrr!" Oudin noted with gusto in her on-court interview.

Again, toughness was her calling card.

Perhaps the key game in the match came in the first game of the third set. She converted her seventh break point with a lob over Petrova's head that just clipped the line. Oudin has now fashioned a wildly successful -- and, frankly, hard-to-believe -- three-set record of 17-4 this season.

The crazy thing? Oudin lost the first set to each of the stout Russians, before rallying to win the last two sets.

Petrova, who slowly, painfully unraveled after losing that second-set tiebreaker, was visibly in tears during the match's latter stages. So was Oudin's twin sister, Katherine, when Melanie won the match with a decisive cross-court forehand.

Oudin was so excited and speaking so fast afterward that the near-capacity crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium couldn't help but laugh and applaud.

"I stayed in there with her in the second set," Oudin said, barely taking the time to breathe. "I got the confidence. I believed I could do it -- and I did!"

CEO Speaks

Allaster

New WTA chief Stacey Allaster held an informal press conference Monday for the first time since her official appointment. Sixty-three days into her tenure, the Canadian executive said the statistics vindicate the scheduling changes implemented by the tour this season: Top players are fulfilling 92 percent of their tournament commitments, up from 77 percent last year (excluding Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva, who were sidelined with long-term injuries). Withdrawals are also down 30 percent, according to Allaster. Of the 51 events on the current calendar, only one lost a title sponsor, and the tour is adding new events in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while the Los Angeles tournament is moving down the coast to San Diego.

But Allaster will face some stern challenges in the coming months, including whether Sony Ericsson will continue as the tour's title sponsor. The cell phone company, which also sponsors the WTA's marquee event in Miami, is in negotiations to decide whether to extend its contract beyond 2010.

The WTA's rankings system has come under fire in the past few months as No. 1 Dinara Safina has been unable to live up to her top billing in Grand Slam play -- the sport's main window to the world. Safina, who exited in the third round of the U.S. Open but will retain her top slot regardless of the results here, has been pummeled by questions about whether Serena Williams deserves the status more than she does by virtue of winning two Slams in 2009. However, Allaster said she does not envision any tweaks in allocation of points (revamped for the start of this season), noting that Slam points are already weighted far more heavily than those for top WTA events. "We need the players to support the tour, and the way to do that is through rankings points,'' Allaster said.

--Bonnie D. Ford

Suspicions arise

Davydenko

When Nikolay Davydenko was asked about the injury that ended his U.S. Open after four rounds (he retired to Robin Soderling trailing two sets to one), he was vague.

"Some muscle problem," Davydenko said, "like groin muscle maybe. We don't know yet. I can't explain."

It wasn't initially clear even which leg it was. Eventually, it was determined that it was a left thigh injury, but it raised questions. Davydenko's retirements will always be scrutinized because of what happened in Poland two years ago.

Davydenko retired from a second-round match in Sopot trailing Martin Vassallo Arguello 1-2 in the third set. Later it was determined that some $7 million was wagered on the low-profile match. Betfair, the world's largest Internet wagering company, voided all bets. Davydenko was cleared of any wrongdoing, but suspicions will follow him for the rest of his career.

When the question about his past came up in his postmatch interview, Davydenko seemed to resent the implication.

"I really don't care now. I do my way, and if I have injury, I don't want to finish my match. I really -- doesn't matter what happen in Sopot. I don't know what's happening now," Davydenko said.

"For me, it's very difficult question, so I have no answer now for these questions. Just everybody play tennis. For me it's not interesting."

Tweets of the day

Bryan Brothers

Bryanbros (Bob): Chest bumped our opponents [Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Olivier Rochus] tonight … def a first. Could this become the new hand shake? Now what do I do with my day off in the city tom?

AlinaJidkova: Russian food for me … and Russian melt down on court for someone else.

Critic's choice

Nadal

Rafael Nadal versus Gael Monfils: Rafa's physical condition is a closely guarded secret, but clearly he was feeling some abdominal pain in his previous match against Nicolas Almagro. And don't forget that Monfils beat Nadal on hard courts earlier this year in Doha. Still, it just doesn't seem possible that the hyperkinetic man of rubber will take down the reigning Australian Open champion. Does it?

ESPN.com prediction: Nadal in four.