At the majors, the unpredictable can happen. The early rounds of the U.S. Open have proven not to be the exception providing lots of fireworks particularly on the women’s side. Here’s a half time synopsis and a look at the week ahead .
If one thought her ousting of Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon this year was a fluke, Melanie Oudin said think again. The17 year old American Fed Cup heroine bounced back after dropping the first set to defeat a trophy favorite world number 4 Elena Dementieva in the second round. On Saturday, Oudin duplicated that result by ousting 29th seed Maria Sharapova. In the round of 16, Oudin will take on her fourth consecutive Russian Nadia Petrova. Moreover, in the quarterfinals, Melanie may have a shot at claiming another Russian big scalp, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Speaking of Jankovic, the 2008 finalist was eliminated in the second round by Yaroslava Shvedova. Another jaw dropper was the exit of 8th seed and reigning Sony Open champion Victoria Azarenka sent packing in the third round by Francesca Schiavone.
Despite teetering on the brink of disaster, Dinara Safina had managed to record a W. However yesterday, Safina was ultimately pushed over the cliff in the third round by Czech teenage talent Petra Kvitova. The world number’s one performance has ignited the debate as to the relevance of the computer ranking system. Since Justine Henin’s retirement, there’s been a conspicuous vacuum at the top of the ladies’ game. Safina’s inability to embrace the big occasions while Serena Williams has flourished in that setting has fueled the discussion. Unlike Safina, the defending champion has shown little compassion for her opponents in reaching the round of 16. In contrast, sister Venus’ performance has been a mixed bag with injury thrown in as a factor. Venus’ colossal test comes in the fourth round as she faces Kim Clijsters whose form appears unaffected by her sabbatical. Unless Venus tidies up her game, the Belgian will foil her much anticipated semifinal with Serena. The free fall continues for 2008 French open winner and former world number one Ana Ivanovic as her stock took another hit with her first round departure. In all 21 of the 32 women seeds have failed to move pass the fourth round.
All the top male seeds advanced safely through the second round. However, in the third round, America’s most promising prospect 5th seed Andy Roddick was victimized by compatriot John Isner in a five set brawl. James Blake and Sam Querrey were also stopped in the third round. Injury plagued Taylor Dent has been thriving and is in third round. But today, Dent’s run might be ended by 2008 runner up Andy Murray. Despite coming up short against Novak Djokovic, Naples’ Jesse Witten provided many memorable moments by getting his furthest at a major. 2000 champion Marat Safin and tour veteran Fabrice Santoro struck their last ball at the open. Defending champion Roger Federer booked his ticket into the round of 16 in spite of some intricate matches, while his nemesis Rafael Nadal has looked like the player of old convincingly ushering his rivals out. Resistance has been futile from Juan Martin Del Potro and Murray’s opponents as they march towards a possible quarterfinal clash.
Looking ahead, with the top half of the women’s draw in tatters, the idea of a teenager such as Caroline Wozniacki, Oudin or Kvitova making it to her first major final is not far fetch. Perhaps Kuznetsova, the highest seed in that section, will seize the moment by making it to her second major final this year. Regardless, many will agree that it’s Serena’s open to win or lose.
On the men’s side, other than Del Potro who could upset the apple cart, it’s unlikely that one of the top four will not become the eventual winner. The only question is whether Murray will satiate the Brit’s hunger for a major’s champion or whether Nadal will complete the career grand slam ironically in the same year as Federer or whether will Roger continue his dominance by hoisting the U.S. open trophy for the sixth time.