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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week


img_3407At 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.

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The Wait Is Almost Over: The Sony Ericsson Open Starts Next Week

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The Wait Is Almost Over: The Sony Ericsson Open Starts Next Week


img_2806-2The Sony Ericsson Open, Florida’s most prestigious tennis tournament and the world’s “fifth major”, turns 25 this year. From March 25th thru April 5th , an A-list of competitors will descend upon the Tennis Center at Crandon Park to mark this milestone birthday.

From the ATP, Rafael Nadal, the reigning Australian Open champion, world number one and 2008 Sony Ericsson finalist, will honor South Florida with his presence. The supporting cast will include Roger Federer, world number two and dual Sony titleholder, and Serb Novak Djokovic, the 2007 Sony champion. Brit Andy Murray and American Andy Roddick who have had spectacular seasons to date will be counted on for the festivities. Russian Nikolay Davydenko, the defending champion, has been out of commission for weeks due to injury. Hopefully, Davydenko will recover in time to take a stab at a second consecutive title.

One of the hottest players on the WTA tour is the current Australian Open and 2008 Sony titlist, Serena Williams. Serena, the female number one, will attempt to win for the third time in a row and is also going for a record setting sixth Sony trophy. Serena will face fierce competition from Russian Dinara Safina, the world number two and this year’s Australian Open finalist, Jelena Jankovic, the Sony 2008 finalist and world number three, not to mention her own sister Venus Williams, who has three Sony Ericsson Open trophies to her credit. Maria Sharapova, whose shoulder has been on the mend, may also make an appearance, giving the field a run of its money.

On the doubles side, Mike and Bob Bryan have regained the top doubles ranking since winning the Australian Open and will be ready to defend their Sony title. The Bryan Brothers will be a prime target for teams such as Mark Knowles and Mahesh Bhupathi, who took second place last year, Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram as well as Brazilians Andre Sa and Marcelo Melo.

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USA Squeaks By Argentina For Semifinal Spot In Federation Cup


With the top U.S. players, Serena and Venus Williams, unavailable for the first round of Federation Cup, new captain Mary Joe Fernandez was dealt an impossible hand. With a team comprised of 34-year-old Jill Craybas and 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, ranked 151 in singles and making her debut, the U.S. was in an unenviable position versus Argentina. However, in Surprise, Arizona, Oudin proved to be the best of all surprises.

As a clamorous crowd cheered on, Oudin won Sunday’s second rubber to push the event into a fifth match. As it came down to the wire, Liezel Huber, doubles world number one and recently naturalized citizen, and Julie Ditty pulled off a 6-2, 6-3 victory for the U.S. to move on to the semifinals.

In the first match on Saturday, Craybas defeated her 20-year-old Betina Jozami 6-2, 6-1 to give the Americans a leg up. After starting out poorly, Craybas quickly recovered. Craybas’ years of accumulated knowledge was the difference, as she won her first Fed Cup match on home soil. Similarly, in the second rubber, Gisela Dulko at 24, a tour veteran, utilized her experience to beat Oudin in straight sets 6-2, 7-5. After being blown away in the first set, Oudin saved match point and broke in the second to tie it at 5 all. But, the next game, Oudin lost her serve. Dulko shut out the set with a love game. So, the first day, the teams split the two rubbers.

In Sunday’s first rubber, on paper, it was an excellent match-up for the Americans because of Craybas’ great record against Dulko. Yet, in the first set, Craybas, bitten by the unforced error bug, let Dulko cruise through. Then, in the second set, Craybas went down an early break at 1-4 and never caught up. With a well-angled backhand volley winner, Dulko extended her lead to 5-2 and closed out the match with a crosscourt forehand pass. With a 6-1, 6-3 victory, Dulko gave Argentina a 2-1 lead.

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