I know there are more important stories from Day 4 at the US Open than this, but I just had to start the wrap with this quote from Dinara Safina:
Q. Who is more popular in Russia now, you or your brother?
DINARA SAFINA: My brother. By the girls so far. I mean, how many girls there are in Russia? (laughter.)
And how many girls are there in the world?
Dinara Safina struggled again, but fought her way through three more sets to earn a spot in the third round. Two other top seeds can’t say the same. No. 5 seed Jelena Jankovic was knocked out by No. 55 ranked Yaroslava Shvedova and No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva was upset by the spunky young American, Melanie Oudin (ranked #70), who also knocked out Jankovic in the third round of Wimbledon this year. Here’s how Melanie took out yet another top player in another big tournament (and this time it was on Arthur Ashe instead of Wimbledon’s Court 3):
“Well, when I saw the draw, I was like, wow, this is not a very good draw compared to my like Wimbledon one, which I didn’t have, you know, the 4 seed in my second round. But the thing is, I played with no fear today. She’s expected to win, and I just went out there and played my game and I came out with a win.”
Seeds just aren’t intimidating anyone in the women’s draw lately. Half of the top 20 seeds are already out of the tournament: Dementieva (4), Jankovic (5), Ivanovic (11), Agnieszka Radwanska (12), Bartoli (14), Stosur (15), Razzano (16), Mauresmo (17), Schnyder (19), Medina Garrigues (20).
Oudin faces the great unseeded* Maria Sharapova in the third round. *oh yes, I forgot she is seeded # 29. My bad. But that’s almost as good as unseeded, in terms of darkhorse status!
23-seeded Sabine Lisicki made the most painful exit of the day. She served for the match against Anastasia Rodionova in the third set, was broken, and then sprained her ankle on her opponent’s match point. She left the court in a wheelchair.
Court 11 was cursed for a while – Granollers and Soderling were ready to warm-up while Sabine was still sprawled across the baseline. Minutes after she was wheeled off, Granollers retired with a back injury after playing only two games.
Next up was my personal fave, Carla Suarez Navarro, who was dominated by Shahar Peer: 6-2, 6-0. The Israeli wore a striking purple and hot pink ensemble and her tennis was even more remarkable. She hit pummeling ground strokes off both sides, looked fit as a fiddle and was superbly focused and motivated.
I randomly sat next to Shahar Peer’s father during the match (he seemed to be a mellow and well-behaved type of tennis dad) and someone turned to him and said, “You’re that girl’s dad? She’s playing so well, I think she’ll be playing Venus Williams in the semis!“ Well, actually, that match-up can’t happen until the final, but Mr. Peer and I got the drift. He answered with a smile, “Right now I’m just worrying about this match.”
I agree with the bystander – Peer’s my new favorite on the non-Williams half of the draw. Seriously, she was scary-good. She’ll play Kuznetsova next.
With upstarts like Oudin, improving stars like Peer and resurgent former champs like Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters all looking great going into the first weekend, could this be the year of the *unseeded US Open champ? *or seeded #29 like Sharapova!
Speaking of the Williams sisters, they played their first doubles match of the tournament on Thursday in front of a standing room only crowd. They beat the team of Julia Goerges/Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-2.
With all the drama on the women’s side, the men’s side of the tournament seems a little placid by comparison. Stan Wawrinka is the only top 20 seed to be booted out early (he lost to Lapentti in the 1st round.) The rest of the top guys are punching the clock and getting the job done. Even 21st seeded James Blake held it together, beating Olivier Rochus in four sets and avoiding another early round upset. Countrymen Roddick, Isner, Querrey and Witten also advanced on a great day for the U.S. of A.